CWE

Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software & Hardware Weakness Types

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ID

CWE-204: Observable Response Discrepancy

Weakness ID: 204
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The product provides different responses to incoming requests in a way that reveals internal state information to an unauthorized actor outside of the intended control sphere.
+ Extended Description
This issue frequently occurs during authentication, where a difference in failed-login messages could allow an attacker to determine if the username is valid or not. These exposures can be inadvertent (bug) or intentional (design).
+ 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
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.203Observable Discrepancy
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.199Information Management Errors
+ 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
Architecture and Design
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.

Languages

Class: Language-Independent (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
Confidentiality
Access Control

Technical Impact: Read Application Data; Bypass Protection Mechanism

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code checks validity of the supplied username and password and notifies the user of a successful or failed login.

(bad code)
Example Language: Perl 
my $username=param('username');
my $password=param('password');

if (IsValidUsername($username) == 1)
{
if (IsValidPassword($username, $password) == 1)
{
print "Login Successful";
}
else
{
print "Login Failed - incorrect password";
}
}
else
{
print "Login Failed - unknown username";
}

In the above code, there are different messages for when an incorrect username is supplied, versus when the username is correct but the password is wrong. This difference enables a potential attacker to understand the state of the login function, and could allow an attacker to discover a valid username by trying different values until the incorrect password message is returned. In essence, this makes it easier for an attacker to obtain half of the necessary authentication credentials.

While this type of information may be helpful to a user, it is also useful to a potential attacker. In the above example, the message for both failed cases should be the same, such as:

(result)
 
"Login Failed - incorrect username or password"
+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
This, and others, use ".." attacks and monitor error responses, so there is overlap with directory traversal.
Enumeration of valid usernames based on inconsistent responses
Account number enumeration via inconsistent responses.
User enumeration via discrepancies in error messages.
User enumeration via discrepancies in error messages.
Bulletin Board displays different error messages when a user exists or not, which makes it easier for remote attackers to identify valid users and conduct a brute force password guessing attack.
Operating System, when direct remote login is disabled, displays a different message if the password is correct, which allows remote attackers to guess the password via brute force methods.
Product allows remote attackers to determine if a port is being filtered because the response packet TTL is different than the default TTL.
Product sets a different TTL when a port is being filtered than when it is not being filtered, which allows remote attackers to identify filtered ports by comparing TTLs.
Product may generate different responses than specified by the administrator, possibly leading to an information leak.
Version control system allows remote attackers to determine the existence of arbitrary files and directories via the -X command for an alternate history file, which causes different error messages to be returned.
FTP server generates an error message if the user name does not exist instead of prompting for a password, which allows remote attackers to determine valid usernames.
+ 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.

Phase: Implementation

Ensure that error messages only contain minimal details that are useful to the intended audience and no one else. The messages need to strike the balance between being too cryptic (which can confuse users) or being too detailed (which may reveal more than intended). The messages should not reveal the methods that were used to determine the error. Attackers can use detailed information to refine or optimize their original attack, thereby increasing their chances of success.

If errors must be captured in some detail, record them in log messages, but consider what could occur if the log messages can be viewed by attackers. Highly sensitive information such as passwords should never be saved to log files.

Avoid inconsistent messaging that might accidentally tip off an attacker about internal state, such as whether a user account exists or not.

+ 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.967SFP Secondary Cluster: State Disclosure
+ Notes

Relationship

can overlap errors related to escalated privileges
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERResponse discrepancy infoleak
+ References
[REF-44] Michael Howard, David LeBlanc and John Viega. "24 Deadly Sins of Software Security". "Sin 12: Information Leakage." Page 191. McGraw-Hill. 2010.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19PLOVER
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Potential_Mitigations, Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Relationship_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Potential_Mitigations
2009-12-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2010-09-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Name, Observed_Examples
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Observed_Examples, References, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Name, Relationships
2020-12-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2010-09-27Response Discrepancy Information Leak
2020-02-24Response Discrepancy Information Exposure
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Page Last Updated: July 20, 2021