How Does Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) Work?

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Community-developed Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) is a database containing a list of vulnerabilities in an organization’s tech stack’s software and hardware. Secure coding standards are guided by detailed descriptions of common weaknesses in the database. Here are some commonly asked questions about a common weakness enumeration, as well as some of its prominent vulnerabilities.

An overview of CWE

Any hardware or software product can be listed in the common weakness enumeration (CWE) database. CWE defines and categorizes vulnerability types, security issues associated with vulnerabilities, and prevention efforts aimed at addressing detected vulnerabilities. Developing a vulnerability management program and implementing secure coding practices are derived from the CWE’s catalog of software weaknesses.

With over 600 class and base-level weaknesses listed in the CWE database, the top 25 weaknesses are the most severe.

Security vulnerability types in the CWE list

  • Out-of-Bounds Write (CWE-787)

When an application writes data outside its intended input buffer, this security vulnerability occurs. Weakness can also occur when an index is altered to reference a location outside of the memory buffer or when pointer arithmetic is performed.

There is a high probability of exploiting this out-of-bounds write vulnerability, as the NVD counts it at 3033. The severity of an attack is also high, with an average CVSS score of 8.22.

  • Out-of-Bounds Read (CWE-125)

To bypass authentication mechanisms, adversaries can read sensitive information from out-of-bounds memory. As well as memory buffer overflows and segmentation faults, the vulnerability can cause a system crash. When the application reads variable data values outside the stated buffer memory, this can potentially occur.

  • Improper Neutralization of Input (CWE-79)

By using browser-side scripts, an adversary can inject malicious code into websites through Cross-Site Scripting (XSS). Applications that accept untrusted data without neutralization are prone to weaknesses. CWE security score of 46.84 and CVSS score of 5.8 indicate a high likelihood of exploitation.

  • Improper Input Validation (CWE-20)

Application CWE-20 vulnerabilities occur when input data is accepted without proper validation of whether it meets the requirements for secure processing. By creating unexpected inputs, an attacker can gain access to a limited resource or execute code remotely. Despite mild flaws in the software, there is a moderate likelihood that they can be exploited.

  • Improper Neutralization of Special Elements (CWE-78)

Without having direct access to the platform, attackers can execute commands directly on the operating system using CWE 78. OS command injection often leads to improper privilege management since attackers can abuse privileged programs to obtain permissions. An overall security score of 19.55 and an average CVSS score of 8.71 indicate the mild severity of attacks targeting this vulnerability.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do CWE, CVE, and OWASP differ?

OWASP, Common Vulnerabilities & Exposures (CVE), and the Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) are all guidelines on secure coding practices that security researchers can use. Using CVE and OWASP data, CWE identifies and categorizes the most impactful security holes, their exploit likelihoods, consequences, and preventative measures.

Why are CWE and CVSS important?

Using CWE and CVSS facilitates a common understanding of vulnerabilities, ease of exploitation, and the costs associated with successful exploits.

By categorizing all weaknesses and exposures identified, CWE helps organizations better address vulnerabilities. Alternatively, CVSS evaluates vulnerabilities by assigning a severity rating, such as critical, high, medium, and low, based on their impact on the system. The CVSS also rates the weaknesses numerically between 0.0 and 10.0.