Secure Coding in C and C++ / Edition 2

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Learn the Root Causes of Software Vulnerabilities and How to Avoid Them

Commonly exploited software vulnerabilities are usually caused by avoidable software defects. Having analyzed tens of thousands of vulnerability reports since 1988, CERT has determined that a relatively small number of root causes account for most of the vulnerabilities.

Secure Coding in C and C++, Second Edition, identifies and explains these root causes and shows the steps that can be taken to prevent exploitation. Moreover, this book encourages programmers to adopt security best practices and to develop a security mindset that can help protect software from tomorrow’s attacks, not just today’s. Drawing on the CERT’s reports and conclusions, Robert C. Seacord systematically identifies the program errors most likely to lead to security breaches, shows how they can be exploited, reviews the potential consequences, and presents secure alternatives.

Coverage includes technical detail on how to

  • Improve the overall security of any C or C++ application
  • Thwart buffer overflows, stack-smashing, and return-oriented programming attacks that exploit insecure string manipulation logic
  • Avoid vulnerabilities and security flaws resulting from the incorrect use of dynamic memory management functions
  • Eliminate integer-related problems resulting from signed integer overflows, unsigned integer wrapping, and truncation errors
  • Perform secure I/O, avoiding file system vulnerabilities
  • Correctly use formatted output functions without introducing format-string vulnerabilities
  • Avoid race conditions and other exploitable vulnerabilities while developing concurrent code

The second edition features

  • Updates for C11 and C++11
  • Significant revisions to chapters on strings, dynamic memory management, and integer security
  • A new chapter on concurrency
  • Access to the online secure coding course offered through Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI)

Secure Coding in C and C++, Second Edition, presents hundreds of examples of secure code, insecure code, and exploits, implemented for Windows and Linux. If you’re responsible for creating secure C or C++ software–or for keeping it safe–no other book offers you this much detailed, expert assistance.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780321822130
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley
  • Publication date: 4/12/2013
  • Series: SEI Series in Software Engineering Series
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 569
  • Sales rank: 782,273
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert C. Seacord is currently the Secure Coding Technical Manager in the CERT Program of Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute (SEI). He is the author or coauthor of five books, including The CERT ® C Secure Coding Standard (Addison-Wesley, 2009), and is the author and instructor of a video training series, Professional C Programming LiveLessons, Part I: Writing Robust, Secure, Reliable Code (Addison-Wesley, 2013).
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Read an Excerpt

The CERT Coordination Center® (CERT/CC) was formed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in November 1988 in response to the Morris worm incident, which brought 10 percent of Internet systems to a halt in November 1988. The CERT/CC is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The initial focus of the CERT/CC was incident response and analysis. Incidents include successful attacks such as compromises and denial of service, as well as attack attempts, probes, and scans. Since 1988, the CERT/CC has received more than 22,665 hotline calls reporting computer security incidents or requesting information, and has handled more than 319,992 computer security incidents. The number of incidents reported each year continues to grow.

Responding to incidents, while necessary, is insufficient to secure the Internet and interconnected information systems. Analysis indicates that the majority of incidents are caused by trojans, social engineering, and the exploitation of software vulnerabilities, including software defects, design decisions, configuration decisions, and unexpected interactions between systems. The CERT/CC monitors public sources of vulnerability information and regularly receives reports of vulnerabilities. Since 1995, more than 16,726 vulnerabilities have been reported. When a report is received, the CERT/CC analyzes the potential vulnerability and works with technology producers to inform them of security deficiencies in their products and to facilitate and track their response to those problems.Similar to incidentreports, vulnerability reports continue to grow at an alarming rate. While managing vulnerabilities pushes the process upstream, it is again insufficient to address the issues of Internet and information system security. To address the growing number of both vulnerabilities and incidents, it is increasingly apparent that the problem must be attacked at the source by working to prevent the introduction of software vulnerabilities during software development and ongoing maintenance. Analysis of existing vulnerabilities indicates that a relatively small number of root causes account for the majority of vulnerabilities. The goal of this book is to educate developers about these root causes and the steps that can be taken so that vulnerabilities are not introduced.Audience

Secure Coding in C and C++ should be useful to anyone involved in the development or maintenance of software in C and C++.

