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Cleartext Transmission of Sensitive Information

ID: 319Date: (C)2012-05-14   (M)2020-05-11
Type: weaknessStatus: DRAFT
Abstraction Type: Base


The software transmits sensitive or security-critical data in cleartext in a communication channel that can be sniffed by unauthorized actors.

Extended Description

Many communication channels can be "sniffed" by attackers during data transmission. For example, network traffic can often be sniffed by any attacker who has access to a network interface. This significantly lowers the difficulty of exploitation by attackers.

Likelihood of Exploit: Medium to High

Applicable Platforms
Language Class: Language-independent

Time Of Introduction

  • Architecture and Design
  • Operation
  • System Configuration

Related Attack Patterns

Common Consequences

ScopeTechnical ImpactNotes
Read application data
Modify files or directories
Anyone can read the information by gaining access to the channel being used for communication.

Detection Methods

Black Box
Use monitoring tools that examine the software's process as it interacts with the operating system and the network. This technique is useful in cases when source code is unavailable, if the software was not developed by you, or if you want to verify that the build phase did not introduce any new weaknesses. Examples include debuggers that directly attach to the running process; system-call tracing utilities such as truss (Solaris) and strace (Linux); system activity monitors such as FileMon, RegMon, Process Monitor, and other Sysinternals utilities (Windows); and sniffers and protocol analyzers that monitor network traffic.
Attach the monitor to the process, trigger the feature that sends the data, and look for the presence or absence of common cryptographic functions in the call tree. Monitor the network and determine if the data packets contain readable commands. Tools exist for detecting if certain encodings are in use. If the traffic contains high entropy, this might indicate the usage of encryption.

Potential Mitigations

Architecture and Design
 Encrypt the data with a reliable encryption scheme before transmitting.
 When using web applications with SSL, use SSL for the entire session from login to logout, not just for the initial login page.
 Use tools and techniques that require manual (human) analysis, such as penetration testing, threat modeling, and interactive tools that allow the tester to record and modify an active session. These may be more effective than strictly automated techniques. This is especially the case with weaknesses that are related to design and business rules.
 Configure servers to use encrypted channels for communication, which may include SSL or other secure protocols.


Related CWETypeViewChain
CWE-319 ChildOf CWE-895 Category CWE-888  

Demonstrative Examples   (Details)

  1. The following code attempts to establish a connection to a site to communicate sensitive information. (Demonstrative Example Id DX-42)

Observed Examples

  1. CVE-2002-1949 : Passwords transmitted in cleartext.
  2. CVE-2008-4122 : Chain: Use of HTTPS cookie without "secure" flag causes it to be transmitted across unencrypted HTTP.
  3. CVE-2008-3289 : Product sends password hash in cleartext in violation of intended policy.
  4. CVE-2008-4390 : Remote management feature sends sensitive information including passwords in cleartext.
  5. CVE-2007-5626 : Backup routine sends password in cleartext in email.
  6. CVE-2004-1852 : Product transmits Blowfish encryption key in cleartext.
  7. CVE-2008-0374 : Printer sends configuration information, including administrative password, in cleartext.
  8. CVE-2007-4961 : Chain: cleartext transmission of the MD5 hash of password enables attacks against a server that is susceptible to replay (CWE-294).
  9. CVE-2007-4786 : Product sends passwords in cleartext to a log server.
  10. CVE-2005-3140 : Product sends file with cleartext passwords in e-mail message intended for diagnostic purposes.

For more examples, refer to CVE relations in the bottom box.

White Box Definitions

Black Box Definitions

Taxynomy Mappings

PLOVER  Plaintext Transmission of Sensitive Information
CERT Java Secure Coding SEC06-J
Do not rely on the default automatic signature verification provided by URLClassLoader and java.util.jar
CERT Java Secure Coding SER02-J
Sign then seal sensitive objects before sending them outside a trust boundary


  1. OWASP .Top 10 2007-Insecure Communications.
  2. M. Howard D. LeBlanc .Writing Secure Code 2nd Edition. Microsoft. Section:'Chapter 9, "Protecting Secret Data" Page 299'. Published on 2002.
  3. Michael Howard David LeBlanc John Viega .24 Deadly Sins of Software Security. McGraw-Hill. Section:'"Sin 22: Failing to Protect Network Traffic." Page 337'. Published on 2010.
CVE    120

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