Improper Zeroization of Hardware Register

The hardware product does not properly clear sensitive information from built-in registers when the user of the hardware block changes.


Hardware logic operates on data stored in registers local to the hardware block. Most hardware IPs, including cryptographic accelerators, rely on registers to buffer I/O, store intermediate values, and interface with software. The result of this is that sensitive information, such as passwords or encryption keys, can exist in locations not transparent to the user of the hardware logic. When a different entity obtains access to the IP due to a change in operating mode or conditions, the new entity can extract information belonging to the previous user if no mechanisms are in place to clear register contents. It is important to clear information stored in the hardware if a physical attack on the product is detected, or if the user of the hardware block changes. The process of clearing register contents in a hardware IP is referred to as zeroization in standards for cryptographic hardware modules such as FIPS-140-2 [REF-267].


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.

Example One

Suppose a hardware IP for implementing an encryption routine works as expected, but it leaves the intermediate results in some registers that can be accessed. Exactly why this access happens is immaterial - it might be unintentional or intentional, where the designer wanted a "quick fix" for something.

See Also

Comprehensive Categorization: Resource Lifecycle Management

Weaknesses in this category are related to resource lifecycle management.

Comprehensive CWE Dictionary

This view (slice) covers all the elements in CWE.

Weaknesses Introduced During Implementation

This view (slice) lists weaknesses that can be introduced during implementation.

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