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CAPEC-100: Overflow Buffers

Attack Pattern ID: 100
Abstraction: Standard
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
Buffer Overflow attacks target improper or missing bounds checking on buffer operations, typically triggered by input injected by an adversary. As a consequence, an adversary is able to write past the boundaries of allocated buffer regions in memory, causing a program crash or potentially redirection of execution as per the adversaries' choice.
+ Likelihood Of Attack

High

+ Typical Severity

Very High

+ Relationships
Section HelpThis table shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern. These relationships are defined as ChildOf and ParentOf, and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as CanFollow, PeerOf, and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar attack patterns that the user may want to explore.
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfMeta Attack PatternMeta Attack Pattern - A meta level attack pattern in CAPEC is a decidedly abstract characterization of a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. A meta attack pattern is often void of a specific technology or implementation and is meant to provide an understanding of a high level approach. A meta level attack pattern is a generalization of related group of standard level attack patterns. Meta level attack patterns are particularly useful for architecture and design level threat modeling exercises.123Buffer Manipulation
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.8Buffer Overflow in an API Call
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.9Buffer Overflow in Local Command-Line Utilities
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.10Buffer Overflow via Environment Variables
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.14Client-side Injection-induced Buffer Overflow
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.24Filter Failure through Buffer Overflow
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.42MIME Conversion
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.44Overflow Binary Resource File
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.45Buffer Overflow via Symbolic Links
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.46Overflow Variables and Tags
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.47Buffer Overflow via Parameter Expansion
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.67String Format Overflow in syslog()
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.256SOAP Array Overflow
CanPrecedeStandard Attack PatternStandard Attack Pattern - A standard level attack pattern in CAPEC is focused on a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. It is often seen as a singular piece of a fully executed attack. A standard attack pattern is meant to provide sufficient details to understand the specific technique and how it attempts to accomplish a desired goal. A standard level attack pattern is a specific type of a more abstract meta level attack pattern.234Hijacking a privileged process
Section HelpThis table shows the views that this attack pattern belongs to and top level categories within that view.
+ Execution Flow
Explore
  1. Identify target application: The adversary identifies a target application or program to perform the buffer overflow on. Adversaries often look for applications that accept user input and that perform manual memory management.

Experiment
  1. Find injection vector: The adversary identifies an injection vector to deliver the excessive content to the targeted application's buffer.

    Techniques
    Provide large input to a program or application and observe the behavior. If there is a crash, this means that a buffer overflow attack is possible.
  2. Craft overflow content: The adversary crafts the content to be injected. If the intent is to simply cause the software to crash, the content need only consist of an excessive quantity of random data. If the intent is to leverage the overflow for execution of arbitrary code, the adversary crafts the payload in such a way that the overwritten return address is replaced with one of the adversary's choosing.

    Techniques
    Create malicious shellcode that will execute when the program execution is returned to it.
    Use a NOP-sled in the overflow content to more easily "slide" into the malicious code. This is done so that the exact return address need not be correct, only in the range of all of the NOPs
Exploit
  1. Overflow the buffer: Using the injection vector, the adversary injects the crafted overflow content into the buffer.

+ Prerequisites
Targeted software performs buffer operations.
Targeted software inadequately performs bounds-checking on buffer operations.
Adversary has the capability to influence the input to buffer operations.
+ Skills Required
[Level: Low]
In most cases, overflowing a buffer does not require advanced skills beyond the ability to notice an overflow and stuff an input variable with content.
[Level: High]
In cases of directed overflows, where the motive is to divert the flow of the program or application as per the adversaries' bidding, high level skills are required. This may involve detailed knowledge of the target system architecture and kernel.
+ Resources Required
None: No specialized resources are required to execute this type of attack. Detecting and exploiting a buffer overflow does not require any resources beyond knowledge of and access to the target system.
+ Indicators
An attack designed to leverage a buffer overflow and redirect execution as per the adversary's bidding is fairly difficult to detect. An attack aimed solely at bringing the system down is usually preceded by a barrage of long inputs that make no sense. In either case, it is likely that the adversary would have resorted to a few hit-or-miss attempts that will be recorded in the system event logs, if they exist.
+ Consequences
Section HelpThis table specifies different individual consequences associated with the attack pattern. The Scope identifies the security property that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in their attack. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a pattern will be used to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.
ScopeImpactLikelihood
Availability
Unreliable Execution
Confidentiality
Integrity
Availability
Execute Unauthorized Commands
Confidentiality
Access Control
Authorization
Gain Privileges
+ Mitigations
Use a language or compiler that performs automatic bounds checking.
Use secure functions not vulnerable to buffer overflow.
If you have to use dangerous functions, make sure that you do boundary checking.
Compiler-based canary mechanisms such as StackGuard, ProPolice and the Microsoft Visual Studio /GS flag. Unless this provides automatic bounds checking, it is not a complete solution.
Use OS-level preventative functionality. Not a complete solution.
Utilize static source code analysis tools to identify potential buffer overflow weaknesses in the software.
+ Example Instances
The most straightforward example is an application that reads in input from the user and stores it in an internal buffer but does not check that the size of the input data is less than or equal to the size of the buffer. If the user enters excessive length data, the buffer may overflow leading to the application crashing, or worse, enabling the user to cause execution of injected code.
Many web servers enforce security in web applications through the use of filter plugins. An example is the SiteMinder plugin used for authentication. An overflow in such a plugin, possibly through a long URL or redirect parameter, can allow an adversary not only to bypass the security checks but also execute arbitrary code on the target web server in the context of the user that runs the web server process.
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Relevant to the WASC taxonomy mapping
Entry IDEntry Name
07Buffer Overflow

Relevant to the OWASP taxonomy mapping
Entry Name
Buffer overflow attack
+ References
[REF-620] "OWASP Vulnerabilities". Buffer Overflow. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP). <https://owasp.org/www-community/vulnerabilities/Buffer_Overflow>.
+ Content History
Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2014-06-23CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2017-01-09CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2017-08-04CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Attack_Phases, Attack_Prerequisites, Attacker_Skills_or_Knowledge_Required, Description Summary, Examples-Instances, Indicators-Warnings_of_Attack, Probing_Techniques, Related_Vulnerabilities, Resources_Required
2020-12-17CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated References, Taxonomy_Mappings
2021-06-24CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Related_Weaknesses
2021-10-21CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Execution_Flow
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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: October 21, 2021