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CWE-1190: DMA Device Enabled Too Early in Boot Phase

Weakness ID: 1190
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The product enables a Direct Memory Access (DMA) capable device before the security configuration settings are established, which allows an attacker to extract data from or gain privileges on the product.
+ Extended Description

DMA is included in a number of devices because it allows data transfer between the computer and the connected device, using direct hardware access to read or write directly to main memory without any OS interaction. An attacker could exploit this to access secrets. Several virtualization-based mitigations have been introduced to thwart DMA attacks. These are usually configured/setup during boot time. However, certain IPs that are powered up before boot is complete (known as early boot IPs) may be DMA capable. Such IPs, if not trusted, could launch DMA attacks and gain access to assets that should otherwise be protected.

+ 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)
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.696Incorrect Behavior Order
+ Relevant to the view "Hardware Design" (CWE-1194)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1196Security Flow Issues
+ Modes Of Introduction

The different Modes of Introduction provide information about how and when this weakness may be introduced. The Phase identifies a point in the life cycle at which introduction may occur, while the Note provides a typical scenario related to introduction during the given phase.

Architecture and Design
+ 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)


Class: System on Chip (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.

Access Control

Technical Impact: Bypass Protection Mechanism; Modify Memory

DMA devices have direct write access to main memory and due to time of attack will be able to bypass OS or Bootloader access control.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Utilize an IOMMU to orchestrate IO access from the start of the boot process.
+ References
[REF-1038] "DMA attack". 2019-10-19. <>.
[REF-1039] A. Theodore Markettos, Colin Rothwell, Brett F. Gutstein, Allison Pearce, Peter G. Neumann, Simon W. Moore and Robert N. M. Watson. "Thunderclap: Exploring Vulnerabilities in Operating System IOMMU Protection via DMA from Untrustworthy Peripherals". 2019-02-25. <>.
[REF-1040] Maximillian Dornseif, Michael Becher and Christian N. Klein. "FireWire all your memory are belong to us". 2005. <>.
[REF-1041] Rory Breuk, Albert Spruyt and Adam Boileau. "Integrating DMA attacks in exploitation frameworks". 2012-02-20. <>.
[REF-1042] Maximillian Dornseif. "Owned by an iPod". 2004. <>.
[REF-1044] Dmytro Oleksiuk. "My aimful life". 2015-09-12. <>.
[REF-1046] A. Theodore Markettos and Adam Boileau. "Hit by a Bus:Physical Access Attacks with Firewire". 2006. <>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2019-10-15Arun Kanuparthi, Hareesh Khattri, Parbati Kumar Manna, Narasimha Kumar V MangipudiIntel Corporation
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
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Page Last Updated: March 15, 2021