Improper Access Control

The software does not restrict or incorrectly restricts access to a resource from an unauthorized actor.


Access control involves the use of several protection mechanisms such as:

Authentication (proving the identity of an actor)

Authorization (ensuring that a given actor can access a resource), and

Accountability (tracking of activities that were performed)

When any mechanism is not applied or otherwise fails, attackers can compromise the security of the software by gaining privileges, reading sensitive information, executing commands, evading detection, etc.

There are two distinct behaviors that can introduce access control weaknesses:

Specification: incorrect privileges, permissions, ownership, etc. are explicitly specified for either the user or the resource (for example, setting a password file to be world-writable, or giving administrator capabilities to a guest user). This action could be performed by the program or the administrator.

Enforcement: the mechanism contains errors that prevent it from properly enforcing the specified access control requirements (e.g., allowing the user to specify their own privileges, or allowing a syntactically-incorrect ACL to produce insecure settings). This problem occurs within the program itself, in that it does not actually enforce the intended security policy that the administrator specifies.

See Also

OWASP Top Ten 2017 Category A5 - Broken Access Control

Weaknesses in this category are related to the A5 category in the OWASP Top Ten 2017.

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 Secondary Cluster: Access Management

This category identifies Software Fault Patterns (SFPs) within the Access Management cluster.

Comprehensive CWE Dictionary

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

CISQ Data Protection Measures

This view outlines the SMM representation of the Automated Source Code Data Protection Measurement specifications, as identified by the Consortium for Information & So...

Research Concepts

This view is intended to facilitate research into weaknesses, including their inter-dependencies, and can be leveraged to systematically identify theoretical gaps with...

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