Improper Handling of Unicode Encoding

The software does not properly handle when an input contains Unicode encoding.


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

Windows provides the MultiByteToWideChar(), WideCharToMultiByte(), UnicodeToBytes(), and BytesToUnicode() functions to convert between arbitrary multibyte (usually ANSI) character strings and Unicode (wide character) strings. The size arguments to these functions are specified in different units, (one in bytes, the other in characters) making their use prone to error.

In a multibyte character string, each character occupies a varying number of bytes, and therefore the size of such strings is most easily specified as a total number of bytes. In Unicode, however, characters are always a fixed size, and string lengths are typically given by the number of characters they contain. Mistakenly specifying the wrong units in a size argument can lead to a buffer overflow.

The following function takes a username specified as a multibyte string and a pointer to a structure for user information and populates the structure with information about the specified user. Since Windows authentication uses Unicode for usernames, the username argument is first converted from a multibyte string to a Unicode string.

void getUserInfo(char *username, struct _USER_INFO_2 info){
  WCHAR unicodeUser[UNLEN+1];
  MultiByteToWideChar(CP_ACP, 0, username, -1, unicodeUser, sizeof(unicodeUser));
  NetUserGetInfo(NULL, unicodeUser, 2, (LPBYTE *)&info);

This function incorrectly passes the size of unicodeUser in bytes instead of characters. The call to MultiByteToWideChar() can therefore write up to (UNLEN+1)*sizeof(WCHAR) wide characters, or (UNLEN+1)*sizeof(WCHAR)*sizeof(WCHAR) bytes, to the unicodeUser array, which has only (UNLEN+1)*sizeof(WCHAR) bytes allocated.

If the username string contains more than UNLEN characters, the call to MultiByteToWideChar() will overflow the buffer unicodeUser.

See Also

SFP Secondary Cluster: Faulty Input Transformation

This category identifies Software Fault Patterns (SFPs) within the Faulty Input Transformation cluster.

CERT C++ Secure Coding Section 49 - Miscellaneous (MSC)

Weaknesses in this category are related to rules in the Miscellaneous (MSC) section of the CERT C++ Secure Coding Standard. Since not all rules map to specific weaknes...

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.

Common Weakness Enumeration content on this website is copyright of The MITRE Corporation unless otherwise specified. Use of the Common Weakness Enumeration and the associated references on this website are subject to the Terms of Use as specified by The MITRE Corporation.