Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-464: Addition of Data Structure Sentinel

Weakness ID: 464
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The accidental addition of a data-structure sentinel can cause serious programming logic problems.
+ Extended Description
Data-structure sentinels are often used to mark the structure of data. A common example of this is the null character at the end of strings or a special sentinel to mark the end of a linked list. It is dangerous to allow this type of control data to be easily accessible. Therefore, it is important to protect from the addition or modification of sentinels.
+ 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)
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.

Architecture and Design
+ 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.


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.


Technical Impact: Modify Application Data

Generally this error will cause the data structure to not work properly by truncating the data.
+ Likelihood Of Exploit
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following example assigns some character values to a list of characters and prints them each individually, and then as a string. The third character value is intended to be an integer taken from user input and converted to an int.

(bad code)
Example Language:
char *foo;
printf("%c %c %c %c %c \n",foo[0],foo[1],foo[2],foo[3],foo[4]);

The first print statement will print each character separated by a space. However, if a non-integer is read from stdin by getc, then atoi will not make a conversion and return 0. When foo is printed as a string, the 0 at character foo[2] will act as a NULL terminator and foo[3] will never be printed.

+ Potential Mitigations

Phases: Implementation; Architecture and Design

Encapsulate the user from interacting with data sentinels. Validate user input to verify that sentinels are not present.

Phase: Implementation

Proper error checking can reduce the risk of inadvertently introducing sentinel values into data. For example, if a parsing function fails or encounters an error, it might return a value that is the same as the sentinel.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Use an abstraction library to abstract away risky APIs. This is not a complete solution.

Phase: Operation

Use OS-level preventative functionality. This is 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.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
CLASPAddition of data-structure sentinel
CERT C Secure CodingSTR03-CDo not inadvertently truncate a null-terminated byte string
CERT C Secure CodingSTR06-CDo not assume that strtok() leaves the parse string unchanged
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
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
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-07-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Other_Notes, Potential_Mitigations, Relationships
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2011-06-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2011-09-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Taxonomy_Mappings
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11Addition of Data-structure Sentinel

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Page Last Updated: January 18, 2018