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CWE-1273: Device Unlock Credential Sharing

Weakness ID: 1273
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The credentials necessary for unlocking a device are shared across multiple parties and may expose sensitive information.
+ Extended Description

“Unlocking a device” often means activating certain, unadvertised, debug and manufacturer-specific capabilities of a device using sensitive credentials. Unlocking a device might be necessary for the purpose of troubleshooting device problems. For example, suppose a device contains the ability to dump the content of the full system memory by disabling the memory-protection mechanisms. Since this is a highly security-sensitive capability, this capability is “locked” in the production part. Unless the device gets unlocked by supplying the proper credentials the debug capablilities are not available. For cases where the chip designer, chip manufacturer (fabricator), and manufacturing and assembly testers are the all employed by the same company, the compromise of the credentials are greatly reduced. However, when the chip designer is employed by one company, the chip manufacturer is employed by another company (a foundry), and the assemblers and testers are employed by yet a third company. Since these different companies will need to perform various tests on the device to verify correct device function, they all need to share the unlock key. Unfortunately, the level of secrecy and policy might be quite different at each company, greatly increasing the risk of sensitive credentials being compromised.

+ 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.200Exposure of Sensitive Information to an Unauthorized Actor
+ Relevant to the view "Hardware Design" (CWE-1194)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1195Manufacturing and Life Cycle Management Concerns
+ 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.

+ 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.


VHDL (Undetermined Prevalence)

Verilog (Undetermined Prevalence)

Class: Compiled (Undetermined Prevalence)

Operating Systems

Class: OS-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)


Class: Architecture-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)


Other (Undetermined Prevalence)

Class: Technology-Independent (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: Modify Memory; Read Memory; Modify Files or Directories; Read Files or Directories; Modify Application Data; Execute Unauthorized Code or Commands; Gain Privileges or Assume Identity; Bypass Protection Mechanism

Once unlock credentials are compromised, an attacker can use the credentials to unlock the device and gain unauthorized access to the hidden functionalities protected by those credentials.
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This example shows how an attacker can take advantage of compromised credentials.

(bad code)
Suppose a semiconductor chipmaker, “C”, uses the foundry “F” for fabricating its chips. Now, F has many other customers in addition to C, and some of the other customers are much smaller companies. F has dedicated teams for each of its customers, but somehow it mixes up the unlock credentials and sends the unlock credentials of C to the wrong team. This other team does not take adequate precautions to protect the credentials that have nothing to do with them, and eventually the unlock credentials of C get leaked.

When the credentials of multiple organizations are stored together, exposure to third parties occurs frequently.

(good code)
Vertical integration of a production company is one effective method of protecting sensitive credentials. Where vertical integration is not possible, strict access control and need-to-know are methods which can be implenmented to reduce these risks.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Integration

Ensure the unlock credentials are shared with the minimum number of parties and with utmost secrecy. To limit the risk associated with compromised credentials, where possible, the credentials should be part-specific.

Phase: Manufacturing

Ensure the unlock credentials are shared with the minimum number of parties and with utmost secrecy. To limit the risk associated with compromised credentials, where possible, the credentials should be part-specific.
+ Notes


This entry is still under development and will continue to see updates and content improvements.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2020-05-29Parbati Kumar Manna, Hareesh Khattri, Arun KanuparthiIntel Corporation
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Related_Attack_Patterns
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Page Last Updated: March 15, 2021