Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-484: Omitted Break Statement in Switch

Weakness ID: 484
Abstraction: Base
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description

Description Summary

The program omits a break statement within a switch or similar construct, causing code associated with multiple conditions to execute. This can cause problems when the programmer only intended to execute code associated with one condition.

Extended Description

This can lead to critical code executing in situations where it should not.

+ Time of Introduction
  • Implementation
+ Applicable Platforms







+ Common Consequences

Technical Impact: Alter execution logic

This weakness can cause unintended logic to be executed and other unexpected application behavior.

+ Likelihood of Exploit


+ Detection Methods

White Box

Omission of a break statement might be intentional, in order to support fallthrough. Automated detection methods might therefore be erroneous. Semantic understanding of expected program behavior is required to interpret whether the code is correct.

Black Box

Since this weakness is associated with a code construct, it would be indistinguishable from other errors that produce the same behavior.

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

In both of these examples, a message is printed based on the month passed into the function:

(Bad Code)
Example Language: Java 
public void printMessage(int month){
switch (month) {

case 1: print("January");
case 2: print("February");
case 3: print("March");
case 4: print("April");
case 5: print("May");
case 6: print("June");
case 7: print("July");
case 8: print("August");
case 9: print("September");
case 10: print("October");
case 11: print("November");
case 12: print("December");
println(" is a great month");
(Bad Code)
Example Languages: C and C++ 
void printMessage(int month){
switch (month) {

case 1: printf("January");
case 2: printf("February");
case 3: printf("March");
case 4: printf("April");
case 5: printff("May");
case 6: printf("June");
case 7: printf("July");
case 8: printf("August");
case 9: printf("September");
case 10: printf("October");
case 11: printf("November");
case 12: printf("December");
printf(" is a great month");

Both examples do not use a break statement after each case, which leads to unintended fall-through behavior. For example, calling "printMessage(10)" will result in the text "OctoberNovemberDecember is a great month" being printed.

+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Implementation

Omitting a break statement so that one may fall through is often indistinguishable from an error, and therefore should be avoided. If you need to use fall-through capabilities, make sure that you have clearly documented this within the switch statement, and ensure that you have examined all the logical possibilities.

Phase: Implementation

The functionality of omitting a break statement could be clarified with an if statement. This method is much safer.

+ Weakness Ordinalities
(where the weakness exists independent of other weaknesses)
+ Relationships
NatureTypeIDNameView(s) this relationship pertains toView(s)
ChildOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class398Indicator of Poor Code Quality
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts1000
ChildOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class670Always-Incorrect Control Flow Implementation
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ChildOfCategoryCategory962SFP Secondary Cluster: Unchecked Status Condition
Software Fault Pattern (SFP) Clusters (primary)888
MemberOfViewView884CWE Cross-section
CWE Cross-section (primary)884
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
CLASPOmitted break statement
Software Fault PatternsSFP4Unchecked Status Condition
+ References
[REF-7] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 7, "Switch Statements", Page 337.. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
CLASPExternally Mined
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigitalExternal
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Applicable_Platforms, Description, Detection_Factors, Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Applicable_Platforms, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Detection_Factors, Name, Other_Notes, Potential_Mitigations, Weakness_Ordinalities
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common_Consequences, References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-11-24Omitted Break Statement

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Page Last Updated: January 18, 2017