CWE

Common Weakness Enumeration

A Community-Developed List of Software & Hardware Weakness Types

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ID

CWE-789: Memory Allocation with Excessive Size Value

Weakness ID: 789
Abstraction: Variant
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
The product allocates memory based on an untrusted, large size value, but it does not ensure that the size is within expected limits, allowing arbitrary amounts of memory to be allocated.
+ Alternate Terms
Stack Exhaustion:
When a weakness allocates excessive memory on the stack, it is often described as "stack exhaustion," which is a technical impact of the weakness. This technical impact is often encountered as a consequence of CWE-789 and/or CWE-1325.
+ 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
ChildOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1284Improper Validation of Specified Quantity in Input
ChildOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.770Allocation of Resources Without Limits or Throttling
PeerOfBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.1325Improperly Controlled Sequential Memory Allocation
CanFollowVariantVariant - 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.129Improper Validation of Array Index
CanPrecedeBaseBase - a weakness that is still mostly independent of a resource or technology, but with sufficient details to provide specific methods for detection and prevention. Base level weaknesses typically describe issues in terms of 2 or 3 of the following dimensions: behavior, property, technology, language, and resource.476NULL Pointer Dereference
+ 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
Implementation
+ 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

C (Undetermined Prevalence)

C++ (Undetermined Prevalence)

Class: Language-Independent (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
Availability

Technical Impact: DoS: Resource Consumption (Memory)

Not controlling memory allocation can result in a request for too much system memory, possibly leading to a crash of the application due to out-of-memory conditions, or the consumption of a large amount of memory on the system.
+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

Consider the following code, which accepts an untrusted size value and allocates a buffer to contain a string of the given size.

(bad code)
Example Language:
unsigned int size = GetUntrustedInt();
/* ignore integer overflow (CWE-190) for this example */

unsigned int totBytes = size * sizeof(char);
char *string = (char *)malloc(totBytes);
InitializeString(string);

Suppose an attacker provides a size value of:

12345678

This will cause 305,419,896 bytes (over 291 megabytes) to be allocated for the string.

Example 2

Consider the following code, which accepts an untrusted size value and uses the size as an initial capacity for a HashMap.

(bad code)
Example Language: Java 
unsigned int size = GetUntrustedInt();
HashMap list = new HashMap(size);

The HashMap constructor will verify that the initial capacity is not negative, however there is no check in place to verify that sufficient memory is present. If the attacker provides a large enough value, the application will run into an OutOfMemoryError.

Example 3

This code performs a stack allocation based on a length calculation.

(bad code)
Example Language:
int a = 5, b = 6;
size_t len = a - b;
char buf[len]; // Just blows up the stack
}

Since a and b are declared as signed ints, the "a - b" subtraction gives a negative result (-1). However, since len is declared to be unsigned, len is cast to an extremely large positive number (on 32-bit systems - 4294967295). As a result, the buffer buf[len] declaration uses an extremely large size to allocate on the stack, very likely more than the entire computer's memory space.

Miscalculations usually will not be so obvious. The calculation will either be complicated or the result of an attacker's input to attain the negative value.

Example 4

This example shows a typical attempt to parse a string with an error resulting from a difference in assumptions between the caller to a function and the function's action.

(bad code)
Example Language:
int proc_msg(char *s, int msg_len)
{
// Note space at the end of the string - assume all strings have preamble with space
int pre_len = sizeof("preamble: ");
char buf[pre_len - msg_len];
... Do processing here if we get this far
}
char *s = "preamble: message\n";
char *sl = strchr(s, ':'); // Number of characters up to ':' (not including space)
int jnklen = sl == NULL ? 0 : sl - s; // If undefined pointer, use zero length
int ret_val = proc_msg ("s", jnklen); // Violate assumption of preamble length, end up with negative value, blow out stack

The buffer length ends up being -1, resulting in a blown out stack. The space character after the colon is included in the function calculation, but not in the caller's calculation. This, unfortunately, is not usually so obvious but exists in an obtuse series of calculations.

Example 5

The following code obtains an untrusted number that is used as an index into an array of messages.

(bad code)
Example Language: Perl 
my $num = GetUntrustedNumber();
my @messages = ();

$messages[$num] = "Hello World";

The index is not validated at all (CWE-129), so it might be possible for an attacker to modify an element in @messages that was not intended. If an index is used that is larger than the current size of the array, the Perl interpreter automatically expands the array so that the large index works.

If $num is a large value such as 2147483648 (1<<31), then the assignment to $messages[$num] would attempt to create a very large array, then eventually produce an error message such as:

Out of memory during array extend

This memory exhaustion will cause the Perl program to exit, possibly a denial of service. In addition, the lack of memory could also prevent many other programs from successfully running on the system.

