Not Failing Securely ('Failing Open')

When the product encounters an error condition or failure, its design requires it to fall back to a state that is less secure than other options that are available, such as selecting the weakest encryption algorithm or using the most permissive access control restrictions.


By entering a less secure state, the product inherits the weaknesses associated with that state, making it easier to compromise. At the least, it causes administrators to have a false sense of security. This weakness typically occurs as a result of wanting to "fail functional" to minimize administration and support costs, instead of "failing safe."


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

Switches may revert their functionality to that of hubs when the table used to map ARP information to the switch interface overflows, such as when under a spoofing attack. This results in traffic being broadcast to an eavesdropper, instead of being sent only on the relevant switch interface. To mitigate this type of problem, the developer could limit the number of ARP entries that can be recorded for a given switch interface, while other interfaces may keep functioning normally. Configuration options can be provided on the appropriate actions to be taken in case of a detected failure, but safe defaults should be used.

See Also

SFP Secondary Cluster: Incorrect Exception Behavior

This category identifies Software Fault Patterns (SFPs) within the Incorrect Exception Behavior cluster (SFP6).

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.

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