Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-396: Declaration of Catch for Generic Exception

Weakness ID: 396
Abstraction: Base
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description

Description Summary

Catching overly broad exceptions promotes complex error handling code that is more likely to contain security vulnerabilities.

Extended Description

Multiple catch blocks can get ugly and repetitive, but "condensing" catch blocks by catching a high-level class like Exception can obscure exceptions that deserve special treatment or that should not be caught at this point in the program. Catching an overly broad exception essentially defeats the purpose of Java's typed exceptions, and can become particularly dangerous if the program grows and begins to throw new types of exceptions. The new exception types will not receive any attention.

+ Time of Introduction
  • Architecture and Design
  • Implementation
+ Applicable Platforms





+ Common Consequences

Technical Impact: Hide activities; Alter execution logic

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code excerpt handles three types of exceptions in an identical fashion.

(Good Code)
Example Language: Java 
try {
catch (IOException e) {
logger.error("doExchange failed", e);
catch (InvocationTargetException e) {

logger.error("doExchange failed", e);
catch (SQLException e) {

logger.error("doExchange failed", e);

At first blush, it may seem preferable to deal with these exceptions in a single catch block, as follows:

(Bad Code)
try {
catch (Exception e) {
logger.error("doExchange failed", e);

However, if doExchange() is modified to throw a new type of exception that should be handled in some different kind of way, the broad catch block will prevent the compiler from pointing out the situation. Further, the new catch block will now also handle exceptions derived from RuntimeException such as ClassCastException, and NullPointerException, which is not the programmer's intent.

+ Relationships
NatureTypeIDNameView(s) this relationship pertains toView(s)
ChildOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class221Information Loss or Omission
Research Concepts1000
ChildOfCategoryCategory388Error Handling
Seven Pernicious Kingdoms (primary)700
ChildOfCategoryCategory389Error Conditions, Return Values, Status Codes
Development Concepts (primary)699
ChildOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class705Incorrect Control Flow Scoping
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ChildOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class755Improper Handling of Exceptional Conditions
Research Concepts1000
ChildOfCategoryCategory960SFP Secondary Cluster: Ambiguous Exception Type
Software Fault Pattern (SFP) Clusters (primary)888
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
7 Pernicious KingdomsOverly-Broad Catch Block
Software Fault PatternsSFP5Ambiguous Exception Type
+ References
[REF-17] Michael Howard, David LeBlanc and John Viega. "24 Deadly Sins of Software Security". "Sin 9: Catching Exceptions." Page 157. McGraw-Hill. 2010.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
7 Pernicious KingdomsExternally Mined
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigitalExternal
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Applicable_Platforms, Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-09-24CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
Removed C from Applicable_Platforms
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Applicable_Platforms
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Description, Other_Notes
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated References, Relationships
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11Overly-Broad Catch Block

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Page Last Updated: May 05, 2017