This site is the archived OWASP Foundation Wiki and is no longer accepting Account Requests.
To view the new OWASP Foundation website, please visit

Top 10 2007-Insecure Cryptographic Storage

Revision as of 19:07, 26 June 2007 by Agocke (talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search
«««« Main

Protecting sensitive data with cryptography has become a key part of most web applications. Simply failing to encrypt sensitive data is very widespread. Applications that do encrypt frequently contain poorly designed cryptography, either using inappropriate ciphers or making serious mistakes using strong ciphers. These flaws can lead to disclosure of sensitive data and compliance violations.

Environments Affected

All web application frameworks are vulnerable to insecure cryptographic storage.


Preventing cryptographic flaws takes careful planning. The most common problems are:

  • Not encrypting sensitive data
  • Using home grown algorithms
  • Insecure use of strong algorithms
  • Continued use of proven weak algorithms (MD5, SHA-1, RC3, RC4, etc…)
  • Hard coding keys, and storing keys in unprotected stores

Verifying Security

The goal is to verify that the application properly encrypts sensitive information in storage.

Automated approaches: Vulnerability scanning tools cannot verify cryptographic storage at all. Code scanning tools can detect use of known cryptographic APIs, but cannot detect if it is being used properly or if the encryption is performed in an external component.

Manual approaches: Like scanning, testing cannot verify cryptographic storage. Code review is the best way to verify that an application encrypts sensitive data and has properly implemented the mechanism and key management. This may involve the examination of the configuration of external systems in some cases.


The most important aspect is to ensure that everything that should be encrypted is actually encrypted. Then you must ensure that the cryptography is implemented properly. As there are so many ways of using cryptography improperly, the following recommendations should be taken as part of your testing regime to help ensure secure cryptographic materials handling:

  • Do not create cryptographic algorithms. Only use approved public algorithms such as AES, RSA public key cryptography, and SHA-256 or better for hashing.
  • Do not use weak algorithms, such as MD5 / SHA1. Favor safer alternatives, such as SHA-256 or better.
  • Generate keys offline and store private keys with extreme care. Never transmit private keys over insecure channels
  • Ensure that infrastructure credentials such as database credentials or MQ queue access details are properly secured (via tight file system permissions and controls), or securely encrypted and not easily decrypted by local or remote users
  • Ensure that encrypted data stored on disk is not easy to decrypt. For example, database encryption is worthless if the database connection pool provides unencrypted access.
  • Under PCI Data Security Standard requirement 3, you must protect cardholder data. PCI DSS compliance is mandatory by 2008 for merchants and anyone else dealing with credit cards. Good practice is to never store unnecessary data, such as the magnetic stripe information or the primary account number (PAN, otherwise known as the credit card number). If you store the PAN, the DSS compliance requirements are significant. For example, you are NEVER allowed to store the CVV number (the three digit number on the rear of the card) under any circumstances. For more information, please see the PCI DSS Guidelines and implement controls as necessary.


Related Articles


«««« Main

© 2002-2007 OWASP Foundation This document is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license. Some rights reserved.