Reliance on Component That is Not Updateable

The product contains a component that cannot be updated or patched in order to remove vulnerabilities or significant bugs.


If the component is discovered to contain a vulnerability or critical bug, but the issue cannot be fixed using an update or patch, then the product's owner will not be able to protect against the issue. The only option might be replacement of the product, which could be too financially or operationally expensive for the product owner. As a result, the inability to patch or update can leave the product open to attacker exploitation or critical operation failures. This weakness can be especially difficult to manage when using ROM, firmware, or similar components that traditionally have had limited or no update capabilities.

In industries such as healthcare, "legacy" devices can be operated for decades. As a US task force report [REF-1197] notes, "the inability to update or replace equipment has both large and small health care delivery organizations struggle with numerous unsupported legacy systems that cannot easily be replaced (hardware, software and operating systems) with large numbers of vulnerabilities and few modern countermeasures."

While hardware can be prone to this weakness, software systems can also be affected, such as when a third-party driver or library is no longer actively maintained or supported but is still critical for the required functionality.


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 refrigerator has an Internet interface for the official purpose of alerting the manufacturer when that refrigerator detects a fault. Because the device is attached to the Internet, the refrigerator is a target for hackers who may wish to use the device other potentially more nefarious purposes.

The refrigerator has no means of patching and is hacked becoming a spewer of email spam.
The device automatically patches itself and provides considerable more protection against being hacked.

Example Two

A System-on-Chip (SOC) implements a Root-of-Trust (RoT) in ROM to boot secure code. However, at times this ROM code might have security vulnerabilities and need to be patched. Since ROM is immutable, it can be impossible to patch.

ROM does not have built-in application-programming interfaces (APIs) to patch if the code is vulnerable. Implement mechanisms to patch the vulnerable ROM code.

See Also

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.

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