Generation of Error Message Containing Sensitive Information
The product generates an error message that includes sensitive information about its environment, users, or associated data.
The sensitive information may be valuable information on its own (such as a password), or it may be useful for launching other, more serious attacks. The error message may be created in different ways:
self-generated: the source code explicitly constructs the error message and delivers it
externally-generated: the external environment, such as a language interpreter, handles the error and constructs its own message, whose contents are not under direct control by the programmer
An attacker may use the contents of error messages to help launch another, more focused attack. For example, an attempt to exploit a path traversal weakness (CWE-22) might yield the full pathname of the installed application. In turn, this could be used to select the proper number of ".." sequences to navigate to the targeted file. An attack using SQL injection (CWE-89) might not initially succeed, but an error message could reveal the malformed query, which would expose query logic and possibly even passwords or other sensitive information used within the query.
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.
In the following example, sensitive information might be printed depending on the exception that occurs.
If an exception related to SQL is handled by the catch, then the output might contain sensitive information such as SQL query structure or private information. If this output is redirected to a web user, this may represent a security problem.
This code tries to open a database connection, and prints any exceptions that occur.
If an exception occurs, the printed message exposes the location of the configuration file the script is using. An attacker can use this information to target the configuration file (perhaps exploiting a Path Traversal weakness). If the file can be read, the attacker could gain credentials for accessing the database. The attacker may also be able to replace the file with a malicious one, causing the application to use an arbitrary database.
The following code generates an error message that leaks the full pathname of the configuration file.
If this code is running on a server, such as a web application, then the person making the request should not know what the full pathname of the configuration directory is. By submitting a username that does not produce a $file that exists, an attacker could get this pathname. It could then be used to exploit path traversal or symbolic link following problems that may exist elsewhere in the application.
In the example below, the method getUserBankAccount retrieves a bank account object from a database using the supplied username and account number to query the database. If an SQLException is raised when querying the database, an error message is created and output to a log file.
The error message that is created includes information about the database query that may contain sensitive information about the database or query logic. In this case, the error message will expose the table name and column names used in the database. This data could be used to simplify other attacks, such as SQL injection (CWE-89) to directly access the database.
Weaknesses in this category are related to sensitive information exposure.
Weaknesses in this category are related to the A04 "Insecure Design" category in the OWASP Top Ten 2021.
Weaknesses in this category are related to the A6 category in the OWASP Top Ten 2017.
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