Common Weakness Enumeration

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Home > CWE List > CWE- Individual Dictionary Definition (4.13)  

CWE-1277: Firmware Not Updateable

Weakness ID: 1277
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
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+ Description
The product does not provide its users with the ability to update or patch its firmware to address any vulnerabilities or weaknesses that may be present.
+ Extended Description
Without the ability to patch or update firmware, consumers will be left vulnerable to exploitation of any known vulnerabilities, or any vulnerabilities that are discovered in the future. This can expose consumers to permanent risk throughout the entire lifetime of the device, which could be years or decades. Some external protective measures and mitigations might be employed to aid in preventing or reducing the risk of malicious attack, but the root weakness cannot be corrected.
+ 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)
ChildOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1329Reliance on Component That is Not Updateable
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.1208Cross-Cutting 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.
RequirementsRequirements development might not consider the importance of updates over the lifetime of the product, or might not choose the ability due to concerns such as expense or speed to market.
Architecture and DesignLack of planning during architecture development and design, or external pressures such as speed to market, could ignore the capability to update.
ImplementationThe weakness can appear through oversight during implementation.
+ 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: Not Technology-Specific (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.
Access Control

Technical Impact: Gain Privileges or Assume Identity; Bypass Protection Mechanism; Execute Unauthorized Code or Commands; DoS: Crash, Exit, or Restart

If an attacker can identify an exploitable vulnerability in one device that has no means of patching, the attack may be used against an entire class of devices.
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

A refrigerator has an Internet interface for the official purpose of alerting the manufacturer when that refrigerator detects a fault. Because the device is attached to the Internet, the refrigerator is a target for hackers who may wish to use the device other potentially more nefarious purposes.

(bad code)
Example Language: Other 
The refrigerator has no means of patching and is hacked becoming a spewer of email spam.
(good code)
Example Language: Other 
The device automatically patches itself and provides considerable more protection against being hacked.
+ Observed Examples
Chain: network-attached storage (NAS) device has a critical OS command injection (CWE-78) vulnerability that is actively exploited to place IoT devices into a botnet, but some products are "end-of-support" and cannot be patched (CWE-1277). [REF-1097]
A hardware "smart lock" has weak key generation that allows attackers to steal the key by BLE sniffing, but the device's firmware cannot be upgraded and hence remains vulnerable [REF-1095].
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Requirements

Specify requirements to include the ability to update the firmware. Include integrity checks and authentication to ensure that untrusted firmware cannot be installed.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Design the device to allow for updating the firmware. Ensure that the design specifies how to distribute the updates and ensure their integrity and authentication.

Phase: Implementation

Implement the necessary functionality to allow the firmware to be updated.
+ Weakness Ordinalities
(where the weakness exists independent of other weaknesses)
+ Detection Methods

Manual Analysis

Create a new installable boot image of the current build with a minor version number change. Use the standard installation method to update the boot image. Verify that the minor version number has changed. Create a fake image. Verify that the boot updater will not install the fake image and generates an "invalid image" error message or equivalent.

Effectiveness: High

Architecture or Design Review

Check the consumer or maintainer documentation, the architecture/design documentation, or the original requirements to ensure that the documentation includes details for how to update the firmware.

Effectiveness: Moderate

Manual Dynamic Analysis

Determine if there is a lack of a capability to update read-only memory (ROM) structure. This could manifest as a difference between the latest firmware version and the current version within the device.

Effectiveness: High

+ 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.1415Comprehensive Categorization: Resource 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


The "firmware" term does not have a single commonly-shared definition, so there may be variations in how this CWE entry is interpreted during mapping.
+ References
[REF-1095] Matthew Hughes. "Bad news: KeyWe Smart Lock is easily bypassed and can't be fixed". 2019-12-11. <>. URL validated: 2023-04-07.
[REF-1096] Alex Scroxton. "Alarm bells ring, the IoT is listening". <>.
[REF-1097] Brian Krebs. "Zyxel Flaw Powers New Mirai IoT Botnet Strain". 2020-03-20. <>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
(CWE 4.1, 2020-02-24)
Paul A. WortmanWells Fargo
+ Contributions
Contribution DateContributorOrganization
2021-10-12Paul A. WortmanWells Fargo
provided detection methods and observed examples
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Potential_Mitigations
2020-12-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Relationships
2021-03-15CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Maintenance_Notes
2021-07-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Maintenance_Notes
2021-10-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Description, Detection_Factors, Maintenance_Notes, Modes_of_Introduction, Observed_Examples, References, Relationships, Terminology_Notes, Weakness_Ordinalities
2022-04-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, Observed_Examples, Potential_Mitigations, Relationships
2022-10-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2023-04-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2023-06-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Mapping_Notes
Page Last Updated: October 26, 2023