Reliance on Security Through Obscurity

The product uses a protection mechanism whose strength depends heavily on its obscurity, such that knowledge of its algorithms or key data is sufficient to defeat the mechanism.


This reliance on "security through obscurity" can produce resultant weaknesses if an attacker is able to reverse engineer the inner workings of the mechanism. Note that obscurity can be one small part of defense in depth, since it can create more work for an attacker; however, it is a significant risk if used as the primary means of protection.


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 design of TCP relies on the secrecy of Initial Sequence Numbers (ISNs), as originally covered in CVE-1999-0077 [REF-542]. If ISNs can be guessed (due to predictability, CWE-330) or sniffed (due to lack of encryption during transmission, CWE-312), then an attacker can hijack or spoof connections. Many TCP implementations have had variations of this problem over the years, including CVE-2004-0641, CVE-2002-1463, CVE-2001-0751, CVE-2001-0328, CVE-2001-0288, CVE-2001-0163, CVE-2001-0162, CVE-2000-0916, and CVE-2000-0328.

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.

Authorize Actors

Weaknesses in this category are related to the design and architecture of a system's authorization components. Frequently these deal with enforcing that agents have th...

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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