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Rule:  STR31-CChecked automatically with code checker

Synopsis:Guarantee that storage for strings has sufficient space for character data and the null terminator
Language:C++
Severity Level:1
Category:Security


Description:

Copying data to a buffer that is not large enough to hold that data results in a buffer overflow. Buffer overflows occur frequently when manipulating strings [Seacord 2013b]. To prevent such errors, either limit copies through truncation or, preferably, ensure that the destination is of sufficient size to hold the character data to be copied and the null-termination character. (See STR03-C. Do not inadvertently truncate a string.)

When strings live on the heap, this rule is a specific instance of MEM35-C. Allocate sufficient memory for an object. Because strings are represented as arrays of characters, this rule is related to both ARR30-C. Do not form or use out-of-bounds pointers or array subscripts and ARR38-C. Guarantee that library functions do not form invalid pointers.

Noncompliant Code Example (Off-by-One Error)

This noncompliant code example demonstrates an off-by-one error [Dowd 2006]. The loop copies data from src to dest . However, because the loop does not account for the null-termination character, it may be incorrectly written 1 byte past the end of dest .

#include <stddef.h>
   
void copy( size_t n, char src[n], char dest[n]) {
    size_t i;
   
    for (i = 0; src[i] && (i < n); ++i) {
      dest[i] = src[i];
    }
    dest[i] = '\0' ;
}

Compliant Solution (Off-by-One Error)

In this compliant solution, the loop termination condition is modified to account for the null-termination character that is appended to dest :

#include <stddef.h>
   
void copy( size_t n, char src[n], char dest[n]) {
    size_t i;
   
    for (i = 0; src[i] && (i < n - 1); ++i) {
      dest[i] = src[i];
    }
    dest[i] = '\0' ;
}

Noncompliant Code Example ( gets() )

The  gets()  function, which was deprecated in the C99 Technical Corrigendum 3 and removed from C11, is inherently unsafe and should never be used because it provides no way to control how much data is read into a buffer from  stdin . This noncompliant code example assumes that  gets()  will not read more than  BUFFER_SIZE - 1  characters from  stdin . This is an invalid assumption, and the resulting operation can result in a buffer overflow.

The  gets()  function reads characters from the  stdin  into a destination array until end-of-file is encountered or a newline character is read. Any newline character is discarded, and a null character is written immediately after the last character read into the array.

#include <stdio.h>
   
#define BUFFER_SIZE 1024
 
void func( void ) {
   char buf[BUFFER_SIZE];
   if ( gets (buf) == NULL) {
     /* Handle error */
   }
}

See also MSC24-C. Do not use deprecated or obsolescent functions.

Compliant Solution ( fgets() )

The  fgets()  function reads, at most, one less than the specified number of characters from a stream into an array. This solution is compliant because the number of characters copied from  stdin  to  buf  cannot exceed the allocated memory:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
   
enum { BUFFERSIZE = 32 };
   
void func( void ) {
   char buf[BUFFERSIZE];
   int ch;
 
   if ( fgets (buf, sizeof (buf), stdin)) {
     /* fgets() succeeded; scan for newline character */
     char *p = strchr (buf, '\n' );
     if (p) {
       *p = '\0' ;
     } else {
       /* Newline not found; flush stdin to end of line */
       while ((ch = getchar ()) != '\n' && ch != EOF)
         ;
       if (ch == EOF && ! feof (stdin) && ! ferror (stdin)) {
           /* Character resembles EOF; handle error */
       }
     }
   } else {
     /* fgets() failed; handle error */
   }
}

The  fgets()  function is not a strict replacement for the  gets()  function because  fgets()  retains the newline character (if read) and may also return a partial line. It is possible to use  fgets()  to safely process input lines too long to store in the destination array, but this is not recommended for performance reasons. Consider using one of the following compliant solutions when replacing  gets() .

Compliant Solution ( gets_s() )

The  gets_s()  function reads, at most, one less than the number of characters specified from the stream pointed to by  stdin  into an array.

The C Standard, Annex K [ISO/IEC 9899:2011], states

No additional characters are read after a new-line character (which is discarded) or after end-of-file. The discarded new-line character does not count towards number of characters read. A null character is written immediately after the last character read into the array.

If end-of-file is encountered and no characters have been read into the destination array, or if a read error occurs during the operation, then the first character in the destination array is set to the null character and the other elements of the array take unspecified values:

#define __STDC_WANT_LIB_EXT1__ 1
#include <stdio.h>
   
enum { BUFFERSIZE = 32 };
   
void func( void ) {
   char buf[BUFFERSIZE];
 
   if (gets_s(buf, sizeof (buf)) == NULL) {
     /* Handle error */
   }
}

Compliant Solution ( getline() , POSIX)

The  getline()  function is similar to the fgets() function but can dynamically allocate memory for the input buffer. If passed a null pointer,  getline() dynamically allocates a buffer of sufficient size to hold the input. If passed a pointer to dynamically allocated storage that is too small to hold the contents of the string, the  getline()  function resizes the buffer, using  realloc() , rather than truncating the input. If successful, the  getline()  function returns the number of characters read, which can be used to determine if the input has any null characters before the newline. The getline() function works only with dynamically allocated buffers. Allocated memory must be explicitly deallocated by the caller to avoid memory leaks. (See MEM31-C. Free dynamically allocated memory when no longer needed.)

