Privilege Chaining

Two distinct privileges, roles, capabilities, or rights can be combined in a way that allows an entity to perform unsafe actions that would not be allowed without that combination.


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

This code allows someone with the role of "ADMIN" or "OPERATOR" to reset a user's password. The role of "OPERATOR" is intended to have less privileges than an "ADMIN", but still be able to help users with small issues such as forgotten passwords.

public enum Roles {

public void resetPassword(User requestingUser, User user, String password ){



      case GUEST:
        System.out.println("You are not authorized to perform this command");

      case USER:
        System.out.println("You are not authorized to perform this command");



    System.out.println("You must be logged in to perform this command");


This code does not check the role of the user whose password is being reset. It is possible for an Operator to gain Admin privileges by resetting the password of an Admin account and taking control of that account.

See Also

Authorize Actors

Weaknesses in this category are related to the design and architecture of a system's authorization components. Frequently these deal with enforcing that agents have th...

SFP Primary Cluster: Privilege

This category identifies Software Fault Patterns (SFPs) within the Privilege cluster (SFP36).

Privilege Issues

Weaknesses in this category occur with improper handling, assignment, or management of privileges. A privilege is a property of an agent, such as a user. It lets the a...

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...

CWE Cross-section

This view contains a selection of weaknesses that represent the variety of weaknesses that are captured in CWE, at a level of abstraction that is likely to be useful t...

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