Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software & Hardware Weakness Types

CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Weaknesses
Home > CWE List > CWE- Individual Dictionary Definition (4.4)  

CWE-1260: Improper Handling of Overlap Between Protected Memory Ranges

Weakness ID: 1260
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The product allows address regions to overlap, which can result in the bypassing of intended memory protection.
+ Extended Description

Isolated memory regions and access control (read/write) policies are used by hardware to protect privileged software. Software components are often allowed to change or remap memory region definitions in order to enable flexible and dynamically changeable memory management by system software.

If a software component running at lower privilege can program a memory address region to overlap with other memory regions used by software running at higher privilege, privilege escalation may be available to attackers. The memory protection unit (MPU) logic can incorrectly handle such an address overlap and allow the lower privilege software to read or write into the protected memory region resulting in privilege escalation attack. Address overlap weakness can also be used to launch a denial of service attack on the higher privilege software memory regions.

+ 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)
ChildOfPillarPillar - a weakness that is the most abstract type of weakness and represents a theme for all class/base/variant weaknesses related to it. A Pillar is different from a Category as a Pillar is still technically a type of weakness that describes a mistake, while a Category represents a common characteristic used to group related things.284Improper Access Control
CanPrecedeClassClass - 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.119Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer
+ Relevant to the view "Hardware Design" (CWE-1194)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1198Privilege Separation and Access Control 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 DesignSuch issues could be introduced during hardware architecture and design or implementation and identified later during the Testing phase.
+ 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)


Memory IP (Undetermined Prevalence)

Processor IP (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: Modify Memory; Read Memory; DoS: Instability

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

For example, consider a design with a 16-bit address that has two software privilege levels: Privilege_SW and Non_privilege_SW. To isolate the system memory regions accessible by these two privilege levels, the design supports three memory regions: Region_0, Region_1, Region_2.

  • Region_0 & Region_1: registers are programmable by Privilege_SW
  • Region_2: registers are programmable by Non_privilege_SW

Each region range is defined by two 32 bit registers Address_range and Access_policy:

  • Address_range[15:0]: specifies the Base address of the region
  • Address_range[31:16]: specifies the size of the region
  • Access_policy[0]: if set to one, allows reads from Non_privilege_SW
  • Access_policy[1]: if set to one, allows writes from Non_privilege_SW
  • Access_policy[0]: if set to one, allows reads from Privilege_SW
  • Access_policy[1]: if set to one, allows writes from Privilege_SW

The address-protection filter checks the address range and access policies of all three regions and only allows software access if all three filters allow access.

(bad code)

In this design example, Non_privilege_SW cannot modify memory region and policies defined by Privilege_SW in Region_0 and Region_1. Thus, it cannot read or write the memory regions that Privilege_SW is using.

However, Non_privilege_SW can program Region_2 registers to overlap with Region_0 or Region_1, and it can also define the access policy of Region_2. Using this capability, it is possible for Non_privilege_SW to block any memory region from being accessed by Privilege_SW, including the memory regions protected by Region_0 and Region_1.

(good code)
In such a design, a memory region priority should be defined to ensure that the memory region defined by Non_privilege_SW in Region_2 cannot change the access policy defined in Region_0 or Region_1.
+ Observed Examples
Intel Desktop and Intel Mobile Boards with BIOS firmware DQ35JO, DQ35MP, DP35DP, DG33FB, DG33BU, DG33TL, MGM965TW, D945GCPE, and DX38BT allow local administrators with ring 0 privileges to gain additional privileges and modify code that is running in System Management Mode, or access hypervisor memory as demonstrated at Black Hat 2008 by accessing certain remapping registers in Xen 3.3.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Ensure that memory regions are isolated as intended and that access control (read/write) policies are used by hardware to protect privileged software.

Phase: Implementation

For all of the programmable memory protection regions, the memory protection unit (MPU) design can define a priority scheme.

For example: if three memory regions can be programmed (Region_0, Region_1, and Region_2), the design can enforce a priority scheme, such that, if a system address is within multiple regions, then the region with the lowest ID takes priority and the access-control policy of that region will be applied. In some MPU designs, the priority scheme can also be programmed by trusted software.

Hardware logic or trusted firmware can also check for region definitions and block programming of memory regions with overlapping addresses.

The memory-access-control-check filter can also be designed to apply a policy filter to all of the overlapping ranges, i.e., if an address is within Region_0 and Region_1, then access to this address is only granted if both Region_0 and Region_1 policies allow the access.

Effectiveness: High

+ Notes


CWE-1315 and CWE-1260 might overlap with respect to protected memory ranges, so this will need some more investigation.
+ References
[REF-1100] Christopher Domas. "The Memory Sinkhole". 2015-07-20. <>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2020-02-10Arun Kanuparthi, Hareesh Khattri, Parbati Kumar Manna, Narasimha Kumar V MangipudiIntel Corporation
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Modes_of_Introduction, Related_Attack_Patterns
2020-12-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Maintenance_Notes
More information is available — Please select a different filter.
Page Last Updated: March 15, 2021