Use of Hard-coded Credentials

The software contains hard-coded credentials, such as a password or cryptographic key, which it uses for its own inbound authentication, outbound communication to external components, or encryption of internal data.


Description

Hard-coded credentials typically create a significant hole that allows an attacker to bypass the authentication that has been configured by the software administrator. This hole might be difficult for the system administrator to detect. Even if detected, it can be difficult to fix, so the administrator may be forced into disabling the product entirely. There are two main variations:

Inbound: the software contains an authentication mechanism that checks the input credentials against a hard-coded set of credentials.

Outbound: the software connects to another system or component, and it contains hard-coded credentials for connecting to that component.

In the Inbound variant, a default administration account is created, and a simple password is hard-coded into the product and associated with that account. This hard-coded password is the same for each installation of the product, and it usually cannot be changed or disabled by system administrators without manually modifying the program, or otherwise patching the software. If the password is ever discovered or published (a common occurrence on the Internet), then anybody with knowledge of this password can access the product. Finally, since all installations of the software will have the same password, even across different organizations, this enables massive attacks such as worms to take place.

The Outbound variant applies to front-end systems that authenticate with a back-end service. The back-end service may require a fixed password which can be easily discovered. The programmer may simply hard-code those back-end credentials into the front-end software. Any user of that program may be able to extract the password. Client-side systems with hard-coded passwords pose even more of a threat, since the extraction of a password from a binary is usually very simple.

Demonstrations

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

The following code uses a hard-coded password to connect to a database:

...
DriverManager.getConnection(url, "scott", "tiger");
...

This is an example of an external hard-coded password on the client-side of a connection. This code will run successfully, but anyone who has access to it will have access to the password. Once the program has shipped, there is no going back from the database user "scott" with a password of "tiger" unless the program is patched. A devious employee with access to this information can use it to break into the system. Even worse, if attackers have access to the bytecode for application, they can use the javap -c command to access the disassembled code, which will contain the values of the passwords used. The result of this operation might look something like the following for the example above:

javap -c ConnMngr.class
  22: ldc #36; //String jdbc:mysql://ixne.com/rxsql
  24: ldc #38; //String scott
  26: ldc #17; //String tiger

Example Two

The following code is an example of an internal hard-coded password in the back-end:

int VerifyAdmin(char *password) {

  if (strcmp(password, "Mew!")) {


    printf("Incorrect Password!\n");
    return(0)

  }
  printf("Entering Diagnostic Mode...\n");
  return(1);

}
int VerifyAdmin(String password) {
  if (passwd.Equals("Mew!")) {
    return(0)
  }
  //Diagnostic Mode
  return(1);
}

Every instance of this program can be placed into diagnostic mode with the same password. Even worse is the fact that if this program is distributed as a binary-only distribution, it is very difficult to change that password or disable this "functionality."

Example Three

The following code examples attempt to verify a password using a hard-coded cryptographic key.

int VerifyAdmin(char *password) {

  if (strcmp(password,"68af404b513073584c4b6f22b6c63e6b")) {


    printf("Incorrect Password!\n");
    return(0);

  }
  printf("Entering Diagnostic Mode...\n");
  return(1);

}
public boolean VerifyAdmin(String password) {
  if (password.equals("68af404b513073584c4b6f22b6c63e6b")) {
    System.out.println("Entering Diagnostic Mode...");
    return true;
  }
  System.out.println("Incorrect Password!");
  return false;
int VerifyAdmin(String password) {
  if (password.Equals("68af404b513073584c4b6f22b6c63e6b")) {
    Console.WriteLine("Entering Diagnostic Mode...");
    return(1);
  }
  Console.WriteLine("Incorrect Password!");
  return(0);
}

The cryptographic key is within a hard-coded string value that is compared to the password. It is likely that an attacker will be able to read the key and compromise the system.

Example Four

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
...
webapp.ldap.username=secretUsername
webapp.ldap.password=secretPassword
...

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.

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

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

CISQ Quality Measures - Security

Weaknesses in this category are related to the CISQ Quality Measures for Security. Presence of these weaknesses could reduce the security of the software.

SEI CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java - Guidelines 49. Miscellaneous (MSC)

Weaknesses in this category are related to the rules and recommendations in the Miscellaneous (MSC) section of the SEI CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java.

CISQ Quality Measures - Security

Weaknesses in this category are related to the CISQ Quality Measures for Security. Presence of these weaknesses could reduce the security of the software.

Comprehensive CWE Dictionary

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

Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses

CWE entries in this view are listed in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses.

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...


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