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CAPEC-548: Contaminate Resource

Attack Pattern ID: 548
Abstraction: Meta
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+ Description
An adversary contaminates organizational information systems (including devices and networks) by causing them to handle information of a classification/sensitivity for which they have not been authorized. When this happens, the contaminated information system, device, or network must be brought offline to investigate and mitigate the data spill, which denies availability of the system until the investigation is complete.
+ Extended Description
Contamination through email is a very common attack vector. Systems with email servers or personal work systems using email are susceptible to this attack simply by receiving an email that contains a classified document or information. A fake classified document could even be used that is mistaken as true classified material. This would still cause the system to be taken offline until the validity of the classified material is confirmed.
+ Alternate Terms

Term: Data Spill

When information is handled by an information system of a classification/sensitivity for which the system has not been authorized to handle.
+ Likelihood Of Attack


+ Typical Severity


+ 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.
CanPrecedeMeta 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.607Obstruction
Section HelpThis table shows the views that this attack pattern belongs to and top level categories within that view.
+ Prerequisites
The adversary needs to have real or fake classified/sensitive information to place on a system
+ Skills Required
[Level: Low]
Knowledge of classification levels of systems
[Level: High]
The ability to obtain a classified document or information
[Level: Low]
The ability to fake a classified document
+ 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.
Resource Consumption
Read Data
+ Mitigations
Properly safeguard classified/sensitive data. This includes training cleared individuals to ensure they are handling and disposing of this data properly, as well as ensuring systems only handle information of the classification level they are designed for.
Design systems with redundancy in mind. This could mean creating backing servers that could be switched over to in the event that a server has to be taken down for investigation.
Have a planned and efficient response plan to limit the amount of time a system is offline while the contamination is investigated.
+ Example Instances

An insider threat was able to obtain a classified document. They have knowledge that a backend server which provides access to a website also runs a mail server. The adversary creates a throwaway email address and sends the classified document to the mail server. When an administrator checks the mail server they notice that it has processed an email with a classified document and the server has to be taken offline while they investigate the contamination. In the meantime, the website has to be taken down as well and access to the website is denied until the backend can be migrated to another server or the investigation is complete.

+ References
[REF-742] Florida Industrial Security Working Group (FISWG). "Managing a “Data Spill”". <>. URL validated: 2022-10-31.
[REF-743] "data spillage". <>. URL validated: 2022-10-31.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
(Version 2.6)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Modification DateModifierOrganization
(Version 3.9)
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Alternate_Terms, Consequences, Description, Example_Instances, Extended_Description, Likelihood_Of_Attack, Mitigations, Prerequisites, References, Related_Attack_Patterns, Skills_Required, Typical_Severity
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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: July 31, 2018