Use of Hard-coded Password
The product contains a hard-coded password, which it uses for its own inbound authentication or for outbound communication to external components.
A hard-coded password typically leads to a significant authentication failure that can be difficult for the system administrator to detect. Once detected, it can be difficult to fix, so the administrator may be forced into disabling the product entirely. There are two main variations:
Inbound: the product contains an authentication mechanism that checks for a hard-coded password.
Outbound: the product connects to another system or component, and it contains hard-coded password for connecting to that component.
In the Inbound variant, a default administration account is created, and a simple password is hard-coded into the product and associated with that account. This hard-coded password is the same for each installation of the product, and it usually cannot be changed or disabled by system administrators without manually modifying the program, or otherwise patching the product. If the password is ever discovered or published (a common occurrence on the Internet), then anybody with knowledge of this password can access the product. Finally, since all installations of the product will have the same password, even across different organizations, this enables massive attacks such as worms to take place.
The Outbound variant applies to front-end systems that authenticate with a back-end service. The back-end service may require a fixed password which can be easily discovered. The programmer may simply hard-code those back-end credentials into the front-end product. Any user of that program may be able to extract the password. Client-side systems with hard-coded passwords pose even more of a threat, since the extraction of a password from a binary is usually very simple.
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 following code uses a hard-coded password to connect to a database:
This is an example of an external hard-coded password on the client-side of a connection. This code will run successfully, but anyone who has access to it will have access to the password. Once the program has shipped, there is no going back from the database user "scott" with a password of "tiger" unless the program is patched. A devious employee with access to this information can use it to break into the system. Even worse, if attackers have access to the bytecode for application, they can use the javap -c command to access the disassembled code, which will contain the values of the passwords used. The result of this operation might look something like the following for the example above:
The following code is an example of an internal hard-coded password in the back-end:
Every instance of this program can be placed into diagnostic mode with the same password. Even worse is the fact that if this program is distributed as a binary-only distribution, it is very difficult to change that password or disable this "functionality."
The following examples show a portion of properties and configuration files for Java and ASP.NET applications. The files include username and password information but they are stored in cleartext.
This Java example shows a properties file with a cleartext username / password pair.
The following example shows a portion of a configuration file for an ASP.Net application. This configuration file includes username and password information for a connection to a database but the pair is stored in cleartext.
Username and password information should not be included in a configuration file or a properties file in cleartext as this will allow anyone who can read the file access to the resource. If possible, encrypt this information.
In 2022, the OT:ICEFALL study examined products by 10 different Operational Technology (OT) vendors. The researchers reported 56 vulnerabilities and said that the products were "insecure by design" [REF-1283]. If exploited, these vulnerabilities often allowed adversaries to change how the products operated, ranging from denial of service to changing the code that the products executed. Since these products were often used in industries such as power, electrical, water, and others, there could even be safety implications.
Multiple vendors used hard-coded credentials in their OT products.
Weaknesses in this category are related to the A07 category "Identification and Authentication Failures" in the OWASP Top Ten 2021.
Weaknesses in this category are related to the rules and recommendations in the Miscellaneous (MSC) section of the SEI CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for Java.
Weaknesses in this category are related to the design and architecture of authentication components of the system. Frequently these deal with verifying the entity is i...
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