External Control of System or Configuration Setting
Weakness ID: 15 (Weakness Base)Status: Incomplete
+ Description

Description Summary

One or more system settings or configuration elements can be externally controlled by a user.

Extended Description

Allowing external control of system settings can disrupt service or cause an application to behave in unexpected, and potentially malicious ways.

+ Time of Introduction
  • Implementation
+ Modes of Introduction

Setting manipulation vulnerabilities occur when an attacker can control values that govern the behavior of the system, manage specific resources, or in some way affect the functionality of the application.

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following C code accepts a number as one of its command line parameters and sets it as the host ID of the current machine.

(Bad Code)
Example Language:

Although a process must be privileged to successfully invoke sethostid(), unprivileged users may be able to invoke the program. The code in this example allows user input to directly control the value of a system setting. If an attacker provides a malicious value for host ID, the attacker can misidentify the affected machine on the network or cause other unintended behavior.

Example 2

The following Java code snippet reads a string from an HttpServletRequest and sets it as the active catalog for a database Connection.

(Bad Code)
Example Language: Java 

In this example, an attacker could cause an error by providing a nonexistent catalog name or connect to an unauthorized portion of the database.

+ Potential Mitigations

Compartmentalize your system and determine where the trust boundaries exist. Any input/control outside the trust boundary should be treated as potentially hostile.

Because setting manipulation covers a diverse set of functions, any attempt at illustrating it will inevitably be incomplete. Rather than searching for a tight-knit relationship between the functions addressed in the setting manipulation category, take a step back and consider the sorts of system values that an attacker should not be allowed to control.

In general, do not allow user-provided or otherwise untrusted data to control sensitive values. The leverage that an attacker gains by controlling these values is not always immediately obvious, but do not underestimate the creativity of your attacker.

+ Relationships
NatureTypeIDNameView(s) this relationship pertains toView(s)
Development Concepts (primary)699
ChildOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class20Improper Input Validation
Seven Pernicious Kingdoms (primary)700
ChildOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class610Externally Controlled Reference to a Resource in Another Sphere
Research Concepts1000
ChildOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class642External Control of Critical State Data
Research Concepts (primary)1000
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
7 Pernicious KingdomsSetting Manipulation
+ Related Attack Patterns
CAPEC-IDAttack Pattern Name
(CAPEC Version: 1.4)
13Subverting Environment Variable Values
69Target Programs with Elevated Privileges
77Manipulating User-Controlled Variables
76Manipulating Input to File System Calls
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
7 Pernicious KingdomsExternally Mined
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigitalExternal
updated Time of Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships, Other Notes, Taxonomy Mappings
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Description
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Demonstrative Examples
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Modes of Introduction, Other Notes
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11Setting Manipulation