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CAPEC-37: Retrieve Embedded Sensitive Data

Retrieve Embedded Sensitive Data
Definition in a New Window Definition in a New Window
Attack Pattern ID: 37
Abstraction: Detailed
Status: Draft
Completeness: Complete
Presentation Filter:
+ Summary

An attacker examines a target system to find sensitive data that has been embedded within it. This information can reveal confidential contents, such as account numbers or individual keys/credentials that can be used as an intermediate step in a larger attack.

+ Attack Steps
  1. Identify Target: Attacker identifies client components to extract information from. These may be binary executables, class files, shared libraries (e.g., DLLs), configuration files, or other system files.

    Binary file extraction. The attacker extracts binary files from zips, jars, wars, PDFs or other composite formats.

    Package listing. The attacker uses a package manifest provided with the software installer, or the filesystem itself, to identify component files suitable for attack.

  1. Apply mining techniques: The attacker then uses a variety of techniques, such as sniffing, reverse-engineering, and cryptanalysis to extract the information of interest.

    API Profiling. The attacker monitors the software's use of registry keys or other operating system-provided storage locations that can contain sensitive information.

    Execution in simulator. The attacker physically removes mass storage from the system and explores it using a simulator, external system, or other debugging harness.

    Common decoding methods. The attacker applies methods to decode such encodings and compressions as Base64, unzip, unrar, RLE decoding, gzip decompression and so on.

    Common data typing. The attacker looks for common file signatures for well-known file types (JPEG, TIFF, ASN.1, LDIF, etc.). If the signatures match, he attempts decoding in that format.

+ Attack Prerequisites
  • In order to feasibly execute this type of attack, some valuable data must be present in client software.

  • Additionally, this information must be unprotected, or protected in a flawed fashion, or through a mechanism that fails to resist reverse engineering, statistical, or other attack.

+ Typical Severity

Very High

+ Typical Likelihood of Exploit

Likelihood: Very High

+ Methods of Attack
  • Analysis
+ Examples-Instances


Using a tool such as 'strings' or similar to pull out text data, perhaps part of a database table, that extends beyond what a particular user's purview should be.


An attacker can also use a decompiler to decompile a downloaded Java applet in order to look for information such as hardcoded IP addresses, file paths, passwords or other such contents.


Attacker uses a tool such as a browser plug-in to pull cookie or other token information that, from a previous user at the same machine (perhaps a kiosk), allows the attacker to log in as the previous user.

+ Attacker Skills or Knowledge Required

Skill or Knowledge Level: Medium

The attacker must possess knowledge of client code structure as well as ability to reverse-engineer or decompile it or probe it in other ways. This knowledge is specific to the technology and language used for the client distribution

+ Resources Required

The attacker must possess access to the system or code being exploited. Such access, for this set of attacks, will likely be physical. The attacker will make use of reverse engineering technologies, perhaps for data or to extract functionality from the binary. Such tool use may be as simple as "Strings" or a hex editor. Removing functionality may require the use of only a hex editor, or may require aspects of the toolchain used to construct the application: for instance the Adobe Flash development environment. Attacks of this nature do not require network access or undue CPU, memory, or other hardware-based resources.

+ Probing Techniques

Attackers may confine (and succeed with) probing as simple as deleting a cache or data file, or less drastically twiddling its bits and then testing the mutation's effect on an executing client.

At the other extreme, attackers capable of reverse engineering client code will have the ability to remove functionality or identify the whereabouts of sensitive data through white box analysis, such as review of reverse-engineered code.

+ Attack Motivation-Consequences
ScopeTechnical ImpactNote
Read application data
Modify application data
Gain privileges / assume identity
+ Relevant Security Requirements

No sensitive or confidential information must be stored in client distributions. This includes content such as passwords or encryption keys. In cases where this is necessary, avoid storing any such information in plaintext

All information arriving from a client must be validated before use.

+ Purposes
  • Reconnaissance
  • Exploitation
+ CIA Impact
Confidentiality Impact: HighIntegrity Impact: MediumAvailability Impact: Low
+ Technical Context
Architectural Paradigms
+ Content History
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2014-06-23Internal_CAPEC_Team
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2015-11-09Updated Activation_Zone, Attack_Phases, Attack_Prerequisites, Description Summary, Injection_Vector, Payload, Payload_Activation_Impact, Related_Vulnerabilities, Resources_RequiredInternal
Previous Entry Names
DatePrevious Entry Name
2015-11-09Lifting Data Embedded in Client Distributions

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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: August 04, 2017