Use of a One-Way Hash without a Salt

The software uses a one-way cryptographic hash against an input that should not be reversible, such as a password, but the software does not also use a salt as part of the input.


This makes it easier for attackers to pre-compute the hash value using dictionary attack techniques such as rainbow tables.

It should be noted that, despite common perceptions, the use of a good salt with a hash does not sufficiently increase the effort for an attacker who is targeting an individual password, or who has a large amount of computing resources available, such as with cloud-based services or specialized, inexpensive hardware. Offline password cracking can still be effective if the hash function is not expensive to compute; many cryptographic functions are designed to be efficient and can be vulnerable to attacks using massive computing resources, even if the hash is cryptographically strong. The use of a salt only slightly increases the computing requirements for an attacker compared to other strategies such as adaptive hash functions. See CWE-916 for more details.


In cryptography, salt refers to some random addition of data to an input before hashing to make dictionary attacks more difficult.


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

In both of these examples, a user is logged in if their given password matches a stored password:

unsigned char *check_passwd(char *plaintext) {
  ctext = simple_digest("sha1",plaintext,strlen(plaintext), ... );
  //Login if hash matches stored hash
  if (equal(ctext, secret_password())) {
String plainText = new String(plainTextIn);
MessageDigest encer = MessageDigest.getInstance("SHA");
byte[] digest = password.digest();
//Login if hash matches stored hash
if (equal(digest,secret_password())) {

This code relies exclusively on a password mechanism (CWE-309) using only one factor of authentication (CWE-308). If an attacker can steal or guess a user's password, they are given full access to their account. Note this code also uses SHA-1, which is a weak hash (CWE-328). It also does not use a salt (CWE-759).

Example Two

In this example, a new user provides a new username and password to create an account. The program hashes the new user's password then stores it in a database.

def storePassword(userName,Password):
  hasher ='md5')
  hashedPassword = hasher.digest()

  # UpdateUserLogin returns True on success, False otherwise
  return updateUserLogin(userName,hashedPassword)

While it is good to avoid storing a cleartext password, the program does not provide a salt to the hashing function, thus increasing the chances of an attacker being able to reverse the hash and discover the original password if the database is compromised.

Fixing this is as simple as providing a salt to the hashing function on initialization:

def storePassword(userName,Password):
  hasher ='md5',b'SaltGoesHere')
  hashedPassword = hasher.digest()

  # UpdateUserLogin returns True on success, False otherwise
  return updateUserLogin(userName,hashedPassword)

Note that regardless of the usage of a salt, the md5 hash is no longer considered secure, so this example still exhibits CWE-327.

See Also

OWASP Top Ten 2021 Category A02:2021 - Cryptographic Failures

Weaknesses in this category are related to the A02 category "Cryptographic Failures" in the OWASP Top Ten 2021.

Encrypt Data

Weaknesses in this category are related to the design and architecture of data confidentiality in a system. Frequently these deal with the use of encryption libraries....

SFP Secondary Cluster: Broken Cryptography

This category identifies Software Fault Patterns (SFPs) within the Broken Cryptography cluster.

Comprehensive CWE Dictionary

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

Weaknesses without Software Fault Patterns

CWE identifiers in this view are weaknesses that do not have associated Software Fault Patterns (SFPs), as covered by the CWE-888 view. As such, they represent gaps in...

Weaknesses Introduced During Implementation

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

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