Improper Finite State Machines (FSMs) in Hardware Logic
Faulty finite state machines (FSMs) in the hardware logic allow an attacker to put the system in an undefined state, to cause a denial of service (DoS) or gain privileges on the victim's system.
The functionality and security of the system heavily depend on the implementation of FSMs. FSMs can be used to indicate the current security state of the system. Lots of secure data operations and data transfers rely on the state reported by the FSM. Faulty FSM designs that do not account for all states, either through undefined states (left as don't cares) or through incorrect implementation, might lead an attacker to drive the system into an unstable state from which the system cannot recover without a reset, thus causing a DoS. Depending on what the FSM is used for, an attacker might also gain additional privileges to launch further attacks and compromise the security guarantees.
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.
The Finite State Machine (FSM) shown in the "bad" code snippet below assigns the output ("out") based on the value of state, which is determined based on the user provided input ("user_input").
The case statement does not include a default to handle the scenario when the user provides inputs of 3'h6 and 3'h7. Those inputs push the system to an undefined state and might cause a crash (denial of service) or any other unanticipated outcome.
Adding a default statement to handle undefined inputs mitigates this issue. This is shown in the "Good" code snippet below. The default statement is in bold.
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.
This view (slice) lists weaknesses that can be introduced during implementation.
This view (slice) lists weaknesses that can be introduced during design.