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Common Weakness Enumeration

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ID

CWE-319: Cleartext Transmission of Sensitive Information

Weakness ID: 319
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
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+ Description
The product transmits sensitive or security-critical data in cleartext in a communication channel that can be sniffed by unauthorized actors.
+ Extended Description

Many communication channels can be "sniffed" (monitored) by adversaries during data transmission. For example, in networking, packets can traverse many intermediary nodes from the source to the destination, whether across the internet, an internal network, the cloud, etc. Some actors might have privileged access to a network interface or any link along the channel, such as a router, but they might not be authorized to collect the underlying data. As a result, network traffic could be sniffed by adversaries, spilling security-critical data.

Applicable communication channels are not limited to software products. Applicable channels include hardware-specific technologies such as internal hardware networks and external debug channels, supporting remote JTAG debugging. When mitigations are not applied to combat adversaries within the product's threat model, this weakness significantly lowers the difficulty of exploitation by such adversaries.

When full communications are recorded or logged, such as with a packet dump, an adversary could attempt to obtain the dump long after the transmission has occurred and try to "sniff" the cleartext from the recorded communications in the dump itself. 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.

+ 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.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.5J2EE Misconfiguration: Data Transmission Without Encryption
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.614Sensitive Cookie in HTTPS Session Without 'Secure' Attribute
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 "Hardware Design" (CWE-1194)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1207Debug and Test Problems
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.
Architecture and DesignFor hardware, this may be introduced when design does not plan for an attacker having physical access while a legitimate user is remotely operating the device.
Operation
System Configuration
+ 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: Mobile (Undetermined Prevalence)

Class: ICS/OT (Often Prevalent)

Class: System on Chip (Undetermined Prevalence)

Test/Debug Hardware (Often Prevalent)

+ 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
Integrity
Confidentiality

Technical Impact: Read Application Data; Modify Files or Directories

Anyone can read the information by gaining access to the channel being used for communication.
+ Likelihood Of Exploit
High
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code attempts to establish a connection to a site to communicate sensitive information.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
try {
URL u = new URL("http://www.secret.example.org/");
HttpURLConnection hu = (HttpURLConnection) u.openConnection();
hu.setRequestMethod("PUT");
hu.connect();
OutputStream os = hu.getOutputStream();
hu.disconnect();
}
catch (IOException e) {
//...
}

Though a connection is successfully made, the connection is unencrypted and it is possible that all sensitive data sent to or received from the server will be read by unintended actors.

Example 2

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.

Multiple vendors used cleartext transmission of sensitive information in their OT products.

Example 3

A TAP accessible register is read/written by a JTAG based tool, for internal use by authorized users. However, an adversary can connect a probing device and collect the values from the unencrypted channel connecting the JTAG interface to the authorized user, if no additional protections are employed.

Example 4

The following Azure CLI command lists the properties of a particular storage account:

(informative)
Example Language: Shell 
az storage account show -g {ResourceGroupName} -n {StorageAccountName}

The JSON result might be:

(bad code)
Example Language: JSON 
{
"name": "{StorageAccountName}",
"enableHttpsTrafficOnly": false,
"type": "Microsoft.Storage/storageAccounts"
}

The enableHttpsTrafficOnly value is set to false, because the default setting for Secure transfer is set to Disabled. This allows cloud storage resources to successfully connect and transfer data without the use of encryption (e.g., HTTP, SMB 2.1, SMB 3.0, etc.).

Azure's storage accounts can be configured to only accept requests from secure connections made over HTTPS. The secure transfer setting can be enabled using Azure's Portal (GUI) or programmatically by setting the enableHttpsTrafficOnly property to True on the storage account, such as:

(good code)
Example Language: Shell 
az storage account update -g {ResourceGroupName} -n {StorageAccountName} --https-only true

The change can be confirmed from the result by verifying that the enableHttpsTrafficOnly value is true:

(good code)
Example Language: JSON 
{
"name": "{StorageAccountName}",
"enableHttpsTrafficOnly": true,
"type": "Microsoft.Storage/storageAccounts"
}

Note: to enable secure transfer using Azure's Portal instead of the command line:

  • 1. Open the Create storage account pane in the Azure portal.
  • 2. In the Advanced page, select the Enable secure transfer checkbox.

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) sends sensitive information in plaintext, including passwords and session tokens.
Building Controller uses a protocol that transmits authentication credentials in plaintext.
Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) sends password in plaintext.
Passwords transmitted in cleartext.
Chain: Use of HTTPS cookie without "secure" flag causes it to be transmitted across unencrypted HTTP.
Product sends password hash in cleartext in violation of intended policy.
Remote management feature sends sensitive information including passwords in cleartext.
Backup routine sends password in cleartext in email.
Product transmits Blowfish encryption key in cleartext.
Printer sends configuration information, including administrative password, in cleartext.
Chain: cleartext transmission of the MD5 hash of password enables attacks against a server that is susceptible to replay (CWE-294).
Product sends passwords in cleartext to a log server.
Product sends file with cleartext passwords in e-mail message intended for diagnostic purposes.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Before transmitting, encrypt the data using reliable, confidentiality-protecting cryptographic protocols.

