Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-268: Privilege Chaining

Weakness ID: 268
Abstraction: Base
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description

Description Summary

Two distinct privileges, roles, capabilities, or rights can be combined in a way that allows an entity to perform unsafe actions that would not be allowed without that combination.
+ Time of Introduction
  • Architecture and Design
  • Implementation
  • Operation
+ Applicable Platforms



+ Common Consequences
Access Control

Technical Impact: Gain privileges / assume identity

A user can be given or gain access rights of another user. This can give the user unauthorized access to sensitive information including the access information of another user.

+ Likelihood of Exploit


+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This code allows someone with the role of "ADMIN" or "OPERATOR" to reset a user's password. The role of "OPERATOR" is intended to have less privileges than an "ADMIN", but still be able to help users with small issues such as forgotten passwords.

(Bad Code)
Example Language: Java 
public enum Roles {

public void resetPassword(User requestingUser, User user, String password ){
case GUEST:
System.out.println("You are not authorized to perform this command");
case USER:
System.out.println("You are not authorized to perform this command");
System.out.println("You must be logged in to perform this command");

This code does not check the role of the user whose password is being reset. It is possible for an Operator to gain Admin privileges by resetting the password of an Admin account and taking control of that account.

+ Observed Examples
Chaining of user rights.
Gain certain rights via privilege chaining in alternate channel.
Application is allowed to assign extra permissions to itself.
"operator" user can overwrite usernames and passwords to gain admin privileges.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Separation of Privilege

Consider following the principle of separation of privilege. Require multiple conditions to be met before permitting access to a system resource.

Phases: Architecture and Design; Operation

Very carefully manage the setting, management, and handling of privileges. Explicitly manage trust zones in the software.

Phases: Architecture and Design; Operation

Strategy: Environment Hardening

Run your code using the lowest privileges that are required to accomplish the necessary tasks [R.268.1]. If possible, create isolated accounts with limited privileges that are only used for a single task. That way, a successful attack will not immediately give the attacker access to the rest of the software or its environment. For example, database applications rarely need to run as the database administrator, especially in day-to-day operations.

+ Weakness Ordinalities
(where the weakness exists independent of other weaknesses)
+ Relationships
NatureTypeIDNameView(s) this relationship pertains toView(s)
ChildOfCategoryCategory265Privilege / Sandbox Issues
Development Concepts (primary)699
ChildOfWeakness BaseWeakness Base269Improper Privilege Management
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ChildOfCategoryCategory723OWASP Top Ten 2004 Category A2 - Broken Access Control
Weaknesses in OWASP Top Ten (2004) (primary)711
ChildOfCategoryCategory901SFP Primary Cluster: Privilege
Software Fault Pattern (SFP) Clusters (primary)888
MemberOfViewView884CWE Cross-section
CWE Cross-section (primary)884
+ Relationship Notes

There is some conceptual overlap with Unsafe Privilege.

+ Research Gaps

It is difficult to find good examples for this weakness.

+ Causal Nature


+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERPrivilege Chaining
+ References
[R.268.1] [31] Sean Barnum and Michael Gegick. "Least Privilege". 2005-09-14. <>.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
PLOVERExternally Mined
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigitalExternal
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships, Other_Notes, Relationship_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings, Weakness_Ordinalities
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships
2009-12-28CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Other_Notes, Potential_Mitigations, Research_Gaps
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Potential_Mitigations
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Potential_Mitigations, References

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Page Last Updated: May 05, 2017