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Common Weakness Enumeration

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ID

CWE-312: Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information

Weakness ID: 312
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
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+ Description
The product stores sensitive information in cleartext within a resource that might be accessible to another control sphere.
+ Extended Description

Because the information is stored in cleartext (i.e., unencrypted), attackers could potentially read it. Even if the information is encoded in a way that is not human-readable, certain techniques could determine which encoding is being used, then decode the information.

When organizations adopt cloud services, it can be easier for attackers to access the data from anywhere on the Internet.

In some systems/environments such as cloud, the use of "double encryption" (at both the software and hardware layer) might be required, and the developer might be solely responsible for both layers, instead of shared responsibility with the administrator of the broader system/environment.

+ 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
ChildOfClassClass - 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.922Insecure Storage of Sensitive Information
ChildOfClassClass - 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.311Missing Encryption of Sensitive Data
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.313Cleartext Storage in a File or on Disk
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.314Cleartext Storage in the Registry
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.315Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information in a Cookie
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.316Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information in Memory
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.317Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information in GUI
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.318Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information in Executable
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.526Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information in an Environment Variable
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
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 "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfClassClass - 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.311Missing Encryption of Sensitive 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 "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1013Encrypt Data
+ 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 DesignOMISSION: This weakness is caused by missing a security tactic during the architecture and design phase.
+ 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: Not Language-Specific (Undetermined Prevalence)

Technologies

Class: Cloud Computing (Undetermined Prevalence)

Class: ICS/OT (Undetermined Prevalence)

Class: Mobile (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

An attacker with access to the system could read sensitive information stored in cleartext.
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code excerpt stores a plaintext user account ID in a browser cookie.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
response.addCookie( new Cookie("userAccountID", acctID);

Because the account ID is in plaintext, the user's account information is exposed if their computer is compromised by an attacker.

Example 2

This code writes a user's login information to a cookie so the user does not have to login again later.

(bad code)
Example Language: PHP 
function persistLogin($username, $password){
$data = array("username" => $username, "password"=> $password);
setcookie ("userdata", $data);
}

The code stores the user's username and password in plaintext in a cookie on the user's machine. This exposes the user's login information if their computer is compromised by an attacker. Even if the user's machine is not compromised, this weakness combined with cross-site scripting (CWE-79) could allow an attacker to remotely copy the cookie.

Also note this example code also exhibits Plaintext Storage in a Cookie (CWE-315).

Example 3

The following code attempts to establish a connection, read in a password, then store it to a buffer.

(bad code)
Example Language:
server.sin_family = AF_INET; hp = gethostbyname(argv[1]);
if (hp==NULL) error("Unknown host");
memcpy( (char *)&server.sin_addr,(char *)hp->h_addr,hp->h_length);
if (argc < 3) port = 80;
else port = (unsigned short)atoi(argv[3]);
server.sin_port = htons(port);
if (connect(sock, (struct sockaddr *)&server, sizeof server) < 0) error("Connecting");
...
while ((n=read(sock,buffer,BUFSIZE-1))!=-1) {

write(dfd,password_buffer,n);
...

While successful, the program does not encrypt the data before writing it to a buffer, possibly exposing it to unauthorized actors.

Example 4

The following examples show a portion of properties and configuration files for Java and ASP.NET applications. The files include username and password information but they are stored in cleartext.

This Java example shows a properties file with a cleartext username / password pair.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 

# Java Web App ResourceBundle properties file
...
webapp.ldap.username=secretUsername
webapp.ldap.password=secretPassword
...

The following example shows a portion of a configuration file for an ASP.Net application. This configuration file includes username and password information for a connection to a database but the pair is stored in cleartext.

(bad code)
Example Language: ASP.NET 
...
<connectionStrings>
<add name="ud_DEV" connectionString="connectDB=uDB; uid=db2admin; pwd=password; dbalias=uDB;" providerName="System.Data.Odbc" />
</connectionStrings>
...

Username and password information should not be included in a configuration file or a properties file in cleartext as this will allow anyone who can read the file access to the resource. If possible, encrypt this information.

Example 5

In 2022, the OT:ICEFALL study examined products by 10 different Operational Technology (OT) vendors. The researchers reported 56 vulnerabilities and said that the products were "insecure by design" [REF-1283]. If exploited, these vulnerabilities often allowed adversaries to change how the products operated, ranging from denial of service to changing the code that the products executed. Since these products were often used in industries such as power, electrical, water, and others, there could even be safety implications.

At least one OT product stored a password in plaintext.

Example 6

In 2021, a web site operated by PeopleGIS stored data of US municipalities in Amazon Web Service (AWS) Simple Storage Service (S3) buckets.