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <string.h>
   
void func( void ) {
   int ch;
   size_t buffer_size = 32;
   char *buffer = malloc (buffer_size);
   
   if (!buffer) {
     /* Handle error */
     return ;
   }
 
   if ((ssize_t size = getline(&buffer, &buffer_size, stdin))
         == -1) {
     /* Handle error */
   } else {
     char *p = strchr (buffer, '\n' );
     if (p) {
       *p = '\0' ;
     } else {
       /* Newline not found; flush stdin to end of line */
       while ((ch = getchar ()) != '\n' && ch != EOF)
         ;
       if (ch == EOF && ! feof (stdin) && ! ferror (stdin)) {
          /* Character resembles EOF; handle error */
       }
     }
   }
   free (buffer);
}

Note that the getline()  function uses an in-band error indicator, in violation of ERR02-C. Avoid in-band error indicators.

Noncompliant Code Example ( getchar() )

Reading one character at a time provides more flexibility in controlling behavior, though with additional performance overhead. This noncompliant code example uses the  getchar()  function to read one character at a time from  stdin  instead of reading the entire line at once. The  stdin  stream is read until end-of-file is encountered or a newline character is read. Any newline character is discarded, and a null character is written immediately after the last character read into the array. Similar to the noncompliant code example that invokes gets() , there are no guarantees that this code will not result in a buffer overflow.

#include <stdio.h>
   
enum { BUFFERSIZE = 32 };
   
void func( void ) {
   char buf[BUFFERSIZE];
   char *p;
   int ch;
   p = buf;
   while ((ch = getchar ()) != '\n' && ch != EOF) {
     *p++ = ( char )ch;
   }
   *p++ = 0;
   if (ch == EOF) {
       /* Handle EOF or error */
   }
}

After the loop ends, if ch == EOF , the loop has read through to the end of the stream without encountering a newline character, or a read error occurred before the loop encountered a newline character. To conform to FIO34-C. Distinguish between characters read from a file and EOF or WEOF, the error-handling code must verify that an end-of-file or error has occurred by calling feof() or ferror() .

Compliant Solution ( getchar() )

In this compliant solution, characters are no longer copied to  buf  once  index == BUFFERSIZE - 1 , leaving room to null-terminate the string. The loop continues to read characters until the end of the line, the end of the file, or an error is encountered. When chars_read > index , the input string has been truncated.

#include <stdio.h>
   
enum { BUFFERSIZE = 32 };
   
void func( void ) {
   char buf[BUFFERSIZE];
   int ch;
   size_t index = 0;
   size_t chars_read = 0;
   
   while ((ch = getchar ()) != '\n' && ch != EOF) {
     if (index < sizeof (buf) - 1) {
       buf[index++] = ( char )ch;
     }
     chars_read++;
   }
   buf[index] = '\0' /* Terminate string */
   if (ch == EOF) {
     /* Handle EOF or error */
   }
   if (chars_read > index) {
     /* Handle truncation */
   }
}

Noncompliant Code Example ( fscanf() )

In this noncompliant example, the call to fscanf() can result in a write outside the character array buf :

#include <stdio.h>
   
enum { BUF_LENGTH = 1024 };
   
void get_data( void ) {
   char buf[BUF_LENGTH];
   if (1 != fscanf (stdin, "%s" , buf)) {
     /* Handle error */
   }
 
   /* Rest of function */
}

Compliant Solution ( fscanf() )

In this compliant solution, the call to fscanf() is constrained not to overflow buf :

#include <stdio.h>
   
enum { BUF_LENGTH = 1024 };
   
void get_data( void ) {
   char buf[BUF_LENGTH];
   if (1 != fscanf (stdin, "%1023s" , buf)) {
     /* Handle error */
   }
 
   /* Rest of function */
}

Noncompliant Code Example ( argv )

In a hosted environment, arguments read from the command line are stored in process memory. The function main() , called at program startup, is typically declared as follows when the program accepts command-line arguments:

int main( int argc, char *argv[]) { /* ... */ }

Command-line arguments are passed to main() as pointers to strings in the array members argv[0] through argv[argc - 1] . If the value of argc is greater than 0, the string pointed to by argv[0] is, by convention, the program name. If the value of argc is greater than 1, the strings referenced by argv[1] through argv[argc - 1] are the program arguments.

