Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software Weakness Types

CWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
Home > CWE List > CWE- Individual Dictionary Definition (2.11)  

CWE-798: Use of Hard-coded Credentials

Weakness ID: 798
Abstraction: Base
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description

Description Summary

The software contains hard-coded credentials, such as a password or cryptographic key, which it uses for its own inbound authentication, outbound communication to external components, or encryption of internal data.

Extended Description

Hard-coded credentials typically create a significant hole that allows an attacker to bypass the authentication that has been configured by the software administrator. This hole might be difficult for the system administrator to detect. Even if detected, it can be difficult to fix, so the administrator may be forced into disabling the product entirely. There are two main variations:

Inbound: the software contains an authentication mechanism that checks the input credentials against a hard-coded set of credentials.

Outbound: the software connects to another system or component, and it contains hard-coded credentials for connecting to that component.

In the Inbound variant, a default administration account is created, and a simple password is hard-coded into the product and associated with that account. This hard-coded password is the same for each installation of the product, and it usually cannot be changed or disabled by system administrators without manually modifying the program, or otherwise patching the software. If the password is ever discovered or published (a common occurrence on the Internet), then anybody with knowledge of this password can access the product. Finally, since all installations of the software will have the same password, even across different organizations, this enables massive attacks such as worms to take place.

The Outbound variant applies to front-end systems that authenticate with a back-end service. The back-end service may require a fixed password which can be easily discovered. The programmer may simply hard-code those back-end credentials into the front-end software. Any user of that program may be able to extract the password. Client-side systems with hard-coded passwords pose even more of a threat, since the extraction of a password from a binary is usually very simple.

+ Time of Introduction
  • Architecture and Design
+ Applicable Platforms



Architectural Paradigms

Mobile Application

+ Common Consequences
Access Control

Technical Impact: Bypass protection mechanism

If hard-coded passwords are used, it is almost certain that malicious users will gain access to the account in question.

Access Control

Technical Impact: Read application data; Gain privileges / assume identity; Execute unauthorized code or commands; Other

This weakness can lead to the exposure of resources or functionality to unintended actors, possibly providing attackers with sensitive information or even execute arbitrary code.

+ Likelihood of Exploit

Very High

+ Detection Methods

Black Box

Credential storage in configuration files is findable using black box methods, but the use of hard-coded credentials for an incoming authentication routine typically involves an account that is not visible outside of the code.

Effectiveness: Moderate

Automated Static Analysis

Automated white box techniques have been published for detecting hard-coded credentials for incoming authentication, but there is some expert disagreement regarding their effectiveness and applicability to a broad range of methods.

Manual Static Analysis

This weakness may be detectable using manual code analysis. Unless authentication is decentralized and applied throughout the software, there can be sufficient time for the analyst to find incoming authentication routines and examine the program logic looking for usage of hard-coded credentials. Configuration files could also be analyzed.

These may be more effective than strictly automated techniques. This is especially the case with weaknesses that are related to design and business rules.

Manual Dynamic Analysis

For hard-coded credentials in incoming authentication: use monitoring tools that examine the software's process as it interacts with the operating system and the network. This technique is useful in cases when source code is unavailable, if the software was not developed by you, or if you want to verify that the build phase did not introduce any new weaknesses. Examples include debuggers that directly attach to the running process; system-call tracing utilities such as truss (Solaris) and strace (Linux); system activity monitors such as FileMon, RegMon, Process Monitor, and other Sysinternals utilities (Windows); and sniffers and protocol analyzers that monitor network traffic.

Attach the monitor to the process and perform a login. Using call trees or similar artifacts from the output, examine the associated behaviors and see if any of them appear to be comparing the input to a fixed string or value.

Automated Static Analysis - Binary / Bytecode

According to SOAR, the following detection techniques may be useful:

Cost effective for partial coverage:

  • Bytecode Weakness Analysis - including disassembler + source code weakness analysis

  • Binary Weakness Analysis - including disassembler + source code weakness analysis

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Manual Static Analysis - Binary / Bytecode

According to SOAR, the following detection techniques may be useful:

Highly cost effective:

  • Binary / Bytecode disassembler - then use manual analysis for vulnerabilities & anomalies

Effectiveness: SOAR High

Dynamic Analysis with manual results interpretation

According to SOAR, the following detection techniques may be useful:

Cost effective for partial coverage:

  • Network Sniffer

  • Forced Path Execution

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Manual Static Analysis - Source Code

According to SOAR, the following detection techniques may be useful:

Highly cost effective:

  • Focused Manual Spotcheck - Focused manual analysis of source

  • Manual Source Code Review (not inspections)

Effectiveness: SOAR High

Automated Static Analysis - Source Code

According to SOAR, the following detection techniques may be useful:

Highly cost effective:

  • Source code Weakness Analyzer

  • Context-configured Source Code Weakness Analyzer

Effectiveness: SOAR High

Automated Static Analysis

According to SOAR, the following detection techniques may be useful:

Cost effective for partial coverage:

  • Configuration Checker

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Architecture / Design Review

According to SOAR, the following detection techniques may be useful:

Highly cost effective:

  • Inspection (IEEE 1028 standard) (can apply to requirements, design, source code, etc.)

