Security-Sensitive Hardware Controls with Missing Lock Bit Protection
The product uses a register lock bit protection mechanism, but it does not ensure that the lock bit prevents modification of system registers or controls that perform changes to important hardware system configuration.
Integrated circuits and hardware intellectual properties (IPs) might provide device configuration controls that need to be programmed after device power reset by a trusted firmware or software module, commonly set by BIOS/bootloader. After reset, there can be an expectation that the controls cannot be used to perform any further modification. This behavior is commonly implemented using a trusted lock bit, which can be set to disable writes to a protected set of registers or address regions. The lock protection is intended to prevent modification of certain system configuration (e.g., memory/memory protection unit configuration).
However, if the lock bit does not effectively write-protect all system registers or controls that could modify the protected system configuration, then an adversary may be able to use software to access the registers/controls and modify the protected hardware configuration.
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.
Consider the example design below for a digital thermal sensor that detects overheating of the silicon and triggers system shutdown. The system critical temperature limit (CRITICAL_TEMP_LIMIT) and thermal sensor calibration (TEMP_SENSOR_CALIB) data have to be programmed by the firmware.
In this example note that only the CRITICAL_TEMP_LIMIT register is protected by the TEMP_SENSOR_LOCK bit, while the security design intent is to protect any modification of the critical temperature detection and response.
The response of the system, if the system heats to a critical temperature, is controlled by TEMP_HW_SHUTDOWN bit , which is not lockable. Also, the TEMP_SENSOR_CALIB register is not protected by the lock bit.
By modifying the temperature sensor calibration, the conversion of the sensor data to a degree centigrade can be changed, such that the current temperature will never be detected to exceed critical temperature value programmed by the protected lock.
Similarly, by modifying the TEMP_HW_SHUTDOWN.Enable bit, the system response detection of the current temperature exceeding critical temperature can be disabled.
Weaknesses in this category are related to access control.
Weaknesses in this category are related to the "OT Counterfeit and Malicious Corruption" category from the SEI ETF "Categories of Security Vulnerabilities in ICS" as p...
Weaknesses in this category are related to hardware-circuit design and logic (e.g., CMOS transistors, finite state machines, and registers) as well as issues related t...
This view (slice) covers all the elements in CWE.
CWE entries in this view are listed in the 2021 CWE Most Important Hardware Weaknesses List, as determined by the Hardware CWE Special Interest Group (HW CWE SIG).
This view (slice) lists weaknesses that can be introduced during implementation.