(bad code)
Example Language: Other 
A security researcher found 86 S3 buckets that could be accessed without authentication (CWE-306) and stored data unencrypted (CWE-312). These buckets exposed over 1000 GB of data and 1.6 million files including physical addresses, phone numbers, tax documents, pictures of driver's license IDs, etc. [REF-1296] [REF-1295]

While it was not publicly disclosed how the data was protected after discovery, multiple options could have been considered.

(good code)
Example Language: Other 
The sensitive information could have been protected by ensuring that the buckets did not have public read access, e.g., by enabling the s3-account-level-public-access-blocks-periodic rule to Block Public Access. In addition, the data could have been encrypted at rest using the appropriate S3 settings, e.g., by enabling server-side encryption using the s3-bucket-server-side-encryption-enabled setting. Other settings are available to further prevent bucket data from being leaked. [REF-1297]

Example 7

Consider the following PowerShell command examples for encryption scopes of Azure storage objects. In the first example, an encryption scope is set for the storage account.

(bad code)
Example Language: Shell 
New-AzStorageEncryptionScope -ResourceGroupName "MyResourceGroup" -AccountName "MyStorageAccount" -EncryptionScopeName testscope -StorageEncryption

The result (edited and formatted for readability) might be:

(bad code)
Example Language: Other 
ResourceGroupName: MyResourceGroup, StorageAccountName: MyStorageAccount

Name State Source RequireInfrastructureEncryption
testscope Enabled Microsoft.Storage

However, the empty string under RequireInfrastructureEncryption indicates this service was not enabled at the time of creation, because the -RequireInfrastructureEncryption argument was not specified in the command.

Including the -RequireInfrastructureEncryption argument addresses the issue:

(good code)
Example Language: Shell 
New-AzStorageEncryptionScope -ResourceGroupName "MyResourceGroup" -AccountName "MyStorageAccount" -EncryptionScopeName testscope -StorageEncryption -RequireInfrastructureEncryption

This produces the report:

(result)
Example Language: Other 
ResourceGroupName: MyResourceGroup, StorageAccountName: MyStorageAccount

Name State Source RequireInfrastructureEncryption
testscope Enabled Microsoft.Keyvault True

In a scenario where both software and hardware layer encryption is required ("double encryption"), Azure's infrastructure encryption setting can be enabled via the CLI or Portal. An important note is that infrastructure hardware encryption cannot be enabled or disabled after a blob is created. Furthermore, the default value for infrastructure encryption is disabled in blob creations.

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) uses a driver that relies on a password stored in plaintext.
password and username stored in cleartext in a cookie
password stored in cleartext in a file with insecure permissions
chat program disables SSL in some circumstances even when the user says to use SSL.
Chain: product uses an incorrect public exponent when generating an RSA key, which effectively disables the encryption
storage of unencrypted passwords in a database
storage of unencrypted passwords in a database
product stores a password in cleartext in memory
storage of a secret key in cleartext in a temporary file
SCADA product uses HTTP Basic Authentication, which is not encrypted
login credentials stored unencrypted in a registry key
Plaintext credentials in world-readable file.
Password in cleartext in config file.
Password in cleartext in config file.
Decrypted copy of a message written to disk given a combination of options and when user replies to an encrypted message.
Plaintext storage of private key and passphrase in log file when user imports the key.
Admin password in plaintext in a cookie.
Default configuration has cleartext usernames/passwords in cookie.
Usernames/passwords in cleartext in cookies.
Authentication information stored in cleartext in a cookie.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phases: Implementation; System Configuration; Operation

When storing data in the cloud (e.g., S3 buckets, Azure blobs, Google Cloud Storage, etc.), use the provider's controls to encrypt the data at rest. [REF-1297] [REF-1299] [REF-1301]
+ Detection Methods

Automated Static Analysis

Automated static analysis, commonly referred to as Static Application Security Testing (SAST), can find some instances of this weakness by analyzing source code (or binary/compiled code) without having to execute it. Typically, this is done by building a model of data flow and control flow, then searching for potentially-vulnerable patterns that connect "sources" (origins of input) with "sinks" (destinations where the data interacts with external components, a lower layer such as the OS, etc.)

