CWE

Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software & Hardware Weakness Types

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ID

CWE-15: External Control of System or Configuration Setting

Weakness ID: 15
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
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+ Description
One or more system settings or configuration elements can be externally controlled by a user.
+ Extended Description
Allowing external control of system settings can disrupt service or cause an application to behave in unexpected, and potentially malicious ways.
+ 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)
NatureTypeIDName
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.610Externally Controlled Reference to a Resource in Another Sphere
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.642External Control of Critical State Data
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 "Software Development" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.371State Issues
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 "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1011Authorize Actors
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 "Seven Pernicious Kingdoms" (CWE-700)
NatureTypeIDName
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
+ 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.
PhaseNote
ImplementationSetting manipulation vulnerabilities occur when an attacker can control values that govern the behavior of the system, manage specific resources, or in some way affect the functionality of the application.
ImplementationREALIZATION: This weakness is caused during implementation of an architectural security tactic.
+ 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.

Technologies

Class: Not Technology-Specific (Undetermined Prevalence)

Class: ICS/OT (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.
ScopeImpactLikelihood
Other

Technical Impact: Varies by Context

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following C code accepts a number as one of its command line parameters and sets it as the host ID of the current machine.

(bad code)
Example Language:
...
sethostid(argv[1]);
...

Although a process must be privileged to successfully invoke sethostid(), unprivileged users may be able to invoke the program. The code in this example allows user input to directly control the value of a system setting. If an attacker provides a malicious value for host ID, the attacker can misidentify the affected machine on the network or cause other unintended behavior.

Example 2

The following Java code snippet reads a string from an HttpServletRequest and sets it as the active catalog for a database Connection.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
...
conn.setCatalog(request.getParameter("catalog"));
...

In this example, an attacker could cause an error by providing a nonexistent catalog name or connect to an unauthorized portion of the database.

+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Separation of Privilege

Compartmentalize the system to have "safe" areas where trust boundaries can be unambiguously drawn. Do not allow sensitive data to go outside of the trust boundary and always be careful when interfacing with a compartment outside of the safe area.

Ensure that appropriate compartmentalization is built into the system design, and the compartmentalization allows for and reinforces privilege separation functionality. Architects and designers should rely on the principle of least privilege to decide the appropriate time to use privileges and the time to drop privileges.

Phases: Implementation; Architecture and Design

Because setting manipulation covers a diverse set of functions, any attempt at illustrating it will inevitably be incomplete. Rather than searching for a tight-knit relationship between the functions addressed in the setting manipulation category, take a step back and consider the sorts of system values that an attacker should not be allowed to control.

Phases: Implementation; Architecture and Design

In general, do not allow user-provided or otherwise untrusted data to control sensitive values. The leverage that an attacker gains by controlling these values is not always immediately obvious, but do not underestimate the creativity of the attacker.
+ Detection Methods

Automated Static Analysis

Automated static analysis, commonly referred to as Static Application Security Testing (SAST), can find some instances of this weakness by analyzing source code (or binary/compiled code) without having to execute it. Typically, this is done by building a model of data flow and control flow, then searching for potentially-vulnerable patterns that connect "sources" (origins of input) with "sinks" (destinations where the data interacts with external components, a lower layer such as the OS, etc.)

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.
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.994SFP Secondary Cluster: Tainted Input to Variable
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1349OWASP Top Ten 2021 Category A05:2021 - Security Misconfiguration
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1368ICS Dependencies (& Architecture): External Digital Systems
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1403Comprehensive Categorization: Exposed Resource
+ Vulnerability Mapping Notes

Usage: Allowed

(this CWE ID could be used to map to real-world vulnerabilities)

Reason: Acceptable-Use

Rationale:

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.

Comments:

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.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
7 Pernicious KingdomsSetting Manipulation
Software Fault PatternsSFP25Tainted input to variable
+ References
[REF-6] Katrina Tsipenyuk, Brian Chess and Gary McGraw. "Seven Pernicious Kingdoms: A Taxonomy of Software Security Errors". NIST Workshop on Software Security Assurance Tools Techniques and Metrics. NIST. 2005-11-07. <https://samate.nist.gov/SSATTM_Content/papers/Seven%20Pernicious%20Kingdoms%20-%20Taxonomy%20of%20Sw%20Security%20Errors%20-%20Tsipenyuk%20-%20Chess%20-%20McGraw.pdf>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19
(CWE Draft 3, 2006-07-19)
7 Pernicious Kingdoms
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Modes_of_Introduction, Other_Notes
2010-04-05CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2011-06-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2017-01-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Modes_of_Introduction, Relationships
2019-01-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2019-06-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships
2020-12-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2021-10-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2023-01-31CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2023-04-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, Relationships
2023-06-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Mapping_Notes
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11Setting Manipulation
Page Last Updated: October 26, 2023