CWE

Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software & Hardware Weakness Types

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ID

CWE-269: Improper Privilege Management

Weakness ID: 269
Abstraction: Class
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software does not properly assign, modify, track, or check privileges for an actor, creating an unintended sphere of control for that actor.
+ Relationships

The table(s) below 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
ChildOfPillarPillar - a weakness that is the most abstract type of weakness and represents a theme for all class/base/variant weaknesses related to it. A Pillar is different from a Category as a Pillar is still technically a type of weakness that describes a mistake, while a Category represents a common characteristic used to group related things.284Improper Access Control
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.250Execution with Unnecessary Privileges
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.266Incorrect Privilege Assignment
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.267Privilege Defined With Unsafe Actions
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.268Privilege Chaining
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.270Privilege Context Switching Error
ParentOfClassClass - 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.271Privilege Dropping / Lowering Errors
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.274Improper Handling of Insufficient Privileges
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.648Incorrect Use of Privileged APIs
+ 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
+ Modes Of Introduction

The 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
ImplementationREALIZATION: This weakness is caused during implementation of an architectural security tactic.
Operation
+ Applicable Platforms
The listings below show 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

The table below 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
Access Control

Technical Impact: Gain Privileges or Assume Identity

+ Likelihood Of Exploit
Medium
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This code temporarily raises the program's privileges to allow creation of a new user folder.

(bad code)
Example Language: Python 
def makeNewUserDir(username):
if invalidUsername(username):

#avoid CWE-22 and CWE-78
print('Usernames cannot contain invalid characters')
return False

try:
raisePrivileges()
os.mkdir('/home/' + username)
lowerPrivileges()

except OSError:
print('Unable to create new user directory for user:' + username)
return False

return True

While the program only raises its privilege level to create the folder and immediately lowers it again, if the call to os.mkdir() throws an exception, the call to lowerPrivileges() will not occur. As a result, the program is indefinitely operating in a raised privilege state, possibly allowing further exploitation to occur.

Example 2

Evidence of privilege change:

(bad code)
Example Language:
seteuid(0);
/* do some stuff */

seteuid(getuid());
(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
AccessController.doPrivileged(new PrivilegedAction() {
public Object run() {

// privileged code goes here, for example:
System.loadLibrary("awt");
return null;
// nothing to return
}

Example 3

This code intends to allow only Administrators to print debug information about a system.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
public enum Roles {
ADMIN,USER,GUEST
}

public void printDebugInfo(User requestingUser){
if(isAuthenticated(requestingUser)){
switch(requestingUser.role){
case GUEST:
System.out.println("You are not authorized to perform this command");
break;

default:
System.out.println(currentDebugState());
break;
}
}
else{
System.out.println("You must be logged in to perform this command");
}
}

While the intention was to only allow Administrators to print the debug information, the code as written only excludes those the with the role of "GUEST". Someone with the role of "ADMIN" or "USER" will be allowed access, which goes against the original intent. An attacker may be able to use this debug information to craft an attack on the system.

Example 4

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 {
ADMIN,OPERATOR,USER,GUEST
}

public void resetPassword(User requestingUser, User user, String password ){
if(isAuthenticated(requestingUser)){
switch(requestingUser.role){
case GUEST:
System.out.println("You are not authorized to perform this command");
break;

case USER:
System.out.println("You are not authorized to perform this command");
break;

default:
setPassword(user,password);
break;
}
}

else{
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
ReferenceDescription
Terminal privileges are not reset when a user logs out.
Does not properly pass security context to child processes in certain cases, allows privilege escalation.
Does not properly compute roles.
untrusted user placed in unix "wheel" group
Product allows users to grant themselves certain rights that can be used to escalate privileges.
Product uses group ID of a user instead of the group, causing it to run with different privileges. This is resultant from some other unknown issue.
Product mistakenly assigns a particular status to an entity, leading to increased privileges.
FTP client program on a certain OS runs with setuid privileges and has a buffer overflow. Most clients do not need extra privileges, so an overflow is not a vulnerability for those clients.
OS incorrectly installs a program with setuid privileges, allowing users to gain privileges.
Composite: application running with high privileges (CWE-250) allows user to specify a restricted file to process, which generates a parsing error that leaks the contents of the file (CWE-209).
Installation script installs some programs as setuid when they shouldn't be.
Roles have access to dangerous procedures (Accessible entities).
Untrusted object/method gets access to clipboard (Accessible entities).
Traceroute program allows unprivileged users to modify source address of packet (Accessible entities).
User with capability can prevent setuid program from dropping privileges (Unsafe privileged actions).
+ Potential Mitigations

Phases: Architecture and Design; Operation

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

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Separation of Privilege

Follow the principle of least privilege when assigning access rights to entities in a software system.

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.
+ Weakness Ordinalities
OrdinalityDescription
Primary
(where the weakness exists independent of other weaknesses)
+ Memberships
This 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.901SFP Primary Cluster: Privilege
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1003Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1200Weaknesses in the 2019 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
MemberOfViewView - a subset of CWE entries that provides a way of examining CWE content. The two main view structures are Slices (flat lists) and Graphs (containing relationships between entries).1350Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses
+ Notes

Maintenance

The relationships between privileges, permissions, and actors (e.g. users and groups) need further refinement within the Research view. One complication is that these concepts apply to two different pillars, related to control of resources (CWE-664) and protection mechanism failures (CWE-693).
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERPrivilege Management Error
+ References
[REF-44] Michael Howard, David LeBlanc and John Viega. "24 Deadly Sins of Software Security". "Sin 16: Executing Code With Too Much Privilege." Page 243. McGraw-Hill. 2010.
[REF-62] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 9, "Dropping Privileges Permanently", Page 479. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19PLOVER
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Team
Moved this entry higher up in the Research view.
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Maintenance_Notes, Name, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings, Weakness_Ordinalities
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Name
2009-12-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Relationships
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Causal_Nature, Modes_of_Introduction, Relationships, Type
2019-06-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2019-09-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Maintenance_Notes, Observed_Examples, Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples, Relationships
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-09-09Privilege Management Error
2009-05-27Insecure Privilege Management
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Page Last Updated: August 20, 2020