CWE

Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software & Hardware Weakness Types

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ID

CWE-226: Sensitive Information in Resource Not Removed Before Reuse

Weakness ID: 226
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The product releases a resource such as memory or a file so that it can be made available for reuse, but it does not clear or "zeroize" the information contained in the resource before the product performs a critical state transition or makes the resource available for reuse by other entities.
+ Extended Description

When resources are released, they can be made available for reuse. For example, after memory is de-allocated, an operating system may make the memory available to another process, or disk space may be reallocated when a file is deleted. As removing information requires time and additional resources, operating systems do not usually clear the previously written information.

Even when the resource is reused by the same process, this weakness can arise when new data is not as large as the old data, which leaves portions of the old data still available. Equivalent errors can occur in other situations where the length of data is variable but the associated data structure is not. If memory is not cleared after use, the information may be read by less trustworthy parties when the memory is reallocated.

This weakness can apply in hardware, such as when a device or system switches between power, sleep, or debug states during normal operation, or when execution changes to different users or privilege levels.

+ 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.212Improper Removal of Sensitive Information Before Storage or Transfer
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.459Incomplete Cleanup
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.244Improper Clearing of Heap Memory Before Release ('Heap Inspection')
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1239Improper Zeroization of Hardware Register
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.1272Sensitive Information Uncleared Before Debug/Power State Transition
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.1301Insufficient or Incomplete Data Removal within Hardware Component
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.1342Information Exposure through Microarchitectural State after Transient Execution
CanPrecedeBaseBase - 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.201Insertion of Sensitive Information Into Sent 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.452Initialization and Cleanup Errors
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 "Hardware Design" (CWE-1194)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1202Memory and Storage Issues
ParentOfVariantVariant - a weakness that is linked to a certain type of product, typically involving a specific language or technology. More specific than a Base weakness. Variant level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 3 to 5 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1239Improper Zeroization of Hardware Register
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.1342Information Exposure through Microarchitectural State after Transient Execution
+ 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)

Technologies

Class: Technology-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

Technical Impact: Read Application Data

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This example shows how an attacker can take advantage of an incorrect state transition.

Suppose a device is transitioning from state A to state B. During state A, it can read certain private keys from the hidden fuses that are only accessible in state A but not in state B. The device reads the keys, performs operations using those keys, then transitions to state B, where those private keys should no longer be accessible.

(bad code)
 

During the transition from A to B, the device does not scrub the memory.

After the transition to state B, even though the private keys are no longer accessible directly from the fuses in state B, they can be accessed indirectly by reading the memory that contains the private keys.

(good code)
 
For transition from state A to state B, remove information which should not be available once the transition is complete.

Example 2

The following code calls realloc() on a buffer containing sensitive data:

(bad code)
Example Language:
cleartext_buffer = get_secret();...
cleartext_buffer = realloc(cleartext_buffer, 1024);
...
scrub_memory(cleartext_buffer, 1024);

There is an attempt to scrub the sensitive data from memory, but realloc() is used, so it could return a pointer to a different part of memory. The memory that was originally allocated for cleartext_buffer could still contain an uncleared copy of the data.

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Ethernet NIC drivers do not pad frames with null bytes, leading to infoleak from malformed packets.
router does not clear information from DHCP packets that have been previously used
Products do not fully clear memory buffers when less data is stored into the buffer than previous.
Products do not fully clear memory buffers when less data is stored into the buffer than previous.
Products do not fully clear memory buffers when less data is stored into the buffer than previous.
Product does not clear a data structure before writing to part of it, yielding information leak of previously used memory.
Memory not properly cleared before reuse.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phases: Architecture and Design; Implementation

During critical state transitions, information not needed in the next state should be removed or overwritten with fixed patterns (such as all 0's) or random data, before the transition to the next state.

Effectiveness: High

Phases: Architecture and Design; Implementation

When releasing, de-allocating, or deleting a resource, overwrite its data and relevant metadata with fixed patterns or random data. Be cautious about complex resource types whose underlying representation might be non-contiguous or change at a low level, such as how a file might be split into different chunks on a file system, even though "logical" file positions are contiguous at the application layer. Such resource types might require invocation of special modes or APIs to tell the underlying operating system to perform the necessary clearing, such as SDelete (Secure Delete) on Windows, although the appropriate functionality might not be available at the application layer.

Effectiveness: High

+ Weakness Ordinalities
OrdinalityDescription
Primary
(where the weakness exists independent of other weaknesses)
+ Detection Methods

Manual Analysis

Write a known pattern into each sensitive location. Trigger the release of the resource or cause the desired state transition to occur. Read data back from the sensitive locations. If the reads are successful, and the data is the same as the pattern that was originally written, the test fails and the product needs to be fixed. Note that this test can likely be automated.

Effectiveness: High

+ Functional Areas
  • Memory Management
  • Networking
+ Affected Resources
  • Memory
+ 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.729OWASP Top Ten 2004 Category A8 - Insecure Storage
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.742CERT C Secure Coding Standard (2008) Chapter 9 - Memory Management (MEM)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.876CERT C++ Secure Coding Section 08 - Memory Management (MEM)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.963SFP Secondary Cluster: Exposed Data
+ Notes

Maintenance

This entry needs modification to clarify the differences with CWE-212. The description also combines two problems that are distinct from the CWE research perspective: the inadvertent transfer of information to another sphere, and improper initialization/shutdown. Some of the associated taxonomy mappings reflect these different uses.

Relationship

There is a close association between CWE-226 and CWE-212. The difference is partially that of perspective. CWE-226 is geared towards the final stage of the resource lifecycle, in which the resource is deleted, eliminated, expired, or otherwise released for reuse. Technically, this involves a transfer to a different control sphere, in which the original contents of the resource are no longer relevant. CWE-212, however, is intended for sensitive data in resources that are intentionally shared with others, so they are still active. This distinction is useful from the perspective of the CWE research view (CWE-1000).

Research Gap

This is frequently found for network packets, but it can also exist in local memory allocation, files, etc.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERSensitive Information Uncleared Before Use
CERT C Secure CodingMEM03-CClear sensitive information stored in reusable resources returned for reuse
Software Fault PatternsSFP23Exposed Data
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19PLOVER
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Other_Notes, Relationship_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings, Weakness_Ordinalities
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Other_Notes
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Maintenance_Notes, Relationship_Notes
2010-09-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2010-12-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2011-09-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Causal_Nature, Functional_Areas, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Description, Name, Relationships, Time_of_Introduction, Weakness_Ordinalities
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Name, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11Sensitive Information Uncleared Before Use
2020-02-24Sensitive Information Uncleared Before Release
2020-08-20Sensitive Information Uncleared in Resource Before Release for Reuse
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Page Last Updated: October 25, 2021