Untrusted Pointer Dereference

The program obtains a value from an untrusted source, converts this value to a pointer, and dereferences the resulting pointer.


An attacker can supply a pointer for memory locations that the program is not expecting. If the pointer is dereferenced for a write operation, the attack might allow modification of critical program state variables, cause a crash, or execute code. If the dereferencing operation is for a read, then the attack might allow reading of sensitive data, cause a crash, or set a program variable to an unexpected value (since the value will be read from an unexpected memory location).

There are several variants of this weakness, including but not necessarily limited to:

The untrusted value is directly invoked as a function call.

In OS kernels or drivers where there is a boundary between "userland" and privileged memory spaces, an untrusted pointer might enter through an API or system call (see CWE-781 for one such example).

Inadvertently accepting the value from an untrusted control sphere when it did not have to be accepted as input at all. This might occur when the code was originally developed to be run by a single user in a non-networked environment, and the code is then ported to or otherwise exposed to a networked environment.

See Also

CERT C++ Secure Coding Section 08 - Memory Management (MEM)

Weaknesses in this category are related to rules in the Memory Management (MEM) section of the CERT C++ Secure Coding Standard. Since not all rules map to specific wea...

Pointer Issues

Weaknesses in this category are related to improper handling of pointers.

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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