Use of Hard-coded Credentials
The product contains hard-coded credentials, such as a password or cryptographic key, which it uses for its own inbound authentication, outbound communication to external components, or encryption of internal data.
Hard-coded credentials typically create a significant hole that allows an attacker to bypass the authentication that has been configured by the product administrator. This hole might be difficult for the system administrator to detect. Even if 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 the input credentials against a hard-coded set of credentials.
Outbound: the product connects to another system or component, and it contains hard-coded credentials 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 code examples attempt to verify a password using a hard-coded cryptographic key.
The cryptographic key is within a hard-coded string value that is compared to the password. It is likely that an attacker will be able to read the key and compromise the system.
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 CISQ Quality Measures for Security. Presence of these weaknesses could reduce the security of the software.
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.
This view (slice) covers all the elements in CWE.
CWE entries in this view are listed in the 2022 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses.
CWE entries in this view are listed in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses.