CWE-838: Inappropriate Encoding for Output Context
The software uses or specifies an encoding when generating output to a downstream component, but the specified encoding is not the same as the encoding that is expected by the downstream component.
This weakness can cause the downstream component to use a decoding method that produces different data than what the software intended to send. When the wrong encoding is used - even if closely related - the downstream component could decode the data incorrectly. This can have security consequences when the provided boundaries between control and data are inadvertently broken, because the resulting data could introduce control characters or special elements that were not sent by the software. The resulting data could then be used to bypass protection mechanisms such as input validation, and enable injection attacks.
While using output encoding is essential for ensuring that communications between components are accurate, the use of the wrong encoding - even if closely related - could cause the downstream component to misinterpret the output.
While web applications have received the most attention for this problem, this weakness could potentially apply to any type of software that uses a communications stream that could support multiple encodings.
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 "Research Concepts" (CWE-1000)
Relevant to the view "Software Development" (CWE-699)
Relevant to the view "Weaknesses for Simplified Mapping of Published Vulnerabilities" (CWE-1003)
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)
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.
This code dynamically builds an HTML page using POST data:
Example Language: PHP
$username = $_POST['username'];
$picSource = $_POST['picsource'];
$picAltText = $_POST['picalttext'];
echo "<title>Welcome, " . htmlentities($username) ."</title>";
echo "<img src='". htmlentities($picSource) ." ' alt='". htmlentities($picAltText) . '" />';
The programmer attempts to avoid XSS exploits (CWE-79) by encoding the POST values so they will not be interpreted as valid HTML. However, the htmlentities() encoding is not appropriate when the data are used as HTML attributes, allowing more attributes to be injected.
For example, an attacker can set picAltText to:
This will result in the generated HTML image tag:
Example Language: HTML
<img src='pic.jpg' alt='altTextHere' onload='alert(document.cookie)' />
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.
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