Phase: Implementation

When using web applications with SSL, use SSL for the entire session from login to logout, not just for the initial login page.

Phase: Implementation

When designing hardware platforms, ensure that approved encryption algorithms (such as those recommended by NIST) protect paths from security critical data to trusted user applications.

Phase: Testing

Use tools and techniques that require manual (human) analysis, such as penetration testing, threat modeling, and interactive tools that allow the tester to record and modify an active session. These may be more effective than strictly automated techniques. This is especially the case with weaknesses that are related to design and business rules.

Phase: Operation

Configure servers to use encrypted channels for communication, which may include SSL or other secure protocols.
+ Detection Methods

Black Box

Use monitoring tools that examine the software's process as it interacts with the operating system and the network. This technique is useful in cases when source code is unavailable, if the software was not developed by you, or if you want to verify that the build phase did not introduce any new weaknesses. Examples include debuggers that directly attach to the running process; system-call tracing utilities such as truss (Solaris) and strace (Linux); system activity monitors such as FileMon, RegMon, Process Monitor, and other Sysinternals utilities (Windows); and sniffers and protocol analyzers that monitor network traffic.

Attach the monitor to the process, trigger the feature that sends the data, and look for the presence or absence of common cryptographic functions in the call tree. Monitor the network and determine if the data packets contain readable commands. Tools exist for detecting if certain encodings are in use. If the traffic contains high entropy, this might indicate the usage of encryption.

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.7512009 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.818OWASP Top Ten 2010 Category A9 - Insufficient Transport Layer Protection
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.858The CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java (2011) Chapter 15 - Serialization (SER)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.859The CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java (2011) Chapter 16 - Platform Security (SEC)
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.1148SEI CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java - Guidelines 14. Serialization (SER)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1346OWASP Top Ten 2021 Category A02:2021 - Cryptographic Failures
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.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

Maintenance

The Taxonomy_Mappings to ISA/IEC 62443 were added in CWE 4.10, but they are still under review and might change in future CWE versions. These draft mappings were performed by members of the "Mapping CWE to 62443" subgroup of the CWE-CAPEC ICS/OT Special Interest Group (SIG), and their work is incomplete as of CWE 4.10. The mappings are included to facilitate discussion and review by the broader ICS/OT community, and they are likely to change in future CWE versions.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERPlaintext Transmission of Sensitive Information
The CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java (2011)SEC06-JDo not rely on the default automatic signature verification provided by URLClassLoader and java.util.jar
The CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java (2011)SER02-JSign then seal sensitive objects before sending them outside a trust boundary
Software Fault PatternsSFP23Exposed Data
ISA/IEC 62443Part 3-3Req SR 4.1
ISA/IEC 62443Part 4-2Req CR 4.1B
+ References
[REF-271] OWASP. "Top 10 2007-Insecure Communications". 2007. <http://www.owasp.org/index.php/Top_10_2007-A9>.
[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-44] Michael Howard, David LeBlanc and John Viega. "24 Deadly Sins of Software Security". "Sin 22: Failing to Protect Network Traffic." Page 337. McGraw-Hill. 2010.
[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-1307] Center for Internet Security. "CIS Microsoft Azure Foundations Benchmark version 1.5.0". Sections 3.1 and 3.10. 2022-08-16. <https://www.cisecurity.org/benchmark/azure>. URL validated: 2023-01-19.
[REF-1309] Microsoft. "Require secure transfer to ensure secure connections". 2022-07-24. <https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/storage/common/storage-require-secure-transfer>. URL validated: 2023-01-24.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2006-07-19
(CWE Draft 3, 2006-07-19)
PLOVER
+ Contributions
Contribution DateContributorOrganization
2023-01-24Accellera IP Security Assurance (IPSA) Working GroupAccellera Systems Initiative
Submitted original contents of CWE-1324 and reviewed its integration into this entry.
+ 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 Common_Consequences, Description, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Name, Observed_Examples, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References
2010-04-05CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Common_Consequences, Time_of_Introduction
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, Relationships
2010-12-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Observed_Examples, Related_Attack_Patterns
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, References, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, References
2013-07-17CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2014-02-18CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2014-06-23CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2017-05-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Likelihood_of_Exploit, Modes_of_Introduction, References, Relationships
2018-01-23CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Abstraction
2018-03-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships, Type
2019-01-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2019-06-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Type
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2021-10-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2022-06-28CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2022-10-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Demonstrative_Examples, Observed_Examples, References
2023-01-31CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Maintenance_Notes, Modes_of_Introduction, Potential_Mitigations, References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2023-04-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Detection_Factors, References, Relationships
2023-06-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Mapping_Notes, Relationships
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2009-01-12Plaintext Transmission of Sensitive Information
Page Last Updated: October 26, 2023