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-463: Deletion of Data Structure Sentinel

Weakness ID: 463
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The accidental deletion of a data-structure sentinel can cause serious programming logic problems.
+ Extended Description
Often times data-structure sentinels are used to mark structure of the data structure. A common example of this is the null character at the end of strings. Another common example is linked lists which may contain a sentinel to mark the end of the list. It is dangerous to allow this type of control data to be easily accessible. Therefore, it is important to protect from the deletion or modification outside of some wrapper interface which provides safety.
+ 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
MemberOfCategoryCategory461Data Structure Issues
+ 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
Architecture and Design
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

C (Undetermined Prevalence)

C++ (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
Other

Technical Impact: Other

Generally this error will cause the data structure to not work properly.
Authorization
Other

Technical Impact: Other

If a control character, such as NULL is removed, one may cause resource access control problems.
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This example creates a null terminated string and prints it contents.

(bad code)
Example Language:
char *foo;
int counter;
foo=calloc(sizeof(char)*10);

for (counter=0;counter!=10;counter++) {
foo[counter]='a';

printf("%s\n",foo);
}

The string foo has space for 9 characters and a null terminator, but 10 characters are written to it. As a result, the string foo is not null terminated and calling printf() on it will have unpredictable and possibly dangerous results.

+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Use an abstraction library to abstract away risky APIs. Not a complete solution.

Phase: Build and Compilation

Strategy: Compilation or Build Hardening

Run or compile the software using features or extensions that automatically provide a protection mechanism that mitigates or eliminates buffer overflows.

For example, certain compilers and extensions provide automatic buffer overflow detection mechanisms that are built into the compiled code. Examples include the Microsoft Visual Studio /GS flag, Fedora/Red Hat FORTIFY_SOURCE GCC flag, StackGuard, and ProPolice.

Effectiveness: Defense in Depth

Note: This is not necessarily a complete solution, since these mechanisms can only detect certain types of overflows. In addition, an attack could still cause a denial of service, since the typical response is to exit the application.

Phase: Operation

Use OS-level preventative functionality. Not a complete solution.
+ 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.
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory977SFP Secondary Cluster: Design
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
CLASPDeletion of data-structure sentinel
+ References
[REF-62] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 8, "NUL-Termination Problems", Page 452. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
+ Content History
Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
CLASP
Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Common_Consequences, Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-07-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Other_Notes
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11Deletion of Data-structure Sentinel

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Page Last Updated: January 18, 2018