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CWE-1222: Insufficient Granularity of Address Regions Protected by Register Locks

Weakness ID: 1222
Abstraction: Variant
Structure: Simple
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The product defines a large address region protected from modification by the same register lock control bit. This results in a conflict between the functional requirement that some addresses need to be writable by software during operation and the security requirement that the system configuration lock bit must be set during the boot process.
+ Extended Description

Integrated circuits and hardware IPs can expose the device configuration controls that need to be programmed after device power reset by a trusted firmware or software module (commonly set by BIOS/bootloader) and then locked from any further modification. In hardware design, this is commonly implemented using a programmable lock bit which enables/disables writing to a protected set of registers or address regions. When the programmable lock bit is set, the relevant address region can be implemented as a hardcoded value in hardware logic that cannot be changed later.

A problem can arise wherein the protected region definition is not granular enough. After the programmable lock bit has been set, then this new functionality cannot be implemented without change to the hardware design.

+ Relationships
Section HelpThis table 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.1220Insufficient Granularity of Access Control
+ Modes Of Introduction
Section HelpThe 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 DesignSuch issues are introduced during hardware architecture and design since software controls and configuration are defined during these phases and identified later during Testing or System Configuration phases.
+ Applicable Platforms
Section HelpThis listing shows 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)

Operating Systems

Class: OS-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)


Class: Architecture-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)


Class: System on Chip (Undetermined Prevalence)

+ Common Consequences
Section HelpThis table 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: Other

System security configuration cannot be defined in a way that does not conflict with functional requirements of device.
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

For example, consider a hardware unit with a 32 kilobyte configuration address space where the first 8 kilobyte address contains security sensitive controls that must only be writable by device bootloader. One way to protect the security configuration could be to define a 32 bit system configuration locking register (SYS_LOCK) where each bit lock locks the corresponding 1 kilobyte region.

(bad code)
Example Language: Other 
Address Register
0x0000 SYS_LOCK: 32 bit system configuration lock register, each bit is write-1-once
0x0004 SECURITY_FEATURE_ENABLE: 32 bit register controlling enabling of security features
0x0310 SW_MODE: 32 bit Software Mode indication register
Address region Lock bit
0x0000 - 0x03FF SYS_LOCK[0]
0x0400 - 0x07FF SYS_LOCK[1]
0x7C00 - 0x7FFF SYS_LOCK[31]

If a register exists within the first kilobyte address range (e.g. SW_MODE, address 0x310) and needs to be software writable at runtime, then this register cannot be written in a securely configured system since SYS_LOCK register lock bit 0 must be set to protect other security settings (e.g. SECURITY_FEATURE_ENABLE, address 0x0004). The only fix would be to change the hardware logic or not set the security lock bit.

+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

The defining of protected locked registers should be reviewed or tested early in the design phase with software teams to ensure software flows are not blocked by the security locks.

As an alternative to using register lock control bits and fixed access control regions, the hardware design could use programmable security access control configuration so that device trusted firmware can configure and change the protected regions based on software usage and security models.

+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2019-12-12Arun Kanuparthi, Hareesh Khattri, Parbati Kumar Manna, Narasimha Kumar V MangipudiIntel Corporation
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2022-04-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
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Page Last Updated: May 05, 2022