CWE

Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software Weakness Types

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ID

CWE-766: Critical Variable Declared Public

Weakness ID: 766
Abstraction: Variant
Structure: Simple
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software declares a critical variable or field to be public when intended security policy requires it to be private.
+ 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)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More general than a Base weakness.668Exposure of Resource to Wrong Sphere
+ Relevant to the view "Development Concepts" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.265Privilege / Sandbox 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.

PhaseNote
Architecture and Design
Implementation
+ 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.

Languages

C++ (Undetermined Prevalence)

C# (Undetermined Prevalence)

Java (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.

ScopeImpactLikelihood
Integrity
Confidentiality

Technical Impact: Read Application Data; Modify Application Data

Making a critical variable public allows anyone with access to the object in which the variable is contained to alter or read the value.
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following example declares a critical variable public, making it accessible to anyone with access to the object in which it is contained.

(bad code)
Example Language: C++ 
public: char* password;

Instead, the critical data should be declared private.

(good code)
Example Language: C++ 
private: char* password;

Even though this example declares the password to be private, there are other possible issues with this implementation, such as the possibility of recovering the password from process memory (CWE-257).

Example 2

The following example shows a basic user account class that includes member variables for the username and password as well as a public constructor for the class and a public method to authorize access to the user account.

(bad code)
Example Language: C++ 
#define MAX_PASSWORD_LENGTH 15
#define MAX_USERNAME_LENGTH 15

class UserAccount
{
public:
UserAccount(char *username, char *password)
{
if ((strlen(username) > MAX_USERNAME_LENGTH) ||
(strlen(password) > MAX_PASSWORD_LENGTH)) {
ExitError("Invalid username or password");
}
strcpy(this->username, username);
strcpy(this->password, password);
}


int authorizeAccess(char *username, char *password)
{
if ((strlen(username) > MAX_USERNAME_LENGTH) ||
(strlen(password) > MAX_PASSWORD_LENGTH)) {
ExitError("Invalid username or password");
}
// if the username and password in the input parameters are equal to

// the username and password of this account class then authorize access
if (strcmp(this->username, username) ||
strcmp(this->password, password))
return 0;

// otherwise do not authorize access
else
return 1;
}

char username[MAX_USERNAME_LENGTH+1];
char password[MAX_PASSWORD_LENGTH+1];
};

However, the member variables username and password are declared public and therefore will allow access and changes to the member variables to anyone with access to the object. These member variables should be declared private as shown below to prevent unauthorized access and changes.

(good code)
Example Language: C++ 
class UserAccount
{
public:
...


private:
char username[MAX_USERNAME_LENGTH+1];
char password[MAX_PASSWORD_LENGTH+1];
};
+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
variables declared public allows remote read of system properties such as user name and home directory.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Implementation

Data should be private, static, and final whenever possible. This will assure that your code is protected by instantiating early, preventing access, and preventing tampering.
+ 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.
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.849CERT Java Secure Coding Section 04 - Object Orientation (OBJ)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1002SFP Secondary Cluster: Unexpected Entry Points
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
CLASPFailure to protect stored data from modification
CERT Java Secure CodingOBJ01-JDeclare data members as private and provide accessible wrapper methods
Software Fault PatternsSFP28Unexpected access points
+ Content History
Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2009-03-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2009-12-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2010-12-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Likelihood_of_Exploit, Relationships

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Page Last Updated: March 29, 2018