CWE-1299: Missing Protection Mechanism for Alternate Hardware Interface
The lack of protections on alternate paths to access control-protected assets (such as unprotected shadow registers and other external facing unguarded interfaces) allows an attacker to bypass existing protections to the asset that are only performed against the primary path.
An asset inside a chip might have access-control protections through one interface. However, if all paths to the asset are not protected, an attacker might compromise the asset through alternate paths. These alternate paths could be through shadow or mirror registers inside the IP core, or could be paths from other external-facing interfaces to the IP core or SoC.
Consider an SoC with various interfaces such as UART, SMBUS, PCIe, USB, etc. If access control is implemented for SoC internal registers only over the PCIe interface, then an attacker could still modify the SoC internal registers through alternate paths by coming through interfaces such as UART, SMBUS, USB, etc.
Alternatively, attackers might be able to bypass existing protections by exploiting unprotected, shadow registers. Shadow registers and mirror registers typically refer to registers that can be accessed from multiple addresses. Writing to or reading from the aliased/mirrored address has the same effect as writing to the address of the main register. They are typically implemented within an IP core or SoC to temporarily hold certain data. These data will later be updated to the main register, and both registers will be in synch. If the shadow registers are not access-protected, attackers could simply initiate transactions to the shadow registers and compromise system security.
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)
Relevant to the view "Hardware Design" (CWE-1194)
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.
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)
Class: OS-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)
Class: Architecture-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)
Microcontroller IP (Undetermined Prevalence)
Processor IP (Undetermined Prevalence)
Bus/Interface IP (Undetermined Prevalence)
Class: Technology-Independent (Undetermined Prevalence)
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.
Register SECURE_ME is located at address 0xF00. A mirror of this register called COPY_OF_SECURE_ME is at location 0x800F00. The register SECURE_ME is protected from malicious agents and only allows access to select, while COPY_OF_SECURE_ME is not.
Access control is implemented using an allowlist (as indicated by acl_oh_allowlist). The identity of the initiator of the transaction is indicated by the one hot input, incoming_id. This is checked against the acl_oh_allowlist (which contains a list of initiators that are allowed to access the asset).
Though this example is shown in Verilog, it will apply to VHDL as well.
Example Language: Verilog
module foo_bar(data_out, data_in, incoming_id, address, clk, rst_n);
output [31:0] data_out;
input [31:0] data_in, incoming_id, address;
input clk, rst_n;
wire write_auth, addr_auth;
reg [31:0] data_out, acl_oh_allowlist, q;
assign write_auth = | (incoming_id & acl_oh_allowlist) ? 1 : 0;
acl_oh_allowlist <= 32’h8312;assign addr_auth = (address == 32’hF00) ? 1: 0;
always @ (posedge clk or negedge rst_n)
q <= 32’h0;end
data_out <= 32’h0;
q <= (addr_auth & write_auth) ? data_in: q;end
data_out <= q;
Example Language: Verilog
assign addr_auth = (address == 32’hF00) ? 1: 0;
The bugged line of code is repeated in the Bad example above. Weakness arises from the fact that the SECURE_ME register can be modified by writing to the shadow register COPY_OF_SECURE_ME, the address of COPY_OF_SECURE_ME should also be included in the check. That buggy line of code should instead be replaced as shown in the Good Code Snippet below.
Example Language: Verilog
assign addr_auth = (address == 32’hF00 || address == 32’h800F00) ? 1: 0;
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