Storing Passwords in a Recoverable Format

The storage of passwords in a recoverable format makes them subject to password reuse attacks by malicious users. In fact, it should be noted that recoverable encrypted passwords provide no significant benefit over plaintext passwords since they are subject not only to reuse by malicious attackers but also by malicious insiders. If a system administrator can recover a password directly, or use a brute force search on the available information, the administrator can use the password on other accounts.


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

Both of these examples verify a password by comparing it to a stored compressed version.

int VerifyAdmin(char *password) {
  if (strcmp(compress(password), compressed_password)) {
    printf("Incorrect Password!\n");
  printf("Entering Diagnostic Mode...\n");
int VerifyAdmin(String password) {
  if (passwd.Equals(compress(password), compressed_password)) {
  //Diagnostic Mode

Because a compression algorithm is used instead of a one way hashing algorithm, an attacker can recover compressed passwords stored in the database.

Example Two

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 plaintext.

This Java example shows a properties file with a plaintext username / password pair.

# Java Web App ResourceBundle properties file

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 plaintext.

  <add name="ud_DEV" connectionString="connectDB=uDB; uid=db2admin; pwd=password; dbalias=uDB;" providerName="System.Data.Odbc" />

Username and password information should not be included in a configuration file or a properties file in plaintext as this will allow anyone who can read the file access to the resource. If possible, encrypt this information and avoid CWE-260 and CWE-13.

See Also

Encrypt Data

Weaknesses in this category are related to the design and architecture of data confidentiality in a system. Frequently these deal with the use of encryption libraries....

SFP Secondary Cluster: Exposed Data

This category identifies Software Fault Patterns (SFPs) within the Exposed Data cluster (SFP23).

Credentials Management Errors

Weaknesses in this category are related to the management of credentials.

Comprehensive CWE Dictionary

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

Weaknesses Introduced During Design

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

Weakness Base Elements

This view (slice) displays only weakness base elements.

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