Effectiveness: High

+ 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.816OWASP Top Ten 2010 Category A7 - Insecure Cryptographic Storage
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).884CWE Cross-section
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.934OWASP Top Ten 2013 Category A6 - Sensitive Data Exposure
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.963SFP Secondary Cluster: Exposed Data
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1029OWASP Top Ten 2017 Category A3 - Sensitive Data Exposure
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1348OWASP Top Ten 2021 Category A04:2021 - Insecure Design
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1366ICS Communications: Frail Security in Protocols
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1368ICS Dependencies (& Architecture): External Digital Systems
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1402Comprehensive Categorization: Encryption
+ Vulnerability Mapping Notes

Usage: Allowed

(this CWE ID could be used to map to real-world vulnerabilities)

Reason: Acceptable-Use

Rationale:

This CWE entry is at the Base level of abstraction, which is a preferred level of abstraction for mapping to the root causes of vulnerabilities.

Comments:

Carefully read both the name and description to ensure that this mapping is an appropriate fit. Do not try to 'force' a mapping to a lower-level Base/Variant simply to comply with this preferred level of abstraction.
+ Notes

Terminology

Different people use "cleartext" and "plaintext" to mean the same thing: the lack of encryption. However, within cryptography, these have more precise meanings. Plaintext is the information just before it is fed into a cryptographic algorithm, including already-encrypted text. Cleartext is any information that is unencrypted, although it might be in an encoded form that is not easily human-readable (such as base64 encoding).
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERPlaintext Storage of Sensitive Information
Software Fault PatternsSFP23Exposed Data
ISA/IEC 62443Part 4-2Req CR4.1A
ISA/IEC 62443Part 3-3Req SR4.1
+ References
[REF-7] Michael Howard and David LeBlanc. "Writing Secure Code". Chapter 9, "Protecting Secret Data" Page 299. 2nd Edition. Microsoft Press. 2002-12-04. <https://www.microsoftpressstore.com/store/writing-secure-code-9780735617223>.
[REF-62] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 2, "Common Vulnerabilities of Encryption", Page 43. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
[REF-172] Chris Wysopal. "Mobile App Top 10 List". 2010-12-13. <https://www.veracode.com/blog/2010/12/mobile-app-top-10-list>. URL validated: 2023-04-07.
[REF-1283] Forescout Vedere Labs. "OT:ICEFALL: The legacy of "insecure by design" and its implications for certifications and risk management". 2022-06-20. <https://www.forescout.com/resources/ot-icefall-report/>.
[REF-1295] WizCase. "Over 80 US Municipalities' Sensitive Information, Including Resident's Personal Data, Left Vulnerable in Massive Data Breach". 2021-07-20. <https://www.wizcase.com/blog/us-municipality-breach-report/>.
[REF-1296] Jonathan Greig. "1,000 GB of local government data exposed by Massachusetts software company". 2021-07-22. <https://www.zdnet.com/article/1000-gb-of-local-government-data-exposed-by-massachusetts-software-company/>.
[REF-1297] Amazon. "AWS Foundational Security Best Practices controls". 2022. <https://docs.aws.amazon.com/securityhub/latest/userguide/securityhub-controls-reference.html>. URL validated: 2023-04-07.
[REF-1299] Microsoft. "Azure encryption overview". 2022-08-18. <https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/security/fundamentals/encryption-overview>. URL validated: 2022-10-11.
[REF-1301] Google Cloud. "Default encryption at rest". 2022-10-11. <https://cloud.google.com/docs/security/encryption/default-encryption>. URL validated: 2022-10-11.
[REF-1307] Center for Internet Security. "CIS Microsoft Azure Foundations Benchmark version 1.5.0". Section 3.2. 2022-08-16. <https://www.cisecurity.org/benchmark/azure>. URL validated: 2023-01-19.
[REF-1310] Microsoft. "Enable infrastructure encryption for double encryption of data". 2022-07-14. <https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/storage/common/infrastructure-encryption-enable>. URL validated: 2023-01-24.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19
(CWE Draft 3, 2006-07-19)
PLOVER
+ Contributions
Contribution DateContributorOrganization
2023-04-25"Mapping CWE to 62443" Sub-Working GroupCWE-CAPEC ICS/OT SIG
Suggested mappings to ISA/IEC 62443.
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Name
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Demonstrative_Examples, Observed_Examples, References, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, References
2013-07-17CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Relationships, Terminology_Notes
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2017-05-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Modes_of_Introduction, References, Relationships
2018-01-23CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Abstraction, Relationships
2018-03-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships, Type
2019-06-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Type
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Relationships
2021-03-15CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2021-10-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2022-10-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Observed_Examples, Potential_Mitigations, References
2023-01-31CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, References, Relationships
2023-04-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2023-06-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Mapping_Notes, Relationships
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2009-01-12Plaintext Storage of Sensitive Information
Page Last Updated: October 26, 2023