Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-1286: Improper Validation of Syntactic Correctness of Input

Weakness ID: 1286
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
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+ Description
The product receives input that is expected to be well-formed - i.e., to comply with a certain syntax - but it does not validate or incorrectly validates that the input complies with the syntax.
+ Extended Description

Often, complex inputs are expected to follow a particular syntax, which is either assumed by the input itself, or declared within metadata such as headers. The syntax could be for data exchange formats, markup languages, or even programming languages. When untrusted input is not properly validated for the expected syntax, attackers could cause parsing failures, trigger unexpected errors, or expose latent vulnerabilities that might not be directly exploitable if the input had conformed to the syntax.

+ 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)
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.20Improper Input Validation
ParentOfBaseBase - 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.112Missing XML Validation
+ 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.
+ 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 (Often Prevalent)

+ 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.

Technical Impact: Varies by Context

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code loads and parses an XML file.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 

// Read DOM
try {
DocumentBuilderFactory factory = DocumentBuilderFactory.newInstance();
factory.setValidating( false );
c_dom = factory.newDocumentBuilder().parse( xmlFile );
} catch(Exception ex) {

The XML file is loaded without validating it against a known XML Schema or DTD.

+ Observed Examples
Chain: incorrect validation of intended decimal-based IP address format (CWE-1286) enables parsing of octal or hexadecimal formats (CWE-1389), allowing bypass of an SSRF protection mechanism (CWE-918).
HTTP request with missing protocol version number leads to crash
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Input Validation

Assume all input is malicious. Use an "accept known good" input validation strategy, i.e., use a list of acceptable inputs that strictly conform to specifications. Reject any input that does not strictly conform to specifications, or transform it into something that does.

When performing input validation, consider all potentially relevant properties, including length, type of input, the full range of acceptable values, missing or extra inputs, syntax, consistency across related fields, and conformance to business rules. As an example of business rule logic, "boat" may be syntactically valid because it only contains alphanumeric characters, but it is not valid if the input is only expected to contain colors such as "red" or "blue."

Do not rely exclusively on looking for malicious or malformed inputs. This is likely to miss at least one undesirable input, especially if the code's environment changes. This can give attackers enough room to bypass the intended validation. However, denylists can be useful for detecting potential attacks or determining which inputs are so malformed that they should be rejected outright.

Effectiveness: High

+ Notes


This entry is still under development and will continue to see updates and content improvements.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2020-06-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2022-04-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2022-10-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples
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Page Last Updated: January 31, 2023