Glossary Glossary

CWE-200 (Information Exposure)




CWE-200 is a weakness in a software that can lead to information exposure or the act of disclosing sensitive information to an unauthorized person. It is also known as the “Exposure of Sensitive Information to an Unauthorized Actor” and listed on MITRE’s Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE), a community-developed repository of software and hardware weaknesses.

CWE-200 covers any mistake in the behavior of a system directly related to the management, storage, and transmission of sensitive information. Such information can include a network’s status and configuration, operating system (OS), personal messages, metadata, and internal system statuses.
In the hands of attackers, this information can be valuable and lead to exploitation. However, automated tools, such as attack surface management (ASM) platforms with web and application scanning capabilities, can help detect sources of CWE-200.

Table of Contents

CWE-200 (Information Exposure): A Deep Dive

How Do Attackers Exploit CWE-200?

CWE-200 can lead to security vulnerabilities that threat actors can exploit. Weaknesses under CWE-200 can come from various sources, including web pages, log files, and error messages that unnecessarily contain or display sensitive user or system information, such as:

  • Credit card information
  • Social Security numbers
  • Bank account numbers
  • Usernames
  • File paths
  • System data
  • Configuration files

Threat actors can use any of this information to launch attacks. For example, information exposure can stem from a login validity error code explicitly telling users if the usernames they typed are invalid. Attackers can use this weakness by looking for a valid username through trial and error.

How Do Attackers Exploit CWE-200

Once a working username is found, the next step can be a brute-force attack where threat actors try to guess the corresponding password using all likely combinations, possibly until they successfully gain unauthorized access and take over an account.

CWE-200 is a broad category within the CWE list. Although it doesn’t represent a specific vulnerability, it is considered a parent to these CWE child categories:

Security Weaknesses Related to CWE-200
CWE CodeDescription
CWE-201: Insertion of Sensitive Information into Sent DataOccurs when sensitive information is inadvertently included in data sent outside an organization, such as error messages, logs, or API responses
CWE-203: Information Exposure through Observable DiscrepancyOccurs when inconsistencies in the way a product behaves is observable to an outsider, potentially exposing sensitive information
CWE-209: Generation of Error Messages Containing Sensitive InformationHappens when error messages displayed to users contain sensitive information, such as stack traces or database error messages
CWE-213: Exposure of Sensitive Information Due to Incompatible PoliciesEntails revealing sensitive information in alignment with the product’s designed functionality, which adheres to the developers’ security policy, even though it may contradicts users’ or administrators’ security policies
CWE-215: Insertion of Sensitive Information into Debugging CodeOccurs when debugging information containing sensitive system or application data is left enabled in production environments 
CWE-359: Exposure of Private Personal Information to an Unauthorized ActorHappens when products do not properly protect personally identifiable information (PII) from unauthorized access
CWE-497: Exposure of Sensitive System Information to an Unauthorized Control SphereOccurs when system-level information, such as path names, other OS users, and installed packages, are inadequately protected
CWE-538: File and Directory Information ExposureHappens when information about files and directories, such as filenames, permissions, or creation dates, is unintentionally revealed
CWE-1258: Exposure of Sensitive System Information Due to Uncleared Debug InformationOccurs when a system or device enters the debug mode but fails to properly clear or sanitize sensitive information from memory or other temporary storage locations
CWE-1273: Device Unlock Credential SharingInvolves sharing of sensitive user credentials used to unlock devices
CWE-1295: Debug Messages Revealing Unnecessary InformationHappens when products reveal sensitive information about a system through debugging messages intended for troubleshooting issues

What Is the Impact of Information Exposure?

Information exposure can lead to various direct and indirect reputational and financial costs, especially if a user’s personal, financial, and health information is involved.
One of CWE-200’s immediate effects is widening an organization’s attack surface since it can lead to security vulnerabilities. CWE-200 can result in cyber attacks, data breaches, identity theft, financial fraud, and regulatory compliance violations, depending on the type of sensitive information exposed.

How Do You Detect and Protect against CWE-200?

The risk of information exposure through CWE-200 can be minimized by constantly monitoring software and web applications for weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

A manual review of software code is one of the most effective ways to detect CWE-200 weaknesses. However, the process can be time-consuming and labor-intensive since it requires reviewing code line by line.

For this reason, development and security teams often employ tools that can scan and test code for a wide range of weaknesses. White hats may also use penetration testing to detect CWE-200.

An ASM platform can also help automatically scan and monitor systems for vulnerabilities that may have stemmed from CWE-200-related software weaknesses.

How Do You Detect and Protect against CWE-200

Key Takeaways

  • CWE-200 is a weakness in software that can lead to information exposure.
  • It is listed on Mitre’s CWE as “CWE-200: Exposure of Sensitive Information to an Unauthorized Actor.”
  • The weakness can come from various sources, including web pages, log files, and error messages that unnecessarily display or contain sensitive information about a user or system.
  • Information exposure can damage the reputation of an organization, especially if a user’s personal, financial, and health information is involved.
  • ASM platforms can automatically scan and monitor systems for vulnerabilities that may have stemmed from CWE-200.

If you want an in-depth view of your attack surface, including vulnerabilities possibly associated with CWE-200, schedule a free demo tailored to your organization now.

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