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CWE-1274: Insufficient Protections on the Volatile Memory Containing Boot Code

Weakness ID: 1274
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The protections on the product's non-volatile memory containing boot code are insufficient to prevent the bypassing of secure boot or the execution of an untrusted, boot code chosen by an adversary.
+ Extended Description

As a part of secure-boot process, a System-on-Chip's (SoC) read-only-memory (ROM) code fetches bootloader code from Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) and stores the code in Volatile Memory (VM), such as dynamic, random-access memory (DRAM)/static, random-access memory (SRAM). The NVM is usually external to the SoC while the VM is internal to the SoC. As the code is transferred from NVM to VM, it is authenticated by the SoC's ROM code.

If the volatile-memory-region protections or access controls are insufficient to prevent modifications from an adversary or untrusted agent, the secure boot may be bypassed or replaced with the excution of an adversary’s code.

+ 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
+ Relevant to the view "Hardware Design" (CWE-1194)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1196Security Flow 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 DesignThis weakness can be introduced during hardware architecture or design but can be identified later during testing.
+ 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: 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.


Technical Impact: Modify Memory; Execute Unauthorized Code or Commands; Gain Privileges or Assume Identity

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

A typical SoC secure boot’s flow includes fetching the next piece of code (i.e., the boot loader) from NVM (e.g., serial, peripheral interface (SPI) flash), and transferring it to DRAM/SRAM volatile, internal memory. The advantage of using DRAM/SRAM is that the access time is faster and cheaper per byte than NVM.

(bad code)
The volatile-memory protections or access controls are insufficient.

The memory from where the boot loader executes can be modified by an adversary.

(good code)
A good architecture should define appropriate protections or access controls to prevent modification by an adversary or untrusted agent, once the bootloader is authenticated.
+ Observed Examples
Locked regions might be modified through other interfaces in secure-boot-loader image due to improper, access control
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

During this phase, ensure that the design of volatile-memory protections are enough to prevent modification from an adversary or untrusted code.

Phase: Testing

Test the volatile-memory protections to ensure they are safe from modification or untrusted code.
+ Notes


This entry is still under development and will continue to see updates and content improvements.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2020-04-25Arun Kanuparthi, Hareesh Khattri, Parbati Kumar Manna, Narasimha Kumar V MangipudiIntel 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