The application does not conform to the API requirements for a function call that requires extra privileges. This could allow attackers to gain privileges by causing the function to be called incorrectly.
When an application contains certain functions that perform operations requiring an elevated level of privilege, the caller of a privileged API must be careful to:
ensure that assumptions made by the APIs are valid, such as validity of arguments
account for known weaknesses in the design/implementation of the API
call the API from a safe context
If the caller of the API does not follow these requirements, then it may allow a malicious user or process to elevate their privilege, hijack the process, or steal sensitive data.
For instance, it is important to know if privileged APIs do not shed their privileges before returning to the caller or if the privileged function might make certain assumptions about the data, context or state information passed to it by the caller. It is important to always know when and how privileged APIs can be called in order to ensure that their elevated level of privilege cannot be exploited.
Time of Introduction
Architecture and Design
Technical Impact: Gain privileges / assume
An attacker may be able to elevate privileges.
Technical Impact: Read application
An attacker may be able to obtain sensitive information.
Technical Impact: Execute unauthorized code or
An attacker may be able to execute code.
Likelihood of Exploit
Enabling Factors for Exploitation
An application contains functions running processes that hold higher
There is code in the application that calls the privileged APIs.
There is a way for a user to control the data that is being passed to the
privileged API or control the context from which it is being called.
man-db is a Unix utility that displays online help files. man-db versions
2.3.12 beta and 2.3.18 to 2.4.1 could allow a local attacker to gain
privileges, caused by a vulnerability when the open_cat_stream function is
called. If man-db is installed setuid, a local attacker could exploit this
vulnerability to gain "man" user privileges.
Before calling privileged APIs, always ensure that the assumptions
made by the privileged code hold true prior to making the call.
Phase: Architecture and Design
Know architecture and implementation weaknesses of the privileged APIs
and make sure to account for these weaknesses before calling the
privileged APIs to ensure that they can be called safely.
If privileged APIs make certain assumptions about data, context or
state validity that are passed by the caller, the calling code must
ensure that these assumptions have been validated prior to making the
If privileged APIs do not shed their privilege prior to returning to
the calling code, then calling code needs to shed these privileges
immediately and safely right after the call to the privileged APIs. In
particular, the calling code needs to ensure that a privileged thread of
execution will never be returned to the user or made available to
Only call privileged APIs from safe, consistent and expected state.
Ensure that a failure or an error will not leave a system in a state
where privileges are not properly shed and privilege escalation is
possible (i.e. fail securely with regards to handling of privileges).