Understanding the 2023 CWE Top 25 Software Weaknesses and Their Overlap with OWASP

The MITRE 2023 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses and Their Commonalities with OWASP

The 2023 CWE Top 25 list highlights the most critical software weaknesses, many overlapping with the OWASP Top 10.

The Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) Top 25 is an annual list outlining the most critical and widespread software weaknesses that could lead to severe vulnerabilities in software applications. The 2023 edition of the MITRE CWE Top 25 provides valuable insights into the most pressing software weaknesses that developers and security professionals should know.


The MITRE CWE Top 25 list for 2023 is a compilation of the most dangerous software weaknesses identified over the past year. These weaknesses are ranked based on their severity, prevalence, and the potential damage they could cause if exploited.

Top Five CWE Weaknesses

1. CWE-787: Out-of-bounds Write

This weakness, which tops the list, involves writing data past the end of the intended buffer, which can lead to the execution of arbitrary code or cause the system to crash.

2. CWE-79: Improper Neutralization of Input During Web Page Generation ('Cross-site Scripting')

This weakness, often referred to as Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), involves the injection of untrusted data into a web page, allowing an attacker to execute malicious scripts in the victim's browser.

3. CWE-89: Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an SQL Command ('SQL Injection')

This weakness, commonly known as SQL Injection, involves inserting untrusted data into a database query. This can lead to unauthorized data access, corruption, or even loss.

4. CWE-416: Use After Free

This weakness involves the use of memory after it has been freed, which can lead to a variety of adverse outcomes, including the execution of arbitrary code, system crashes, or information leaks.

5. CWE-78: Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an OS Command ('OS Command Injection')

This weakness involves the injection of malicious data into a command executed by an operating system. This can lead to unauthorized system access or control.

Other Notable Weaknesses

The list also includes other notable weaknesses such as CWE-20 (Improper Input Validation), CWE-125 (Out-of-bounds Read), CWE-22 (Improper Limitation of a Pathname to a Restricted Directory, 'Path Traversal'), CWE-352 (Cross-Site Request Forgery, CSRF), and CWE-434 (Unrestricted Upload of File with Dangerous Type).

Commonalities with OWASP Top 10

The CWE Top 25 list shares several commonalities with another prominent security resource, the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Top 10. The OWASP API Top 10 is a standard awareness document for developers and web application security, representing a broad consensus about the most critical security risks to APIs.

Here are some of the commonalities between the CWE Top 25 and the OWASP Top 10:

1. Broken Authentication

Both lists highlight the risk of incorrect implementation of authentication mechanisms, allowing attackers to compromise authentication tokens or exploit implementation flaws to assume other users' identities. This is listed as CWE-287 (Improper Authentication) in the CWE list and API2:2023 (Broken Authentication) in the OWASP list.

2. Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF)

Both lists emphasize the risk of SSRF flaws, which can occur when an API fetches a remote resource without validating the user-supplied URI, enabling an attacker to coerce the application to send a crafted request to an unexpected destination. This is listed as CWE-918 (Server-Side Request Forgery) in the CWE list and as API7:2023 (Server Side Request Forgery) in the OWASP list.

3. Improper Authorization

Both lists stress the importance of proper authorization checks in every function that accesses a data source using an ID from the user. This is listed as CWE-862 (Missing Authorization) and CWE-863 (Incorrect Authorization) in the CWE list. In the OWASP list, it is indirectly mentioned under API1:2023 (Broken Object Level Authorization), API3:2023 (Broken Object Property Level Authorization), and API5:2023 (Broken Function Level Authorization).

4. Security Misconfiguration

Both lists underscore the risk of missing or incorrect configurations, which can open the door to different types of attacks. This is indirectly mentioned in the CWE list under various weaknesses like CWE-798 (Use of Hard-coded Credentials) and CWE-276 (Incorrect Default Permissions). In the OWASP list, it is directly mentioned as API8:2023 (Security Misconfiguration).

These commonalities underscore the importance of these issues in software and web application security. MITRE CWE Top 25 and the OWASP Top 10 are valuable resources for developers and security professionals to understand and mitigate the most critical security risks.

The MITRE 2023 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses

Rank ID Name Score CVEs in KEV Rank Change vs. 2022
1 CWE-787 Out-of-bounds Write 63.72 70 0
2 CWE-79 Improper Neutralization of Input During Web Page Generation ('Cross-site Scripting') 45.54 4 0
3 CWE-89 Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an SQL Command ('SQL Injection') 34.27 6 0
4 CWE-416 Use After Free 16.71 44 +3
5 CWE-78 Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an OS Command ('OS Command Injection') 15.65 23 +1
6 CWE-20 Improper Input Validation 15.50 35 -2
7 CWE-125 Out-of-bounds Read 14.60 2 -2
8 CWE-22 Improper Limitation of a Pathname to a Restricted Directory ('Path Traversal') 14.11 16 0
9 CWE-352 Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) 11.73 0 0
10 CWE-434 Unrestricted Upload of File with Dangerous Type 10.41 5 0
11 CWE-862 Missing Authorization 6.90 0 +5
12 CWE-476 NULL Pointer Dereference 6.59 0 -1
13 CWE-287 Improper Authentication 6.39 10 +1
14 CWE-190 Integer Overflow or Wraparound 5.89 4 -1
15 CWE-502 Deserialization of Untrusted Data 5.56 14 -3
16 CWE-77 Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in a Command ('Command Injection') 4.95 4 +1
17 CWE-119 Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer 4.75 7 +2
18 CWE-798 Use of Hard-coded Credentials 4.57 2 -3
19 CWE-918 Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF) 4.56 16 +2
20 CWE-306 Missing Authentication for Critical Function 3.78 8 -2
21 CWE-362 Concurrent Execution using Shared Resource with Improper Synchronization ('Race Condition') 3.53 8 +1
22 CWE-269 Improper Privilege Management 3.31 5 +7
23 CWE-94 Improper Control of Generation of Code ('Code Injection') 3.30 6 +2
24 CWE-863 Incorrect Authorization 3.16 0 +4
25 CWE-276 Incorrect Default Permissions 3.16 0 -5

Enhancing Risk Management with CWE and EPSS

The relationship between Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) and the Exploit Prediction Scoring System (EPSS) enhances cybersecurity risk management by linking software and hardware weaknesses with their likelihood of exploitation. CWE categorizes potential vulnerabilities, while EPSS uses machine learning to predict their exploitability. This connection helps organizations prioritize vulnerabilities for remediation based on anticipated risks, streamlining security efforts and focusing resources where they are most needed.


The 2023 edition of the CWE Top 25 underscores the importance of proper input validation, careful management of memory, and the need to guard against common web vulnerabilities like Cross-Site Scripting and SQL Injection. Understanding and addressing these weaknesses becomes increasingly important as we continue to rely more heavily on software in all aspects of our lives. The commonalities with the OWASP API Top 10 further highlight the critical areas of focus for improving software security.

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