Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-1244: Internal Asset Exposed to Unsafe Debug Access Level or State

Weakness ID: 1244
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
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+ Description
The product uses physical debug or test interfaces with support for multiple access levels, but it assigns the wrong debug access level to an internal asset, providing unintended access to the asset from untrusted debug agents.
+ Extended Description

Debug authorization can have multiple levels of access, defined such that different system internal assets are accessible based on the current authorized debug level. Other than debugger authentication (e.g., using passwords or challenges), the authorization can also be based on the system state or boot stage. For example, full system debug access might only be allowed early in boot after a system reset to ensure that previous session data is not accessible to the authenticated debugger.

If this protection mechanism does not ensure that internal assets have the correct debug access level during each boot stage or change in system state, an attacker could obtain sensitive information from the internal asset using a debugger.

+ 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)
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.863Incorrect Authorization
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 "Hardware Design" (CWE-1194)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1207Debug and Test Problems
+ 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 Design
+ 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: Not Language-Specific (Undetermined Prevalence)

Operating Systems

Class: Not OS-Specific (Undetermined Prevalence)


Class: Not Architecture-Specific (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.

Technical Impact: Read Memory


Technical Impact: Modify Memory

Access Control

Technical Impact: Gain Privileges or Assume Identity; Bypass Protection Mechanism

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The JTAG interface is used to perform debugging and provide CPU core access for developers. JTAG-access protection is implemented as part of the JTAG_SHIELD bit in the hw_digctl_ctrl register. This register has no default value at power up and is set only after the system boots from ROM and control is transferred to the user software.

(bad code)
Example Language: Other 
1 bit 0x0 = JTAG debugger is enabled (default)
JTAG_SHIELD 0x1 = JTAG debugger is disabled

This means that since the end user has access to JTAG at system reset and during ROM code execution before control is transferred to user software, a JTAG user can modify the boot flow and subsequently disclose all CPU information, including data-encryption keys.

The default value of this register bit should be set to 1 to prevent the JTAG from being enabled at system reset.
+ Observed Examples
After ROM code execution, JTAG access is disabled. But before the ROM code is executed, JTAG access is possible, allowing a user full system access. This allows a user to modify the boot flow and successfully bypass the secure-boot process.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phases: Architecture and Design; Implementation

For security-sensitive assets accessible over debug/test interfaces, only allow trusted agents.

Effectiveness: High

Phase: Architecture and Design

Apply blinding [REF-1219] or masking techniques in strategic areas.

Effectiveness: Limited

Phase: Implementation

Add shielding or tamper-resistant protections to the device, which increases the difficulty and cost for accessing debug/test interfaces.

Effectiveness: Limited

+ Weakness Ordinalities
(where the weakness exists independent of other weaknesses)
+ Detection Methods

Manual Analysis

Check 2 devices for their passcode to authenticate access to JTAG/debugging ports. If the passcodes are missing or the same, update the design to fix and retest. Check communications over JTAG/debugging ports for encryption. If the communications are not encrypted, fix the design and retest.

Effectiveness: Moderate

+ Memberships
Section HelpThis 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.
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).1343Weaknesses in the 2021 CWE Most Important Hardware Weaknesses List
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1396Comprehensive Categorization: Access Control
+ Vulnerability Mapping Notes

Usage: Allowed

(this CWE ID could be used to map to real-world vulnerabilities)

Reason: Acceptable-Use


This CWE entry is at the Base level of abstraction, which is a preferred level of abstraction for mapping to the root causes of vulnerabilities.


Carefully read both the name and description to ensure that this mapping is an appropriate fit. Do not try to 'force' a mapping to a lower-level Base/Variant simply to comply with this preferred level of abstraction.
+ Notes


CWE-1191 and CWE-1244 both involve physical debug access, but the weaknesses are different. CWE-1191 is effectively about missing authorization for a debug interface, i.e. JTAG. CWE-1244 is about providing internal assets with the wrong debug access level, exposing the asset to untrusted debug agents.
+ References
[REF-1056] F-Secure Labs. "Multiple Vulnerabilities in Barco Clickshare: JTAG access is not permanently disabled". <>.
[REF-1057] Kurt Rosenfeld and Ramesh Karri. "Attacks and Defenses for JTAG". <>.
[REF-1219] Monodeep Kar, Arvind Singh, Santosh Ghosh, Sanu Mathew, Anand Rajan, Vivek De, Raheem Beyah and Saibal Mukhopadhyay. "Blindsight: Blinding EM Side-Channel Leakage using Built-In Fully Integrated Inductive Voltage Regulator". 2018-02. <>. URL validated: 2023-04-07.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
(CWE 4.0, 2020-02-24)
Arun Kanuparthi, Hareesh Khattri, Parbati Kumar Manna, Narasimha Kumar V MangipudiIntel Corporation
+ Contributions
Contribution DateContributorOrganization
2021-10-22Hareesh KhattriIntel Corporation
clarified differences between CWE-1191 and CWE-1244, and suggested rephrasing of descriptions and names.
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Name, Observed_Examples, Related_Attack_Patterns
2021-03-15CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Maintenance_Notes
2021-10-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Detection_Factors, Maintenance_Notes, Name, Observed_Examples, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationship_Notes, Relationships, Weakness_Ordinalities
2022-04-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2023-04-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships
2023-06-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Mapping_Notes
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2020-08-20Improper Authorization on Physical Debug and Test Interfaces
2021-10-28Improper Access to Sensitive Information Using Debug and Test Interfaces
Page Last Updated: October 26, 2023