Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software Weakness Types

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CWE-211: Information Exposure Through Externally-generated Error Message

Weakness ID: 211
Abstraction: Base
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description

Description Summary

The software performs an operation that triggers an external diagnostic or error message that is not directly generated by the software, such as an error generated by the programming language interpreter that the software uses. The error can contain sensitive system information.
+ Time of Introduction
  • Architecture and Design
  • Implementation
  • Operation
+ Applicable Platforms


PHP: (Often)


+ Common Consequences

Technical Impact: Read application data

+ Enabling Factors for Exploitation

PHP applications are often targeted for having this issue when the PHP interpreter generates the error outside of the application's control. However, it's not just restricted to PHP, as other languages/environments exhibit the same issue.

+ Observed Examples
chain: product does not protect against direct request of an include file, leading to resultant path disclosure when the include file does not successfully execute.
Single "'" inserted into SQL query leads to invalid SQL query execution, triggering full path disclosure. Possibly resultant from more general SQL injection issue.
chain: product does not protect against direct request of a library file, leading to resultant path disclosure when the file does not successfully execute.
invalid parameter triggers a failure to find an include file, leading to infoleak in error message.
Various invalid requests lead to information leak in verbose error messages describing the failure to instantiate a class, open a configuration file, or execute an undefined function.
Improper handling of filename request with trailing "/" causes multiple consequences, including information leak in Visual Basic error message.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: System Configuration

Configure the application's environment in a way that prevents errors from being generated. For example, in PHP, disable display_errors.

Phases: Implementation; Build and Compilation

Strategies: Compilation or Build Hardening; Environment Hardening

Debugging information should not make its way into a production release.

Phase: Implementation

Handle exceptions internally and do not display errors containing potentially sensitive information to a user. Create default error pages if necessary.

Phase: Implementation

The best way to prevent this weakness during implementation is to avoid any bugs that could trigger the external error message. This typically happens when the program encounters fatal errors, such as a divide-by-zero. You will not always be able to control the use of error pages, and you might not be using a language that handles exceptions.

+ Weakness Ordinalities
(where the weakness is typically related to the presence of some other weaknesses)
+ Relationships
NatureTypeIDNameView(s) this relationship pertains toView(s)
ChildOfWeakness BaseWeakness Base209Information Exposure Through an Error Message
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ChildOfCategoryCategory963SFP Secondary Cluster: Exposed Data
Software Fault Pattern (SFP) Clusters (primary)888
+ Relationship Notes

This is inherently a resultant vulnerability from a weakness within the product or an interaction error.

+ Functional Areas
  • Error handling
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERProduct-External Error Message Infoleak
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
PLOVERExternally Mined
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigitalExternal
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Applicable_Platforms, Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Description
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Description, Enabling_Factors_for_Exploitation, Functional_Areas, Observed_Examples, Other_Notes, Potential_Mitigations, Relationship_Notes, Weakness_Ordinalities
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Potential_Mitigations
2010-12-13CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Observed_Examples
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Name
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Name
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2011-03-29Product-External Error Message Information Leak
2012-10-30Information Exposure Through External Error Message

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Page Last Updated: May 05, 2017