Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-1244: Improper Access to Sensitive Information Using Debug and Test Interfaces

Weakness ID: 1244
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The product's physical debug and test interface protection does not block untrusted agents, resulting in unauthorized access to and potentially control of sensitive assets.
+ Extended Description

If the product implements access-control protection on the debug and test interface, a debugger is typically required to enter either a valid response to a challenge provided by the authorization logic or, alternatively, enter the right password in order to exercise the debug and test interface. However, if this protection mechanism does not exclude all untrusted, debug agents, an attacker could access/control security-sensitive registers.

+ 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.285Improper Authorization
+ 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

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)

Operating Systems

Class: OS-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)


Class: Architecture-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.


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 as 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. 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.

+ Notes


This entry is still in development and will continue to see updates and content improvements.


As of CWE 4.3, CWE-1191 and CWE-1244 are being investigated for potential duplication or overlap, since they are both related to authorization of debug/test interfaces.
+ 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". <>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2020-02-12Arun Kanuparthi, Hareesh Khattri, Parbati Kumar Manna, Narasimha Kumar V MangipudiIntel Corporation
+ 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
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2020-08-20Improper Authorization on Physical Debug and Test Interfaces
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Page Last Updated: March 15, 2021