  • Formal Methods / Correct-By-Construction

Effectiveness: SOAR High

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code uses a hard-coded password to connect to a database:

(Bad Code)
Example Language: Java 
DriverManager.getConnection(url, "scott", "tiger");

This is an example of an external hard-coded password on the client-side of a connection. This code will run successfully, but anyone who has access to it will have access to the password. Once the program has shipped, there is no going back from the database user "scott" with a password of "tiger" unless the program is patched. A devious employee with access to this information can use it to break into the system. Even worse, if attackers have access to the bytecode for application, they can use the javap -c command to access the disassembled code, which will contain the values of the passwords used. The result of this operation might look something like the following for the example above:

javap -c ConnMngr.class
22: ldc #36; //String jdbc:mysql://
24: ldc #38; //String scott
26: ldc #17; //String tiger

Example 2

The following code is an example of an internal hard-coded password in the back-end:

(Bad Code)
Example Languages: C and C++ 
int VerifyAdmin(char *password) {
if (strcmp(password, "Mew!")) {

printf("Incorrect Password!\n");
printf("Entering Diagnostic Mode...\n");
(Bad Code)
Example Language: Java 
int VerifyAdmin(String password) {
if (passwd.Equals("Mew!")) {
//Diagnostic Mode

Every instance of this program can be placed into diagnostic mode with the same password. Even worse is the fact that if this program is distributed as a binary-only distribution, it is very difficult to change that password or disable this "functionality."

Example 3

The following code examples attempt to verify a password using a hard-coded cryptographic key.

(Bad Code)
Example Languages: C and C++ 
int VerifyAdmin(char *password) {
if (strcmp(password,"68af404b513073584c4b6f22b6c63e6b")) {

printf("Incorrect Password!\n");
printf("Entering Diagnostic Mode...\n");
(Bad Code)
Example Language: Java 
public boolean VerifyAdmin(String password) {
if (password.equals("68af404b513073584c4b6f22b6c63e6b")) {
System.out.println("Entering Diagnostic Mode...");
return true;
System.out.println("Incorrect Password!");
return false;
(Bad Code)
Example Language: C# 
int VerifyAdmin(String password) {
if (password.Equals("68af404b513073584c4b6f22b6c63e6b")) {
Console.WriteLine("Entering Diagnostic Mode...");
Console.WriteLine("Incorrect Password!");

The cryptographic key is within a hard-coded string value that is compared to the password. It is likely that an attacker will be able to read the key and compromise the system.

Example 4

The following examples show a portion of properties and configuration files for Java and ASP.NET applications. The files include username and password information but they are stored in plaintext.

This Java example shows a properties file with a plaintext username / password pair.

(Bad Code)
Example Language: Java 
# Java Web App ResourceBundle properties file

The following example shows a portion of a configuration file for an ASP.Net application. This configuration file includes username and password information for a connection to a database but the pair is stored in plaintext.

(Bad Code)
Example Language: ASP.NET 
<add name="ud_DEV" connectionString="connectDB=uDB; uid=db2admin; pwd=password; dbalias=uDB;" providerName="System.Data.Odbc" />

Username and password information should not be included in a configuration file or a properties file in plaintext as this will allow anyone who can read the file access to the resource. If possible, encrypt this information and avoid CWE-260 and CWE-13.

+ Observed Examples
SCADA system uses a hard-coded password to protect back-end database containing authorization information, exploited by Stuxnet worm
FTP server library uses hard-coded usernames and passwords for three default accounts
Chain: Router firmware uses hard-coded username and password for access to debug functionality, which can be used to execute arbitrary code
Server uses hard-coded authentication key
Backup product uses hard-coded username and password, allowing attackers to bypass authentication via the RPC interface
Security appliance uses hard-coded password allowing attackers to gain root access
Drive encryption product stores hard-coded cryptographic keys for encrypted configuration files in executable programs
VoIP product uses unchangeable hard-coded public credentials that cannot be changed, which allows attackers to obtain sensitive information
VoIP product uses hard coded public and private SNMP community strings that cannot be changed, which allows remote attackers to obtain sensitive information
Backup product contains hard-coded credentials that effectively serve as a back door, which allows remote attackers to access the file system
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

For outbound authentication: store passwords, keys, and other credentials outside of the code in a strongly-protected, encrypted configuration file or database that is protected from access by all outsiders, including other local users on the same system. Properly protect the key (CWE-320). If you cannot use encryption to protect the file, then make sure that the permissions are as restrictive as possible [R.798.1].

