Assumed-Immutable Data is Stored in Writable Memory

Immutable data, such as a first-stage bootloader, device identifiers, and "write-once" configuration settings are stored in writable memory that can be re-programmed or updated in the field.


Description

Security services such as secure boot, authentication of code and data, and device attestation all require assets such as the first stage bootloader, public keys, golden hash digests, etc. which are implicitly trusted. Storing these assets in read-only memory (ROM), fuses, or one-time programmable (OTP) memory provides strong integrity guarantees and provides a root of trust for securing the rest of the system. Security is lost if assets assumed to be immutable can be modified.

Demonstrations

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

Cryptographic hash functions are commonly used to create unique fixed-length digests used to ensure the integrity of code and keys. A golden digest is stored on the device and compared to the digest computed from the data to be verified. If the digests match, the data has not been maliciously modified. If an attacker can modify the golden digest they then have the ability to store arbitrary data that passes the verification check. Hash digests used to verify public keys and early stage boot code should be immutable, with the strongest protection offered by hardware immutability.

See Also

Memory and Storage Issues

Weaknesses in this category are typically associated with memory (e.g., DRAM, SRAM) and storage technologies (e.g., NAND Flash, OTP, EEPROM, and eMMC).

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 Implementation

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


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