Improper Isolation or Compartmentalization

The product does not properly compartmentalize or isolate functionality, processes, or resources that require different privilege levels, rights, or permissions.


When a weakness occurs in functionality that is accessible by lower-privileged users, then without strong boundaries, an attack might extend the scope of the damage to higher-privileged users.


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

Single sign-on technology is intended to make it easier for users to access multiple resources or domains without having to authenticate each time. While this is highly convenient for the user and attempts to address problems with psychological acceptability, it also means that a compromise of a user's credentials can provide immediate access to all other resources or domains.

Example Two

The traditional UNIX privilege model provides root with arbitrary access to all resources, but root is frequently the only user that has privileges. As a result, administrative tasks require root privileges, even if those tasks are limited to a small area, such as updating user manpages. Some UNIX flavors have a "bin" user that is the owner of system executables, but since root relies on executables owned by bin, a compromise of the bin account can be leveraged for root privileges by modifying a bin-owned executable, such as CVE-2007-4238.

See Also

Comprehensive Categorization: Violation of Secure Design Principles

Weaknesses in this category are related to violation of secure design principles.

OWASP Top Ten 2021 Category A04:2021 - Insecure Design

Weaknesses in this category are related to the A04 "Insecure Design" category in the OWASP Top Ten 2021.

Authorization Errors

Weaknesses in this category are related to authorization components of a system. Frequently these deal with the ability to enforce that agents have the required permis...

Comprehensive CWE Dictionary

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

Weaknesses Introduced During Implementation

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

Weaknesses Introduced During Design

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

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