Insufficient Protections on the Volatile Memory Containing Boot Code

The protections on the product's non-volatile memory containing boot code are insufficient to prevent the bypassing of secure boot or the execution of an untrusted, boot code chosen by an adversary.


As a part of secure-boot process, a System-on-Chip's (SoC) read-only-memory (ROM) code fetches bootloader code from Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) and stores the code in Volatile Memory (VM), such as dynamic, random-access memory (DRAM)/static, random-access memory (SRAM). The NVM is usually external to the SoC while the VM is internal to the SoC. As the code is transferred from NVM to VM, it is authenticated by the SoC's ROM code.

If the volatile-memory-region protections or access controls are insufficient to prevent modifications from an adversary or untrusted agent, the secure boot may be bypassed or replaced with the excution of an adversary’s code.


The following examples help to illustrate the nature of this weakness and describe methods or techniques which can be used to mitigate the risk.

Note that the examples here are by no means exhaustive and any given weakness may have many subtle varieties, each of which may require different detection methods or runtime controls.

Example One

A typical SoC secure boot’s flow includes fetching the next piece of code (i.e., the boot loader) from NVM (e.g., serial, peripheral interface (SPI) flash), and transferring it to DRAM/SRAM volatile, internal memory. The advantage of using DRAM/SRAM is that the access time is faster and cheaper per byte than NVM.

The volatile-memory protections or access controls are insufficient.

The memory from where the boot loader executes can be modified by an adversary.

A good architecture should define appropriate protections or access controls to prevent modification by an adversary or untrusted agent, once the bootloader is authenticated.

See Also

Security Flow Issues

Weaknesses in this category are related to improper design of full-system security flows, including but not limited to secure boot, secure update, and hardware-device ...

Comprehensive CWE Dictionary

This view (slice) covers all the elements in CWE.

Weaknesses without Software Fault Patterns

CWE identifiers in this view are weaknesses that do not have associated Software Fault Patterns (SFPs), as covered by the CWE-888 view. As such, they represent gaps in...

Weaknesses Introduced During Design

This view (slice) lists weaknesses that can be introduced during design.

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