Use of Obsolete Function

The code uses deprecated or obsolete functions, which suggests that the code has not been actively reviewed or maintained.


As programming languages evolve, functions occasionally become obsolete due to:

Advances in the language

Improved understanding of how operations should be performed effectively and securely

Changes in the conventions that govern certain operations

Functions that are removed are usually replaced by newer counterparts that perform the same task in some different and hopefully improved way.


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

The following code uses the deprecated function getpw() to verify that a plaintext password matches a user's encrypted password. If the password is valid, the function sets result to 1; otherwise it is set to 0.

getpw(uid, pwdline);
for (i=0; i<3; i++){
  cryptpw=strtok(pwdline, ":");
result = strcmp(crypt(plainpw,cryptpw), cryptpw) == 0;

Although the code often behaves correctly, using the getpw() function can be problematic from a security standpoint, because it can overflow the buffer passed to its second parameter. Because of this vulnerability, getpw() has been supplanted by getpwuid(), which performs the same lookup as getpw() but returns a pointer to a statically-allocated structure to mitigate the risk. Not all functions are deprecated or replaced because they pose a security risk. However, the presence of an obsolete function often indicates that the surrounding code has been neglected and may be in a state of disrepair. Software security has not been a priority, or even a consideration, for very long. If the program uses deprecated or obsolete functions, it raises the probability that there are security problems lurking nearby.

Example Two

In the following code, the programmer assumes that the system always has a property named "cmd" defined. If an attacker can control the program's environment so that "cmd" is not defined, the program throws a null pointer exception when it attempts to call the "Trim()" method.

String cmd = null;
cmd = Environment.GetEnvironmentVariable("cmd");
cmd = cmd.Trim();

Example Three

The following code constructs a string object from an array of bytes and a value that specifies the top 8 bits of each 16-bit Unicode character.

String name = new String(nameBytes, highByte);

In this example, the constructor may not correctly convert bytes to characters depending upon which charset is used to encode the string represented by nameBytes. Due to the evolution of the charsets used to encode strings, this constructor was deprecated and replaced by a constructor that accepts as one of its parameters the name of the charset used to encode the bytes for conversion.

See Also

CISQ Quality Measures - Security

Weaknesses in this category are related to the CISQ Quality Measures for Security. Presence of these weaknesses could reduce the security of the software.

API / Function Errors

Weaknesses in this category are related to the use of built-in functions or external APIs.

SEI CERT Perl Coding Standard - Guidelines 03. Expressions (EXP)

Weaknesses in this category are related to the rules and recommendations in the Expressions (EXP) section of the SEI CERT Perl Coding Standard.

Comprehensive CWE Dictionary

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

Quality Weaknesses with Indirect Security Impacts

CWE identifiers in this view (slice) are quality issues that only indirectly make it easier to introduce a vulnerability and/or make the vulnerability more difficult t...

Weaknesses Introduced During Implementation

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

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