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Use of Hard-coded Password

ID: 259Date: (C)2012-05-14   (M)2022-10-10
Type: weaknessStatus: DRAFT
Abstraction Type: Base


The software contains a hard-coded password, which it uses for its own inbound authentication or for outbound communication to external components.

Extended Description

A hard-coded password typically leads to a significant authentication failure that can be difficult for the system administrator to detect. Once 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 software contains an authentication mechanism that checks for a hard-coded password.

Outbound: the software connects to another system or component, and it contains hard-coded password 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 software. 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 software 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 software. 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.

Likelihood of Exploit: Very High

Applicable Platforms
Language Class: Language-independent

Time Of Introduction

  • Implementation
  • Architecture and Design

Related Attack Patterns

Common Consequences

ScopeTechnical ImpactNotes
Gain privileges / assume identity
If hard-coded passwords are used, it is almost certain that malicious users will gain access through the account in question.

Detection Methods

Manual Analysis
This weakness can be detected using 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.
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 and perform a login. Using disassembled code, look at the associated instructions and see if any of them appear to be comparing the input to a fixed string or value.

Potential Mitigations

Architecture and Design
 For outbound authentication: store passwords outside of the code in a strongly-protected, encrypted configuration file or database that is protected from access by all outsiders, including other local users on the same system. Properly protect the key (CWE-320). If you cannot use encryption to protect the file, then make sure that the permissions are as restrictive as possible.
Architecture and Design
 For inbound authentication: Rather than hard-code a default username and password for first time logins, utilize a "first login" mode that requires the user to enter a unique strong password.
Architecture and Design
 Perform access control checks and limit which entities can access the feature that requires the hard-coded password. For example, a feature might only be enabled through the system console instead of through a network connection.
Architecture and Design
 For inbound authentication: apply strong one-way hashes to your passwords and store those hashes in a configuration file or database with appropriate access control. That way, theft of the file/database still requires the attacker to try to crack the password. When receiving an incoming password during authentication, take the hash of the password and compare it to the hash that you have saved.
Use randomly assigned salts for each separate hash that you generate. This increases the amount of computation that an attacker needs to conduct a brute-force attack, possibly limiting the effectiveness of the rainbow table method.
Architecture and Design
 For front-end to back-end connections: Three solutions are possible, although none are complete.



Related CWETypeViewChain
CWE-259 ChildOf CWE-898 Category CWE-888  

Demonstrative Examples   (Details)

  1. The following code is an example of an internal hard-coded password in the back-end: (Demonstrative Example Id DX-14)
  2. The following code uses a hard-coded password to connect to a database: (Demonstrative Example Id DX-13)
  3. 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 plaintext. (Demonstrative Example Id DX-43)

White Box Definitions
Definition: A weakness where code path has:
1. end statement that passes a data item to a password function
2. value of the data item is a constant

Black Box Definitions

Taxynomy Mappings

7 Pernicious Kingdoms  Password Management: Hard-Coded Password
CLASP  Use of hard-coded password
OWASP Top Ten 2004 A3
Broken Authentication and Session Management
CERT Java Secure Coding MSC03-J
Never hard code sensitive information


  1. Michael Howard David LeBlanc John Viega .24 Deadly Sins of Software Security. McGraw-Hill. Section:'"Sin 19: Use of Weak Password-Based Systems." Page 279'. Published on 2010.
CVE    5

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