Exposure of Sensitive System Information Due to Uncleared Debug Information

The hardware does not fully clear security-sensitive values, such as keys and intermediate values in cryptographic operations, when debug mode is entered.


Security sensitive values, keys, intermediate steps of cryptographic operations, etc. are stored in temporary registers in the hardware. If these values are not cleared when debug mode is entered they may be accessed by a debugger allowing sensitive information to be accessible by untrusted parties.


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

A cryptographic core in a System-On-a-Chip (SoC) is used for cryptographic acceleration and implements several cryptographic operations (e.g., computation of AES encryption and decryption, SHA-256, HMAC, etc.). The keys for these operations or the intermediate values are stored in registers internal to the cryptographic core. These internal registers are in the Memory Mapped Input Output (MMIO) space and are blocked from access by software and other untrusted agents on the SoC. These registers are accessible through the debug and test interface.

In the above scenario, registers that store keys and intermediate values of cryptographic operations are not cleared when system enters debug mode. An untrusted actor running a debugger may read the contents of these registers and gain access to secret keys and other sensitive cryptographic information.
Whenever the chip enters debug mode, all registers containing security-sensitive data are be cleared rendering them unreadable.

See Also

Comprehensive Categorization: Resource Lifecycle Management

Weaknesses in this category are related to resource lifecycle management.

Debug and Test Problems

Weaknesses in this category are related to hardware debug and test interfaces such as JTAG and scan chain.

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.

Weaknesses Introduced During Design

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

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