Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software Weakness Types

CWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
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CWE-480: Use of Incorrect Operator

Weakness ID: 480
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The programmer accidentally uses the wrong operator, which changes the application logic in security-relevant ways.
+ Extended Description
These types of errors are generally the result of a typo.
+ 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)
MemberOfCategoryCategory569Expression Issues
ParentOfVariantVariant481Assigning instead of Comparing
ParentOfVariantVariant482Comparing instead of Assigning
ParentOfVariantVariant597Use of Wrong Operator in String Comparison
+ 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.

+ 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 (Sometimes Prevalent)

C++ (Sometimes Prevalent)

Perl (Sometimes Prevalent)

Class: Language-Independent (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: Alter Execution Logic

This weakness can cause unintended logic to be executed and other unexpected application behavior.
+ Likelihood Of Exploit
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following C/C++ and C# examples attempt to validate an int input parameter against the integer value 100.

(bad code)
Example Language:
int isValid(int value) {
if (value=100) {
printf("Value is valid\n");

printf("Value is not valid\n");

(bad code)
Example Language: C# 
bool isValid(int value) {
if (value=100) {
Console.WriteLine("Value is valid.");
return true;

Console.WriteLine("Value is not valid.");
return false;


However, the expression to be evaluated in the if statement uses the assignment operator "=" rather than the comparison operator "==". The result of using the assignment operator instead of the comparison operator causes the int variable to be reassigned locally and the expression in the if statement will always evaluate to the value on the right hand side of the expression. This will result in the input value not being properly validated, which can cause unexpected results.

Example 2

The following C/C++ example shows a simple implementation of a stack that includes methods for adding and removing integer values from the stack. The example uses pointers to add and remove integer values to the stack array variable.

(bad code)
Example Language:
#define SIZE 50
int *tos, *p1, stack[SIZE];

void push(int i) {
if(p1==(tos+SIZE)) {
// Print stack overflow error message and exit

*p1 == i;


int pop(void) {
if(p1==tos) {
// Print stack underflow error message and exit

return *(p1+1);


int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {
// initialize tos and p1 to point to the top of stack
tos = stack;
p1 = stack;
// code to add and remove items from stack

return 0;


The push method includes an expression to assign the integer value to the location in the stack pointed to by the pointer variable.

However, this expression uses the comparison operator "==" rather than the assignment operator "=". The result of using the comparison operator instead of the assignment operator causes erroneous values to be entered into the stack and can cause unexpected results.

+ Detection Methods

Automated Static Analysis

This weakness can be found easily using static analysis. However in some cases an operator might appear to be incorrect, but is actually correct and reflects unusual logic within the program.

Manual Static Analysis

This weakness can be found easily using static analysis. However in some cases an operator might appear to be incorrect, but is actually correct and reflects unusual logic within the program.
+ 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
CLASPUsing the wrong operator
CERT C Secure CodingEXP45-CCWE More AbstractDo not perform assignments in selection statements
CERT C Secure CodingEXP46-CCWE More AbstractDo not use a bitwise operator with a Boolean-like operand
+ References
[REF-62] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 6, "Typos", Page 289. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2011-09-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Potential_Mitigations
2014-06-23CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Description, Detection_Factors, Other_Notes
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Taxonomy_Mappings
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11Using the Wrong Operator

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Page Last Updated: January 18, 2018