Cleartext Transmission of Sensitive Information
Weakness ID: 319 (Weakness Base)Status: Draft
+ Description

Description Summary

The software transmits sensitive or security-critical data in cleartext in a communication channel that can be sniffed by unauthorized actors.

Extended Description

Many communication channels can be "sniffed" by attackers during data transmission. For example, network traffic can often be sniffed by any attacker who has access to a network interface. This significantly lowers the difficulty of exploitation by attackers.

+ Time of Introduction
  • Architecture and Design
+ Applicable Platforms



+ Common Consequences

Anyone can read the contents of the message if they have access to any channel being used for communication.

+ Likelihood of Exploit

Medium to High

+ Observed Examples
CVE-2002-1949Passwords transmitted in cleartext.
CVE-2008-4122Chain: failure to set "secure" flag in HTTPS cookie causes it to be transmitted across unencrypted HTTP.
CVE-2008-3289Product sends password hash in cleartext in violation of intended policy.
CVE-2008-4390Remote management feature sends sensitive information including passwords in cleartext.
CVE-2007-5626Backup routine sends password in cleartext in email.
CVE-2004-1852Product transmits Blowfish encryption key in cleartext.
CVE-2008-0374Printer sends configuration information, including administrative password, in cleartext.
CVE-2007-4961Chain: cleartext transmission of the MD5 hash of password enables attacks against a server that is susceptible to replay (CWE-294).
CVE-2007-4786Product sends passwords in cleartext to a log server.
CVE-2005-3140Product sends file with cleartext passwords in e-mail message intended for diagnostic purposes.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Encrypt the data with a reliable encryption scheme before transmitting.

Phase: Implementation

When using web applications with SSL, use SSL for the entire session from login to logout, not just for the initial login page.

Phase: Testing

Use tools and techniques that require manual (human) analysis, such as penetration testing, threat modeling, and interactive tools that allow the tester to record and modify an active session. These may be more effective than strictly automated techniques. This is especially the case with weaknesses that are related to design and business rules.

Phase: Testing

Use monitoring tools that examine the software's process as it interacts with the operating system and the network. This technique is useful in cases when source code is unavailable, if the software was not developed by you, or if you want to verify that the build phase did not introduce any new weaknesses. Examples include debuggers that directly attach to the running process; system-call tracing utilities such as truss (Solaris) and strace (Linux); system activity monitors such as FileMon, RegMon, Process Monitor, and other Sysinternals utilities (Windows); and sniffers and protocol analyzers that monitor network traffic.

Attach the monitor to the process, trigger the feature that sends the data, and look for the presence or absence of common cryptographic functions in the call tree. Monitor the network and determine if the data packets contain readable commands. Tools exist for detecting if certain encodings are in use. If the traffic contains high entropy, this might indicate the usage of encryption.

Phase: Operation

Configure servers to use encrypted channels for communication, which may include SSL or other secure protocols.

+ Relationships
NatureTypeIDNameView(s) this relationship pertains toView(s)
ChildOfWeakness BaseWeakness Base311Missing SecurityDatabase\Encrypt\Encryption of Sensitive Data
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ChildOfCategoryCategory7512009 Top 25 - Insecure Interaction Between Components
Weaknesses in the 2009 CWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Programming Errors (primary)750
ParentOfWeakness VariantWeakness Variant5J2EE Misconfiguration: Data Transmission Without SecurityDatabase\Encrypt\Encryption
Research Concepts (primary)1000
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERPlaintext Transmission of Sensitive Information
+ Related Attack Patterns
CAPEC-IDAttack Pattern Name
(CAPEC Version: 1.4)
65Passively Sniff and Capture Application Code Bound for Authorized Client
102Session Sidejacking
+ References
OWASP. "Top 10 2007-Insecure Communications". <>.
[REF-11] M. Howard and D. LeBlanc. "Writing Secure Code". Chapter 9, "Protecting Secret Data" Page 299. 2nd Edition. Microsoft. 2002.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
PLOVERExternally Mined
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigitalExternal
updated Time of Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships, Taxonomy Mappings
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common Consequences, Description, Likelihood of Exploit, Name, Observed Examples, Potential Mitigations, References, Relationships
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Potential Mitigations
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Related Attack Patterns
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2009-01-12Plaintext Transmission of Sensitive Information