[Forgot Password]
Login  Register Subscribe












Paid content will be excluded from the download.

Download | Alert*
view XML

Unnecessary Complexity in Protection Mechanism (Not Using 'Economy of Mechanism')

ID: 637Date: (C)2012-05-14   (M)2012-11-08
Type: weaknessStatus: DRAFT
Abstraction Type: Class


The software uses a more complex mechanism than necessary, which could lead to resultant weaknesses when the mechanism is not correctly understood, modeled, configured, implemented, or used.

Extended Description

Security mechanisms should be as simple as possible. Complex security mechanisms may engender partial implementations and compatibility problems, with resulting mismatches in assumptions and implemented security. A corollary of this principle is that data specifications should be as simple as possible, because complex data specifications result in complex validation code. Complex tasks and systems may also need to be guarded by complex security checks, so simple systems should be preferred.

Applicable Platforms
Language Class: All

Time Of Introduction

  • Architecture and Design
  • Implementation
  • Operation

Common Consequences

ScopeTechnical ImpactNotes

Detection Methods

Potential Mitigations

Architecture and Design
 Avoid complex security mechanisms when simpler ones would meet requirements. Avoid complex data models, and unnecessarily complex operations. Adopt architectures that provide guarantees, simplify understanding through elegance and abstraction, and that can be implemented similarly. Modularize, isolate and do not trust complex code, and apply other secure programming principles on these modules (e.g., least privilege) to mitigate vulnerabilities.


Related CWETypeViewChain
CWE-637 ChildOf CWE-907 Category CWE-888  

Demonstrative Examples   (Details)

  1. HTTP Request Smuggling (CWE-444) attacks are feasible because there are not stringent requirements for how illegal or inconsistent HTTP headers should be handled. This can lead to inconsistent implementations in which a proxy or firewall interprets the same data stream as a different set of requests than the end points in that stream.
  2. The IPSEC specification is complex, which resulted in bugs, partial implementations, and incompatibilities between vendors.

Observed Examples

  1. CVE-2007-6067 : Support for complex regular expressions leads to a resultant algorithmic complexity weakness (CWE-407).
  2. CVE-2007-1552 : Either a filename extension and a Content-Type header could be used to infer the file type, but the developer only checks the Content-Type, enabling unrestricted file upload (CWE-434).
  3. CVE-2007-6479 : In Apache environments, a "filename.php.gif" can be redirected to the PHP interpreter instead of being sent as an image/gif directly to the user. Not knowing this, the developer only checks the last extension of a submitted filename, enabling arbitrary code execution.
  4. CVE-2005-2148 : The developer cleanses the $_REQUEST superglobal array, but PHP also populates $_GET, allowing attackers to bypass the protection mechanism and conduct SQL injection attacks against code that uses $_GET.

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

White Box Definitions

Black Box Definitions

Taxynomy Mappings


  1. Jerome H. Saltzer Michael D. Schroeder .The Protection of Information in Computer Systems. Proceedings of the IEEE 63. Published on September, 1975.
  2. Sean Barnum Michael Gegick .Economy of Mechanism. Published on 2005-09-13.

© SecPod Technologies