Semmle 1.21
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Name: Cleartext storage of sensitive information in file

Description: Storing sensitive information in cleartext can expose it to an attacker.

ID: cpp/cleartext-storage-file

Kind: problem

Severity: warning

Precision: medium

Query: CleartextFileWrite.ql
/**
 * @name Cleartext storage of sensitive information in file
 * @description Storing sensitive information in cleartext can expose it
 *              to an attacker.
 * @kind problem
 * @problem.severity warning
 * @precision medium
 * @id cpp/cleartext-storage-file
 * @tags security
 *       external/cwe/cwe-313
 */

import cpp
import semmle.code.cpp.security.SensitiveExprs
import semmle.code.cpp.security.FileWrite

from FileWrite w, SensitiveExpr source, Expr dest
where source = w.getASource()
  and dest = w.getDest()
select w, "This write into file '" + dest.toString()
        + "' may contain unencrypted data from $@",
       source, "this source."

Sensitive information that is stored unencrypted is accessible to an attacker who gains access to the storage.

Recommendation

Ensure that sensitive information is always encrypted before being stored, especially before writing to a file. It may be wise to encrypt information before it is put into a buffer that may be readable in memory.

In general, decrypt sensitive information only at the point where it is necessary for it to be used in cleartext.

Example

The following example shows two ways of storing user credentials in a file. In the 'BAD' case, the credentials are simply stored in cleartext. In the 'GOOD' case, the credentials are encrypted before storing them.

void writeCredentials() {
  char *password = "cleartext password";
  FILE* file = fopen("credentials.txt", "w");
  
  // BAD: write password to disk in cleartext
  fputs(password, file);
  
  // GOOD: encrypt password first
  char *encrypted = encrypt(password);
  fputs(encrypted, file);
}

References
  • M. Dowd, J. McDonald and J. Schuhm, The Art of Software Security Assessment, 1st Edition, Chapter 2 - 'Common Vulnerabilities of Encryption', p. 43. Addison Wesley, 2006.
  • M. Howard and D. LeBlanc, Writing Secure Code, 2nd Edition, Chapter 9 - 'Protecting Secret Data', p. 299. Microsoft, 2002.
  • Common Weakness Enumeration: CWE-313.