Plaintext Storage of a Password
Storing a password in plaintext may result in a system compromise.
Password management issues occur when a password is stored in plaintext in an application's properties, configuration file, or memory. Storing a plaintext password in a configuration file allows anyone who can read the file access to the password-protected resource. In some contexts, even storage of a plaintext password in memory is considered a security risk if the password is not cleared immediately after it is used.
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.
The following code reads a password from a properties file and uses the password to connect to a database.
This code will run successfully, but anyone who has access to config.properties can read the value of password. If a devious employee has access to this information, they can use it to break into the system.
The following code reads a password from the registry and uses the password to create a new network credential.
This code will run successfully, but anyone who has access to the registry key used to store the password can read the value of password. If a devious employee has access to this information, they can use it to break into the system
The following examples show a portion of properties and configuration files for Java and ASP.NET applications. The files include username and password information but they are stored in cleartext.
This Java example shows a properties file with a cleartext username / password pair.
The following example shows a portion of a configuration file for an ASP.Net application. This configuration file includes username and password information for a connection to a database but the pair is stored in cleartext.
Username and password information should not be included in a configuration file or a properties file in cleartext as this will allow anyone who can read the file access to the resource. If possible, encrypt this information.
In 2022, the OT:ICEFALL study examined products by 10 different Operational Technology (OT) vendors. The researchers reported 56 vulnerabilities and said that the products were "insecure by design" [REF-1283]. If exploited, these vulnerabilities often allowed adversaries to change how the products operated, ranging from denial of service to changing the code that the products executed. Since these products were often used in industries such as power, electrical, water, and others, there could even be safety implications.
At least one OT product stored a password in plaintext.
Weaknesses in this category are related to access control.
Weaknesses in this category are related to the A04 "Insecure Design" category in the OWASP Top Ten 2021.
Weaknesses in this category are related to the A2 category in the OWASP Top Ten 2017.
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