Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software Weakness Types

CWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors
Home > CWE List > CWE- Individual Dictionary Definition (3.0)  

CWE-441: Unintended Proxy or Intermediary ('Confused Deputy')

Weakness ID: 441
Abstraction: Class
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software receives a request, message, or directive from an upstream component, but the software does not sufficiently preserve the original source of the request before forwarding the request to an external actor that is outside of the software's control sphere. This causes the software to appear to be the source of the request, leading it to act as a proxy or other intermediary between the upstream component and the external actor.
+ Extended Description

If an attacker cannot directly contact a target, but the software has access to the target, then the attacker can send a request to the software and have it be forwarded from the target. The request would appear to be coming from the software's system, not the attacker's system. As a result, the attacker can bypass access controls (such as firewalls) or hide the source of malicious requests, since the requests would not be coming directly from the attacker.

Since proxy functionality and message-forwarding often serve a legitimate purpose, this issue only becomes a vulnerability when:

  • The software runs with different privileges or on a different system, or otherwise has different levels of access than the upstream component;
  • The attacker is prevented from making the request directly to the target; and
  • The attacker can create a request that the proxy does not explicitly intend to be forwarded on the behalf of the requester. Such a request might point to an unexpected hostname, port number, or service. Or, the request might be sent to an allowed service, but the request could contain disallowed directives, commands, or resources.
+ Alternate Terms
Confused Deputy:
This weakness is sometimes referred to as the "Confused deputy" problem, in which an attacker misused the authority of one victim (the "confused deputy") when targeting another victim.
+ 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 "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
+ Relevant to the view "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
MemberOfCategoryCategory1014Identify Actors
+ Relevant to the view "Development Concepts" (CWE-699)
+ 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 software life cycle at which introduction may occur, while the Note provides a typical scenario related to introduction during the given phase.

Architecture and DesignREALIZATION: This weakness is caused during implementation of an architectural security tactic.
+ 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.


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.

Access Control

Technical Impact: Gain Privileges or Assume Identity; Hide Activities

+ Observed Examples
FTP bounce attack. The design of the protocol allows an attacker to modify the PORT command to cause the FTP server to connect to other machines besides the attacker's.
RPC portmapper could redirect service requests from an attacker to another entity, which thinks the requests came from the portmapper.
FTP server does not ensure that the IP address in a PORT command is the same as the FTP user's session, allowing port scanning by proxy.
Web server allows attackers to request a URL from another server, including other ports, which allows proxied scanning.
CGI script accepts and retrieves incoming URLs.
Bounce attack allows access to TFTP from trusted side.
Web-based mail program allows internal network scanning using a modified POP3 port number.
URL-downloading library automatically follows redirects to file:// and scp:// URLs
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Enforce the use of strong mutual authentication mechanism between the two parties.
+ 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.
MemberOfCategoryCategory956SFP Secondary Cluster: Channel Attack
+ Notes


This could possibly be considered as an emergent resource.


This weakness has a chaining relationship with CWE-668 (Exposure of Resource to Wrong Sphere) because the proxy effectively provides the attacker with access to the target's resources that the attacker cannot directly obtain.


It could be argued that the "confused deputy" is a fundamental aspect of most vulnerabilities that require an active attacker. Even for common implementation issues such as buffer overflows, SQL injection, OS command injection, and path traversal, the vulnerable program already has the authorization to run code or access files. The vulnerability arises when the attacker causes the program to run unexpected code or access unexpected files.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERUnintended proxy/intermediary
PLOVERProxied Trusted Channel
WASC32Routing Detour
+ References
[REF-432] Norm Hardy. "The Confused Deputy (or why capabilities might have been invented)". 1988. <>.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Potential_Mitigations, Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Observed_Example, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Maintenance_Notes, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings, Time_of_Introduction
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Taxonomy_Mappings
2010-04-05CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2010-06-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Other_Notes
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2011-06-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2013-02-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Applicable_Platforms, Description, Maintenance_Notes, Name, Observed_Examples, References, Relationship_Notes, Relationships, Theoretical_Notes, Type
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2015-12-07CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-01-19CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Modes_of_Introduction, Relationships
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2013-02-21Unintended Proxy/Intermediary

More information is available — Please select a different filter.
Page Last Updated: January 18, 2018