Example 6

This example shows a typical attempt to parse a string with an error resulting from a difference in assumptions between the caller to a function and the function's action. The buffer length ends up being -1 resulting in a blown out stack. The space character after the colon is included in the function calculation, but not in the caller's calculation. This, unfortunately, is not usually so obvious but exists in an obtuse series of calculations.

(bad code)
Example Language:
int proc_msg(char *s, int msg_len)
{
int pre_len = sizeof("preamble: "); // Note space at the end of the string - assume all strings have preamble with space
char buf[pre_len - msg_len];
... Do processing here and set status
return status;
}
char *s = "preamble: message\n";
char *sl = strchr(s, ':'); // Number of characters up to ':' (not including space)
int jnklen = sl == NULL ? 0 : sl - s; // If undefined pointer, use zero length
int ret_val = proc_msg ("s", jnklen); // Violate assumption of preamble length, end up with negative value, blow out stack
(good code)
Example Language:
int proc_msg(char *s, int msg_len)
{
int pre_len = sizeof("preamble: "); // Note space at the end of the string - assume all strings have preamble with space
if (pre_len <= msg_len) { // Log error; return error_code; }
char buf[pre_len - msg_len];
... Do processing here and set status
return status;
}
char *s = "preamble: message\n";
char *sl = strchr(s, ':'); // Number of characters up to ':' (not including space)
int jnklen = sl == NULL ? 0 : sl - s; // If undefined pointer, use zero length
int ret_val = proc_msg ("s", jnklen); // Violate assumption of preamble length, end up with negative value, blow out stack
+ Observed Examples
ReferenceDescription
program uses ::alloca() for encoding messages, but large messages trigger segfault
memory consumption and daemon exit by specifying a large value in a length field
large value in a length field leads to memory consumption and crash when no more memory is available
large key size in game program triggers crash when a resizing function cannot allocate enough memory
large Content-Length HTTP header value triggers application crash in instant messaging application due to failure in memory allocation
+ Potential Mitigations

Phases: Implementation; Architecture and Design

Perform adequate input validation against any value that influences the amount of memory that is allocated. Define an appropriate strategy for handling requests that exceed the limit, and consider supporting a configuration option so that the administrator can extend the amount of memory to be used if necessary.

Phase: Operation

Run your program using system-provided resource limits for memory. This might still cause the program to crash or exit, but the impact to the rest of the system will be minimized.
+ Weakness Ordinalities
OrdinalityDescription
Primary
(where the weakness exists independent of other weaknesses)
Resultant
(where the weakness is typically related to the presence of some other weaknesses)
+ 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.1131CISQ Quality Measures (2016) - Security
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1162SEI CERT C Coding Standard - Guidelines 08. Memory Management (MEM)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1179SEI CERT Perl Coding Standard - Guidelines 01. Input Validation and Data Sanitization (IDS)
MemberOfCategoryCategory - a CWE entry that contains a set of other entries that share a common characteristic.1308CISQ Quality Measures - Security
+ Notes

Applicable Platform

Uncontrolled memory allocation is possible in many languages, such as dynamic array allocation in perl or initial size parameters in Collections in Java. However, languages like C and C++ where programmers have the power to more directly control memory management will be more susceptible.

Relationship

This weakness can be closely associated with integer overflows (CWE-190). Integer overflow attacks would concentrate on providing an extremely large number that triggers an overflow that causes less memory to be allocated than expected. By providing a large value that does not trigger an integer overflow, the attacker could still cause excessive amounts of memory to be allocated.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
WASC35SOAP Array Abuse
CERT C Secure CodingMEM35-CImpreciseAllocate sufficient memory for an object
SEI CERT Perl Coding StandardIDS32-PLImpreciseValidate any integer that is used as an array index
OMG ASCSMASCSM-CWE-789
+ References
[REF-62] Mark Dowd, John McDonald and Justin Schuh. "The Art of Software Security Assessment". Chapter 10, "Resource Limits", Page 574. 1st Edition. Addison Wesley. 2006.
[REF-962] Object Management Group (OMG). "Automated Source Code Security Measure (ASCSM)". ASCSM-CWE-789. 2016-01. <http://www.omg.org/spec/ASCSM/1.0/>.
+ Content History
+ Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2009-10-21CWE Content TeamMITRE
+ Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2010-02-16CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Taxonomy_Mappings
2011-03-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences, Observed_Examples
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References
2017-11-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Taxonomy_Mappings
2019-01-03CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2019-06-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-02-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-06-25CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-08-20CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2020-12-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Alternate_Terms, Demonstrative_Examples, Description, Likelihood_of_Exploit, Name, Observed_Examples, Relationships, Time_of_Introduction
2021-03-15CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples, Relationships
+ Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2020-12-10Uncontrolled Memory Allocation
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Page Last Updated: July 20, 2021