Plaintext Storage in Memory
Weakness ID: 316 (Weakness Variant)Status: Draft
+ Description

Description Summary

Storing sensitive data in plaintext in memory makes the data more easily accessible than if encrypted. This significantly lowers the difficulty of exploitation by attackers.

Extended Description

The sensitive memory might be saved to disk, stored in a core dump, or remain uncleared if the application crashes, or if the programmer does not clear the memory before freeing it.

+ Time of Introduction
  • Architecture and Design
+ Applicable Platforms



+ Observed Examples
CVE-2001-1517Sensitive authentication information in cleartext in memory.
BID:10155Sensitive authentication information in cleartext in memory.
CVE-2001-0984Password protector leaves passwords in memory when window is minimized, even when "clear password when minimized" is set.
CVE-2003-0291SSH client does not clear credentials from memory.
+ Potential Mitigations

Sensitive information should not be stored in plaintext in memory. Even if heavy fortifications are in place, sensitive data should be encrypted to prevent the risk of losing confidentiality.

+ Other Notes

It could be argued that such problems are usually only exploitable by those with administrator privileges. However, swapping could cause the memory to be written to disk and leave it accessible to physical attack afterwards.

+ Relationships
NatureTypeIDNameView(s) this relationship pertains toView(s)
ChildOfWeakness BaseWeakness Base312Cleartext Storage of Sensitive Information
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ChildOfCategoryCategory633Weaknesses that Affect Memory
Resource-specific Weaknesses (primary)631
+ Relationship Notes

This could be a resultant weakness, e.g. if the compiler removes code that was intended to wipe memory.

+ Affected Resources
  • Memory
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERPlaintext Storage in Memory
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
PLOVERExternally Mined
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigitalExternal
updated Time of Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Description, Relationships, Other Notes, Relationship Notes, Taxonomy Mappings