CWE

Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software Weakness Types

CWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
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ID

CWE-395: Use of NullPointerException Catch to Detect NULL Pointer Dereference

Weakness ID: 395
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
Catching NullPointerException should not be used as an alternative to programmatic checks to prevent dereferencing a null pointer.
+ Extended Description

Programmers typically catch NullPointerException under three circumstances:

  • The program contains a null pointer dereference. Catching the resulting exception was easier than fixing the underlying problem.
  • The program explicitly throws a NullPointerException to signal an error condition.
  • The code is part of a test harness that supplies unexpected input to the classes under test.

Of these three circumstances, only the last is acceptable.

+ Relationships

The table(s) below shows the weaknesses and high level categories that are related to this weakness. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as PeerOf and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar weaknesses that the user may want to explore.

+ Relevant to the view "Research Concepts" (CWE-1000)
+ Relevant to the view "Development Concepts" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory389Error Conditions, Return Values, Status Codes
+ Modes Of Introduction

The different Modes of Introduction provide information about how and when this weakness may be introduced. The Phase identifies a point in the software life cycle at which introduction may occur, while the Note provides a typical scenario related to introduction during the given phase.

PhaseNote
Implementation
+ Applicable Platforms
The listings below show possible areas for which the given weakness could appear. These may be for specific named Languages, Operating Systems, Architectures, Paradigms, Technologies, or a class of such platforms. The platform is listed along with how frequently the given weakness appears for that instance.

Languages

Java (Undetermined Prevalence)

+ Common Consequences

The table below specifies different individual consequences associated with the weakness. The Scope identifies the application security area that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in exploiting this weakness. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a weakness will be exploited to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.

ScopeImpactLikelihood
Availability

Technical Impact: DoS: Resource Consumption (CPU)

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code mistakenly catches a NullPointerException.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
try {
mysteryMethod();

} catch (NullPointerException npe) {

}
+ Potential Mitigations

Phases: Architecture and Design; Implementation

Do not extensively rely on catching exceptions (especially for validating user input) to handle errors. Handling exceptions can decrease the performance of an application.
+ Detection Methods

Automated Static Analysis - Binary or Bytecode

According to SOAR, the following detection techniques may be useful:

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Bytecode Weakness Analysis - including disassembler + source code weakness analysis
  • Binary Weakness Analysis - including disassembler + source code weakness analysis

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Dynamic Analysis with Manual Results Interpretation

According to SOAR, the following detection techniques may be useful:

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Framework-based Fuzzer

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Manual Static Analysis - Source Code

According to SOAR, the following detection techniques may be useful:

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Manual Source Code Review (not inspections)

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Automated Static Analysis - Source Code

According to SOAR, the following detection techniques may be useful:

Highly cost effective:
  • Source code Weakness Analyzer
  • Context-configured Source Code Weakness Analyzer

Effectiveness: High

Architecture or Design Review

According to SOAR, the following detection techniques may be useful:

Highly cost effective:
  • Formal Methods / Correct-By-Construction
Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Inspection (IEEE 1028 standard) (can apply to requirements, design, source code, etc.)

Effectiveness: High

+ Memberships
This MemberOf Relationships table shows additional CWE Categories and Views that reference this weakness as a member. This information is often useful in understanding where a weakness fits within the context of external information sources.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
7 Pernicious KingdomsCatching NullPointerException
CERT Java Secure CodingERR08-JDo not catch NullPointerException or any of its ancestors
+ Content History
Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
7 Pernicious Kingdoms
Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Other_Notes, Relationships
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2014-06-23CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Other_Notes
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, Relationships
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11Catch NullPointerException

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Page Last Updated: January 18, 2018