Vulnerabilities can occur when inadequate space is allocated to copy a command-line argument or other program input. In this noncompliant code example, an attacker can manipulate the contents of argv[0] to cause a buffer overflow:

#include <string.h>
   
int main( int argc, char *argv[]) {
   /* Ensure argv[0] is not null */
   const char * const name = (argc && argv[0]) ? argv[0] : "" ;
   char prog_name[128];
   strcpy (prog_name, name);
   
   return 0;
}

Compliant Solution ( argv )

The strlen() function can be used to determine the length of the strings referenced by argv[0] through argv[argc - 1] so that adequate memory can be dynamically allocated.

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <string.h>
   
int main( int argc, char *argv[]) {
   /* Ensure argv[0] is not null */
   const char * const name = (argc && argv[0]) ? argv[0] : "" ;
   char *prog_name = ( char *) malloc ( strlen (name) + 1);
   if (prog_name != NULL) {
     strcpy (prog_name, name);
   } else {
     /* Handle error */
   }
   free (prog_name);
   return 0;
}

Remember to add a byte to the destination string size to accommodate the null-termination character.

Compliant Solution ( argv )

The strcpy_s() function provides additional safeguards, including accepting the size of the destination buffer as an additional argument. (See STR07-C. Use the bounds-checking interfaces for string manipulation.)

#define __STDC_WANT_LIB_EXT1__ 1
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <string.h>
   
int main( int argc, char *argv[]) {
   /* Ensure argv[0] is not null */
   const char * const name = (argc && argv[0]) ? argv[0] : "" ;
   char *prog_name;
   size_t prog_size;
 
   prog_size = strlen (name) + 1;
   prog_name = ( char *) malloc (prog_size);
 
   if (prog_name != NULL) {
     if (strcpy_s(prog_name, prog_size, name)) {
       /* Handle  error */
     }
   } else {
     /* Handle error */
   }
   /* ... */
   free (prog_name);
   return 0;
}

The strcpy_s() function can be used to copy data to or from dynamically allocated memory or a statically allocated array. If insufficient space is available, strcpy_s() returns an error.

Compliant Solution ( argv )

If an argument will not be modified or concatenated, there is no reason to make a copy of the string. Not copying a string is the best way to prevent a buffer overflow and is also the most efficient solution. Care must be taken to avoid assuming that argv[0] is non-null.

int main( int argc, char *argv[]) {
   /* Ensure argv[0] is not null */
   const char * const prog_name = (argc && argv[0]) ? argv[0] : "" ;
   /* ... */
   return 0;
}

Noncompliant Code Example ( getenv() )

According to the C Standard, 7.22.4.6 [ISO/IEC 9899:2011]

The getenv function searches an environment list, provided by the host environment, for a string that matches the string pointed to by name . The set of environment names and the method for altering the environment list are implementation defined.

Environment variables can be arbitrarily large, and copying them into fixed-length arrays without first determining the size and allocating adequate storage can result in a buffer overflow.

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <string.h>
   
void func( void ) {
   char buff[256];
   char *editor = getenv ( "EDITOR" );
   if (editor == NULL) {
     /* EDITOR environment variable not set */
   } else {
     strcpy (buff, editor);
   }
}

Compliant Solution ( getenv() )

Environmental variables are loaded into process memory when the program is loaded. As a result, the length of these strings can be determined by calling the strlen() function, and the resulting length can be used to allocate adequate dynamic memory:

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <string.h>
   
void func( void ) {
   char *buff;
   char *editor = getenv ( "EDITOR" );
   if (editor == NULL) {
     /* EDITOR environment variable not set */
   } else {
     size_t len = strlen (editor) + 1;
     buff = ( char *) malloc (len);
     if (buff == NULL) {
       /* Handle error */
    
     memcpy (buff, editor, len);
     free (buff);
   }
}

Noncompliant Code Example ( sprintf() )

In this noncompliant code example, name refers to an external string; it could have originated from user input, the file system, or the network. The program constructs a file name from the string in preparation for opening the file.

#include <stdio.h>
   
void func( const char *name) {
   char filename[128];
   sprintf (filename, "%s.txt" , name);
}

Because the sprintf() function makes no guarantees regarding the length of the generated string, a sufficiently long string in name could generate a buffer overflow.

Compliant Solution ( sprintf() )

The buffer overflow in the preceding noncompliant example can be prevented by adding a precision to the %s conversion specification. If the precision is specified, no more than that many bytes are written. The precision 123 in this compliant solution ensures that filename can contain the first 123 characters of name , the .txt extension, and the null terminator.

#include <stdio.h>
   
void func( const char *name) {
   char filename[128];
   sprintf (filename, "%.123s.txt" , name);
}

Compliant Solution ( snprintf() )

A more general solution is to use the snprintf() function:

#include <stdio.h>
   
void func( const char *name) {
   char filename[128];
   snprintf(filename, sizeof (filename), "%s.txt" , name);
}