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Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software Weakness Types

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ID

CWE-602: Client-Side Enforcement of Server-Side Security

Weakness ID: 602
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The software is composed of a server that relies on the client to implement a mechanism that is intended to protect the server.
+ Extended Description
When the server relies on protection mechanisms placed on the client side, an attacker can modify the client-side behavior to bypass the protection mechanisms resulting in potentially unexpected interactions between the client and server. The consequences will vary, depending on what the mechanisms are trying to protect.
+ 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 "Architectural Concepts" (CWE-1008)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory1012Cross Cutting
+ Relevant to the view "Development Concepts" (CWE-699)
NatureTypeIDName
MemberOfCategoryCategory2547PK - Security Features
+ 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.

PhaseNote
Architecture and DesignCOMMISSION: This weakness refers to an incorrect design related to an architectural security tactic.
Architecture and DesignConsider a product that consists of two or more processes or nodes that must interact closely, such as a client/server model. If the product uses protection schemes in the client in order to defend from attacks against the server, and the server does not use the same schemes, then an attacker could modify the client in a way that bypasses those schemes. This is a fundamental design flaw that is primary to many weaknesses.
+ 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

(Language-Independent classes): (Undetermined Prevalence)

Paradigms

Client Server: (Sometimes Prevalent)

+ 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
Availability

Technical Impact: Bypass Protection Mechanism; DoS: Crash, Exit, or Restart

Client-side validation checks can be easily bypassed, allowing malformed or unexpected input to pass into the application, potentially as trusted data. This may lead to unexpected states, behaviors and possibly a resulting crash.
Access Control

Technical Impact: Bypass Protection Mechanism; Gain Privileges or Assume Identity

Client-side checks for authentication can be easily bypassed, allowing clients to escalate their access levels and perform unintended actions.
+ Likelihood Of Exploit
Medium
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

This example contains client-side code that checks if the user authenticated successfully before sending a command. The server-side code performs the authentication in one step, and executes the command in a separate step.

CLIENT-SIDE (client.pl)

(good)
Example Language: Perl 
$server = "server.example.com";
$username = AskForUserName();
$password = AskForPassword();
$address = AskForAddress();
$sock = OpenSocket($server, 1234);
writeSocket($sock, "AUTH $username $password\n");
$resp = readSocket($sock);
if ($resp eq "success") {
# username/pass is valid, go ahead and update the info!
writeSocket($sock, "CHANGE-ADDRESS $username $address\n";

}
else {
print "ERROR: Invalid Authentication!\n";

}

SERVER-SIDE (server.pl):

(bad)
 
$sock = acceptSocket(1234);
($cmd, $args) = ParseClientRequest($sock);
if ($cmd eq "AUTH") {
($username, $pass) = split(/\s+/, $args, 2);
$result = AuthenticateUser($username, $pass);
writeSocket($sock, "$result\n");
# does not close the socket on failure; assumes the
# user will try again

}
elsif ($cmd eq "CHANGE-ADDRESS") {
if (validateAddress($args)) {
$res = UpdateDatabaseRecord($username, "address", $args);
writeSocket($sock, "SUCCESS\n");

}
else {
writeSocket($sock, "FAILURE -- address is malformed\n");

}

}

The server accepts 2 commands, "AUTH" which authenticates the user, and "CHANGE-ADDRESS" which updates the address field for the username. The client performs the authentication and only sends a CHANGE-ADDRESS for that user if the authentication succeeds. Because the client has already performed the authentication, the server assumes that the username in the CHANGE-ADDRESS is the same as the authenticated user. An attacker could modify the client by removing the code that sends the "AUTH" command and simply executing the CHANGE-ADDRESS.

+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
ASP program allows upload of .asp files by bypassing client-side checks.
steganography products embed password information in the carrier file, which can be extracted from a modified client.
steganography products embed password information in the carrier file, which can be extracted from a modified client.
client allows server to modify client's configuration and overwrite arbitrary files.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

For any security checks that are performed on the client side, ensure that these checks are duplicated on the server side. Attackers can bypass the client-side checks by modifying values after the checks have been performed, or by changing the client to remove the client-side checks entirely. Then, these modified values would be submitted to the server. Even though client-side checks provide minimal benefits with respect to server-side security, they are still useful. First, they can support intrusion detection. If the server receives input that should have been rejected by the client, then it may be an indication of an attack. Second, client-side error-checking can provide helpful feedback to the user about the expectations for valid input. Third, there may be a reduction in server-side processing time for accidental input errors, although this is typically a small savings.

Phase: Architecture and Design

If some degree of trust is required between the two entities, then use integrity checking and strong authentication to ensure that the inputs are coming from a trusted source. Design the product so that this trust is managed in a centralized fashion, especially if there are complex or numerous communication channels, in order to reduce the risks that the implementer will mistakenly omit a check in a single code path.

Phase: Testing

Use dynamic tools and techniques that interact with the software using large test suites with many diverse inputs, such as fuzz testing (fuzzing), robustness testing, and fault injection. The software's operation may slow down, but it should not become unstable, crash, or generate incorrect results.

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.
+ 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
MemberOfCategoryCategory722OWASP Top Ten 2004 Category A1 - Unvalidated Input
MemberOfCategoryCategory7532009 Top 25 - Porous Defenses
MemberOfViewView884CWE Cross-section
MemberOfCategoryCategory975SFP Secondary Cluster: Architecture
+ Notes

Research Gap

Server-side enforcement of client-side security is conceptually likely to occur, but some architectures might have these strong dependencies as part of legitimate behavior, such as thin clients.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
OWASP Top Ten 2004A1CWE More SpecificUnvalidated Input
+ References
[REF-7] Michael Howard and David LeBlanc. "Writing Secure Code". Chapter 23, "Client-Side Security Is an Oxymoron" Page 687. 2nd Edition. Microsoft Press. 2002-12-04. <https://www.microsoft.com/mspress/books/toc/5957.aspx>.
+ Content History
Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings, Weakness_Ordinalities
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Name, Observed_Examples, Other_Notes, Potential_Mitigations, Relationships, Research_Gaps, Time_of_Introduction
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Potential_Mitigations
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2009-07-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Relationships
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Common_Consequences, Description
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References
2010-04-05CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2010-12-13CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2017-05-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Enabling_Factors_for_Exploitation, Modes_of_Introduction, References, Relationships
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11Client-Side Enforcement of Server-Side Security
2009-01-12Design Principle Violation: Client-Side Enforcement of Server-Side Security

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Page Last Updated: November 14, 2017