Penetration TestJan Kahmen9 min read

What is CWE (Common Weakness Enumeration)?

The Common Weakness Enumeration provides a list of typical vulnerabilities in hardware and software. This list is freely accessible and categorizes all security vulnerabilities.

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The Common Weakness Enumeration provides you with a list of typical vulnerabilities in hardware and software. This list is freely accessible and categorizes all security vulnerabilities. This makes it the ideal basis for identifying and resolving security-related weaknesses.

What CWE means

The abbreviation CWE stands for Common Weakness Enumeration and refers to a list of different types of vulnerabilities. These affect both hardware and software and are regularly maintained by the community. Here you will find the individual vulnerabilities categorized and with unique IDs for later identification.
The main goal of this list is to provide you with the basis for prevention and elimination of typical security vulnerabilities. Thus, it provides the necessary information content for your Security Operations Center and supports you in taking the necessary actions. For this reason, MITRE Corporation has been regularly publishing this freely accessible listing since 2006. However, the points contained herein are not only relevant in the context of your CWE Security: it helps software developers and security officers to prevent risks in hardware and software.

CWE - what counts as a vulnerability?

The CWE security aspect addresses all errors in software and hardware systems. These, in turn, can lead to security issues that you need to fix. Otherwise, the vulnerabilities can serve cybercriminals as a gateway into your organization.
Categorizing more than 600 vulnerabilities, the database provides your security operations center with an important guide. Since it's not always easy to keep track of such a number, there is also the CWE Top 25, which are the most dangerous vulnerabilities that can have a high impact on your business. While hard-coded passwords tend to rank lower, the most serious types include SQL injections and cross-side-scripting issues.

What are the goals of CWE?

In the wake of Cloud Transformation, the demands on IT security in your organization are increasing. Therefore, it is important to eliminate critical security vulnerabilities as much as possible with Pentests and the Open Source Intelligence. The Common Weakness Enumeration helps you to focus on the most important issues at the moment.
problems. Therefore, it has the following goals:

  • The CWE is to point out the typical errors and weaknesses in hard and software solutions. This should make it possible to fix the problems before you deploy the systems in your company.
  • The listing shall support developers, programmers and security analysts in their daily work.
  • The list should allow the community to discuss or describe vulnerabilities in a common language.
  • In addition to an overview of typical weaknesses, it should provide conceptual approaches or sample solutions to guide you.

What makes CWE different from OWASP and Co?
Secure programming practices have always been important. Nevertheless, they have become even more indispensable since the Digital and Cloud Transformation. That's why there are now a variety of guidelines to help programmers and security researchers. Among the most important are CWE, OWASP and CVE.

  • CVE: This is a list of potential vulnerabilities of enterprise resources as well as cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
  • CWE: The focus is on a complete vulnerability database. It helps you identify vulnerabilities and address security issues. This collection draws on data from the OWASP and the CVE inventory.
  • OWASP: This community initiative regularly lists the top 10 vulnerabilities. These are among the most dangerous vulnerabilities present in web applications.

How does CWE work?

The vulnerabilities listed in CWE are based, among other things, on a point calculation. This calculation assigns a weighting to each factor. Then, these weights are projected onto the different areas: Base findings, environmental and attack surface. The subscores calculated from this determine the overall CWS score and thus the ranking according to the CWE Security List.
However, these are not always specific threats that are specifically assessed and included. Some items on the vulnerability list are generic, so you can rarely implement them directly in your organization. Therefore, some specific security threats can only be identified in conjunction with active security measures. These include, for example, pentests that help you find and close security gaps. Nevertheless, the gaps listed in the CWE are an important clue and show which components require special attention in the pentest.

The most common vulnerabilities according to CWE

With the Common Weakness listing, you have an important tool at hand to support you in IT security. In particular, the combination of findings from Open Source Intelligence allows you to specifically search for risks in your company. Of course, you should not only check the top items on the list, but also the basic security vulnerabilities. Some of the most common security vulnerabilities in the enterprise include the following.

Out-of-bounds write

In such a vulnerability, an application writes data to areas that are outside the intended input buffer. Classically, such problems occur when an index changes or pointer arithmetic is used. This is because it is possible to reference an area that is no longer in the memory buffer. The result could be data corruption, a system crash, or unintended code execution.

Out-of-Bounds Read

Similar to the Out-of-Bounds Write vulnerability, this vulnerability also refers to an area outside of the intended buffer. The difference, however, is that reading this information is also possible outside the output buffer. In this way, cybercriminals manage to read sensitive data or obtain secret values. The dangerous thing about the out-of-bounds read is also that it allows you to bypass authentication mechanisms. It is therefore easy to understand why this vulnerability also ranks very high on the CWE scale.

Input neutralization

This vulnerability occurs whenever malicious code is injected into websites. Therefore, the vulnerability is also known as cross-site scripting and often occurs in dynamically generated web pages. If these pages accept untrusted data without proper neutralization, the script leads to unwanted actions. In recent years, this vulnerability has grown in importance, which is why it is also on the CWE list.

Input validation

Applications that accept input data must be appropriately validated. This validation is to determine if the input has the required characteristics for secure processing. If this validation fails, a security vulnerability is created. Attackers can use this to deliver unexpected input or execute remote code. The result is a modified control flow path in the application that can override the underlying architectural concept.

CWE: MITRE regularly names the top 25 vulnerabilities.

To help you target the components with the highest threat potential during [pentesting, MIRTE regularly publishes the top 25 vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities are of course not only important when pentesting, but also when you are buying or developing new products. The regularly updated listing gives you a good overview of the current threats. Among them are authentication problems, critical functions, but also hard-coded passwords and Cross-Site Request Forgery. The broad spectrum of vulnerabilities already shows that regular testing is absolutely necessary. After all, such security risks are also known to cybercriminals. To protect your company and your sensitive business data, you should place high value on your IT security.
Nevertheless, the top 25 vulnerabilities will not eliminate all problems. Every business is unique and the same is true for the issues at hand. Therefore, it makes sense to have an expert realistically assess the risks for vulnerabilities. In this way, it is possible to get a grip on the individual security gaps in the company.


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