Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-489: Leftover Debug Code

Weakness ID: 489
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The application can be deployed with active debugging code that can create unintended entry points.
+ Extended Description
A common development practice is to add "back door" code specifically designed for debugging or testing purposes that is not intended to be shipped or deployed with the application. These back door entry points create security risks because they are not considered during design or testing and fall outside of the expected operating conditions of the application.
+ 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)
ChildOfClassClass710Improper Adherence to Coding Standards
+ Relevant to the view "Development Concepts" (CWE-699)
MemberOfCategoryCategory1006Bad Coding Practices
+ 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.

ImplementationIn web-based applications, debug code is used to test and modify web application properties, configuration information, and functions. If a debug application is left on a production server, this oversight during the "software process" allows attackers access to debug functionality.
Build and Compilation
+ 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.


(Language-Independent classes): (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.

Access Control

Technical Impact: Bypass Protection Mechanism; Read Application Data; Gain Privileges or Assume Identity; Varies by Context

The severity of the exposed debug application will depend on the particular instance. At the least, it will give an attacker sensitive information about the settings and mechanics of web applications on the server. At worst, as is often the case, the debug application will allow an attacker complete control over the web application and server, as well as confidential information that either of these access.
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

Debug code can be used to bypass authentication. For example, suppose an application has a login script that receives a username and a password. Assume also that a third, optional, parameter, called "debug", is interpreted by the script as requesting a switch to debug mode, and that when this parameter is given the username and password are not checked. In such a case, it is very simple to bypass the authentication process if the special behavior of the application regarding the debug parameter is known. In a case where the form is:

Example Language: HTML 
<FORM ACTION="/authenticate_login.cgi">
<INPUT TYPE=TEXT name=username>
<INPUT TYPE=PASSWORD name=password>


Then a conforming link will look like:


An attacker can change this to:


Which will grant the attacker access to the site, bypassing the authentication process.

+ Potential Mitigations

Phases: Build and Compilation; Distribution

Remove debug code before deploying the application.
+ 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.
+ Notes


In J2EE a main method may be a good indicator that debug code has been left in the application, although there may not be any direct security impact.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
7 Pernicious KingdomsLeftover Debug Code
OWASP Top Ten 2004A10CWE More SpecificInsecure Configuration Management
Software Fault PatternsSFP28Unexpected access points
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
7 Pernicious Kingdoms
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Potential_Mitigations, Time_of_Introduction
2008-08-01KDM Analytics
added/updated white box definitions
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-07-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2011-06-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2014-06-23CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Modes_of_Introduction, Other_Notes, Time_of_Introduction
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Relationships, White_Box_Definitions

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Page Last Updated: November 14, 2017