In Windows environments, the Encrypted File System (EFS) may provide some protection.

Phase: Architecture and Design

For inbound authentication: Rather than hard-code a default username and password, key, or other authentication credentials for first time logins, utilize a "first login" mode that requires the user to enter a unique strong password or key.

Phase: Architecture and Design

If the software must contain hard-coded credentials or they cannot be removed, perform access control checks and limit which entities can access the feature that requires the hard-coded credentials. For example, a feature might only be enabled through the system console instead of through a network connection.

Phase: Architecture and Design

For inbound authentication using passwords: apply strong one-way hashes to passwords and store those hashes in a configuration file or database with appropriate access control. That way, theft of the file/database still requires the attacker to try to crack the password. When handling an incoming password during authentication, take the hash of the password and compare it to the saved hash.

Use randomly assigned salts for each separate hash that is generated. This increases the amount of computation that an attacker needs to conduct a brute-force attack, possibly limiting the effectiveness of the rainbow table method.

Phase: Architecture and Design

For front-end to back-end connections: Three solutions are possible, although none are complete.

  • The first suggestion involves the use of generated passwords or keys that are changed automatically and must be entered at given time intervals by a system administrator. These passwords will be held in memory and only be valid for the time intervals.

  • Next, the passwords or keys should be limited at the back end to only performing actions valid for the front end, as opposed to having full access.

  • Finally, the messages sent should be tagged and checksummed with time sensitive values so as to prevent replay-style attacks.

+ Weakness Ordinalities
(where the weakness exists independent of other weaknesses)
+ Relationships
NatureTypeIDNameView(s) this relationship pertains toView(s)
ChildOfCategoryCategory254Security Features
Seven Pernicious Kingdoms (primary)700
ChildOfCategoryCategory255Credentials Management
Development Concepts (primary)699
Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities (primary)1003
ChildOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class287Improper Authentication
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ChildOfWeakness BaseWeakness Base344Use of Invariant Value in Dynamically Changing Context
Research Concepts1000
ChildOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class671Lack of Administrator Control over Security
Research Concepts1000
ChildOfCategoryCategory724OWASP Top Ten 2004 Category A3 - Broken Authentication and Session Management
Weaknesses in OWASP Top Ten (2004) (primary)711
ChildOfCategoryCategory7532009 Top 25 - Porous Defenses
Weaknesses in the 2009 CWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Programming Errors (primary)750
ChildOfCategoryCategory8032010 Top 25 - Porous Defenses
Weaknesses in the 2010 CWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Programming Errors (primary)800
ChildOfCategoryCategory812OWASP Top Ten 2010 Category A3 - Broken Authentication and Session Management
Weaknesses in OWASP Top Ten (2010) (primary)809
ChildOfCategoryCategory861CERT Java Secure Coding Section 49 - Miscellaneous (MSC)
Weaknesses Addressed by the CERT Java Secure Coding Standard (primary)844
ChildOfCategoryCategory8662011 Top 25 - Porous Defenses
Weaknesses in the 2011 CWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors (primary)900
PeerOfWeakness BaseWeakness Base257Storing Passwords in a Recoverable Format
Research Concepts1000
ParentOfWeakness BaseWeakness Base259Use of Hard-coded Password
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ParentOfWeakness BaseWeakness Base321Use of Hard-coded Cryptographic Key
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts (primary)1000
MemberOfViewView884CWE Cross-section
CWE Cross-section (primary)884
+ Causal Nature


+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
CERT Java Secure CodingMSC03-JNever hard code sensitive information
+ References
[R.798.1] [REF-11] M. Howard and D. LeBlanc. "Writing Secure Code". Chapter 8, "Key Management Issues" Page 272. 2nd Edition. Microsoft. 2002.
[R.798.2] Johannes Ullrich. "Top 25 Series - Rank 11 - Hardcoded Credentials". SANS Software Security Institute. 2010-03-10. <>.
[REF-33] Chris Wysopal. "Mobile App Top 10 List". 2010-12-13. <>.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
2010-01-15MITREInternal CWE Team
More abstract entry for hard-coded password and hard-coded cryptographic key.
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2010-04-05CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common_Consequences, References
2010-09-27CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Potential_Mitigations
2010-12-13CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Description
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2011-06-27CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Observed_Examples, Relationships
2011-09-13CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Potential_Mitigations, Relationships
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Potential_Mitigations
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Applicable_Platforms, References
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Detection_Factors
2015-12-07CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships
2017-01-19CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Related_Attack_Patterns

More information is available — Please select a different filter.
Page Last Updated: May 05, 2017