Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-114: Process Control

Weakness ID: 114
Abstraction: Class
Structure: Simple
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
Executing commands or loading libraries from an untrusted source or in an untrusted environment can cause an application to execute malicious commands (and payloads) on behalf of an attacker.
+ Extended Description
Process control vulnerabilities take two forms: 1. An attacker can change the command that the program executes: the attacker explicitly controls what the command is. 2. An attacker can change the environment in which the command executes: the attacker implicitly controls what the command means. Process control vulnerabilities of the first type occur when either data enters the application from an untrusted source and the data is used as part of a string representing a command that is executed by the application. By executing the command, the application gives an attacker a privilege or capability that the attacker would not otherwise have.
+ 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)
ChildOfBaseBase - 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
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1011Authorize Actors
+ Relevant to the view "Seven Pernicious Kingdoms" (CWE-700)
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.

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.


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.


Technical Impact: Execute Unauthorized Code or Commands

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code uses System.loadLibrary() to load code from a native library named library.dll, which is normally found in a standard system directory.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 

The problem here is that System.loadLibrary() accepts a library name, not a path, for the library to be loaded. From the Java 1.4.2 API documentation this function behaves as follows [1]: A file containing native code is loaded from the local file system from a place where library files are conventionally obtained. The details of this process are implementation-dependent. The mapping from a library name to a specific filename is done in a system-specific manner. If an attacker is able to place a malicious copy of library.dll higher in the search order than file the application intends to load, then the application will load the malicious copy instead of the intended file. Because of the nature of the application, it runs with elevated privileges, which means the contents of the attacker's library.dll will now be run with elevated privileges, possibly giving them complete control of the system.

Example 2

The following code from a privileged application uses a registry entry to determine the directory in which it is installed and loads a library file based on a relative path from the specified directory.

(bad code)
Example Language:
RegQueryValueEx(hkey, "APPHOME",
0, 0, (BYTE*)home, &size);
char* lib=(char*)malloc(strlen(home)+strlen(INITLIB));
if (lib) {


The code in this example allows an attacker to load an arbitrary library, from which code will be executed with the elevated privilege of the application, by modifying a registry key to specify a different path containing a malicious version of INITLIB. Because the program does not validate the value read from the environment, if an attacker can control the value of APPHOME, they can fool the application into running malicious code.

Example 3

The following code is from a web-based administration utility that allows users access to an interface through which they can update their profile on the system. The utility makes use of a library named liberty.dll, which is normally found in a standard system directory.

(bad code)
Example Language:

The problem is that the program does not specify an absolute path for liberty.dll. If an attacker is able to place a malicious library named liberty.dll higher in the search order than file the application intends to load, then the application will load the malicious copy instead of the intended file. Because of the nature of the application, it runs with elevated privileges, which means the contents of the attacker's liberty.dll will now be run with elevated privileges, possibly giving the attacker complete control of the system. The type of attack seen in this example is made possible because of the search order used by LoadLibrary() when an absolute path is not specified. If the current directory is searched before system directories, as was the case up until the most recent versions of Windows, then this type of attack becomes trivial if the attacker can execute the program locally. The search order is operating system version dependent, and is controlled on newer operating systems by the value of the registry key: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\SafeDllSearchMode

+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Libraries or Frameworks

Libraries that are loaded should be well understood and come from a trusted source. The application can execute code contained in the native libraries, which often contain calls that are susceptible to other security problems, such as buffer overflows or command injection. All native libraries should be validated to determine if the application requires the use of the library. It is very difficult to determine what these native libraries actually do, and the potential for malicious code is high. In addition, the potential for an inadvertent mistake in these native libraries is also high, as many are written in C or C++ and may be susceptible to buffer overflow or race condition problems. To help prevent buffer overflow attacks, validate all input to native calls for content and length. If the native library does not come from a trusted source, review the source code of the library. The library should be built from the reviewed source before using it.
+ 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.
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.991SFP Secondary Cluster: Tainted Input to Environment
+ Notes


CWE-114 is a Class, but it is listed a child of CWE-73 in view 1000. This suggests some abstraction problems that should be resolved in future versions.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
7 Pernicious KingdomsProcess Control
+ 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. <>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-197 Pernicious Kingdoms
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Other_Notes
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2009-07-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Modes_of_Introduction, Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships, Type
2020-06-25CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2021-03-15CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Maintenance_Notes
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Page Last Updated: March 15, 2021