Improper Handling of Overlap Between Protected Memory Ranges

The product allows address regions to overlap, which can result in the bypassing of intended memory protection.


Isolated memory regions and access control (read/write) policies are used by hardware to protect privileged software. Software components are often allowed to change or remap memory region definitions in order to enable flexible and dynamically changeable memory management by system software.

If a software component running at lower privilege can program a memory address region to overlap with other memory regions used by software running at higher privilege, privilege escalation may be available to attackers. The memory protection unit (MPU) logic can incorrectly handle such an address overlap and allow the lower privilege software to read or write into the protected memory region resulting in privilege escalation attack. Address overlap weakness can also be used to launch a denial of service attack on the higher privilege software memory regions.


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

For example, consider a design with a 16-bit address that has two software privilege levels: Privilege_SW and Non_privilege_SW. To isolate the system memory regions accessible by these two privilege levels, the design supports three memory regions: Region_0, Region_1, Region_2.

Region_0 & Region_1: registers are programmable by Privilege_SW

Region_2: registers are programmable by Non_privilege_SW

Each region range is defined by two 32 bit registers Address_range and Access_policy:

Address_range[15:0]: specifies the Base address of the region

Address_range[31:16]: specifies the size of the region

Access_policy[0]: if set to one, allows reads from Non_privilege_SW

Access_policy[1]: if set to one, allows writes from Non_privilege_SW

Access_policy[0]: if set to one, allows reads from Privilege_SW

Access_policy[1]: if set to one, allows writes from Privilege_SW

The address-protection filter checks the address range and access policies of all three regions and only allows software access if all three filters allow access.

In this design example, Non_privilege_SW cannot modify memory region and policies defined by Privilege_SW in Region_0 and Region_1.  Thus, it cannot read or write the memory regions that Privilege_SW is using.However, Non_privilege_SW can program Region_2 registers to overlap with Region_0 or Region_1, and it can also define the access policy of Region_2. Using this capability, it is possible for Non_privilege_SW to block any memory region from being accessed by Privilege_SW, including the memory regions protected by Region_0 and Region_1.
In such a design, a memory region priority should be defined to ensure that the memory region defined by Non_privilege_SW in Region_2 cannot change the access policy defined in Region_0 or Region_1.

See Also

Privilege Separation and Access Control Issues

Weaknesses in this category are related to features and mechanisms providing hardware-based isolation and access control (e.g., identity, policy, locking control) of s...

Comprehensive CWE Dictionary

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

Weaknesses without Software Fault Patterns

CWE identifiers in this view are weaknesses that do not have associated Software Fault Patterns (SFPs), as covered by the CWE-888 view. As such, they represent gaps in...

Weaknesses Introduced During Implementation

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

Common Weakness Enumeration content on this website is copyright of The MITRE Corporation unless otherwise specified. Use of the Common Weakness Enumeration and the associated references on this website are subject to the Terms of Use as specified by The MITRE Corporation.