  • For a C/C++ programmer, this book will teach you how to identify common programming errors that result in software vulnerabilities, understand how these errors are exploited, and implement a solution in a secure fashion.
  • For a software project manager, this book identifies the risks and consequences of software vulnerabilities to guide investments in developing secure software.
  • For a computer science student, this book will teach you programming practices that will help you to avoid developing bad habits and enable you to develop secure programs during your professional career.
  • For a security analyst, this book provides a detailed description of common vulnerabilities, identifies ways to detect these vulnerabilities, and offers practical avoidance strategies.
Organization and Content

Secure Coding in C and C++ provides practical guidance on secure practices in C and C++ programming. Producing secure programs requires secure designs. However, even the best designs can lead to insecure programs if developers are unaware of the many security pitfalls inherent in C and C++ programming. This book provides a detailed explanation of common programming errors in C and C++ and describes how these errors can lead to code that is vulnerable to exploitation. The book concentrates on security issues intrinsic to the C and C++ programming languages and associated libraries. It does not emphasize security issues involving interactions with external systems such as databases and Web servers, as these are rich topics on their own. The intent is that this book be useful to anyone involved in developing secure C and C++ programs regardless of the specific application.

Secure Coding in C and C++ is organized around functional capabilities commonly implemented by software engineers that have potential security consequences, such as formatted output and arithmetic operations. Each chapter describes insecure programming practices and common errors that can lead to vulnerabilities, how these programming flaws can be exploited, the potential consequences of exploitation, and secure alternatives. Root causes of software vulnerabilities, such as buffer overflows, integer type range errors, and invalid format strings, are identified and explained where applicable. Strategies for securely implementing functional capabilities are described in each chapter, as well as techniques for discovering vulnerabilities in existing code.

This book contains the following chapters:

  • Chapter 1 provides an overview of the problem, introduces security terms and concepts, and provides insight as to why so many vulnerabilities are found in C and C++ programs.
  • Chapter 2 describes string manipulation in C and C++, common security flaws, and resulting vulnerabilities including buffer overflow and stack smashing. Both code and arc injection exploits are examined.
  • Chapter 3 introduces arbitrary memory write exploits that allows an attacker to write a single address to any location in memory. This chapter describes how these exploits can be used to execute arbitrary code on a compromised machine. Vulnerabilities resulting from arbitrary memory writes are discussed in later chapters.
  • Chapter 4 describes dynamic memory management. Dynamically allocated buffer overflows, writing to freed memory, and double-free vulnerabilities are described.
  • Chapter 5 covers integral security issues (security issues dealing with integers) including integer overflows, sign errors, and truncation errors.
  • Chapter 6 describes the correct and incorrect use of formatted output functions. Both format string and buffer overflow vulnerabilities resulting from the incorrect use of these functions are described.
  • Chapter 7 describes common vulnerabilities associated with file I/O including race conditions and time of creation, time of use (TOCTOU) vulnerabilities.
  • Chapter 8 recommends specific development practices for improving the overall security of your C / C++ application. These recommendations are in addition to the recommendations included in each chapter for addressing specific vulnerability classes.

Secure Coding in C and C++ contains hundreds of examples of secure and insecure code as well as sample exploits. Almost all of these examples are in C and C++, although comparisons are drawn with other languages. The examples are implemented for Windows and Linux operating systems. Unless otherwise stated, Microsoft Windows examples are compiled using Visual C++ .NET and tested on Windows 2000 Professional platform with an Intel Pentium 4 processor, while Linux examples are compiled with GNU gcc/g++ and tested running Red Hat Linux 9 on an Intel Pentium 4 processor.

While the specific examples typically have been compiled and tested in one or more of these environments, vulnerabilities are evaluated to determine whether they are specific to or generalizable across compiler version, operating system, microprocessor, applicable C or C++ standards, little or big endian architectures, and execution stack architecture.

This book focuses on programming flaws in C and C++ that are the most common causes of software vulnerability. However, because of size and space constraints, not every potential source of vulnerabilities is covered. Additional and updated information, events, and news related to Secure Coding in C and C++ is available at Vulnerabilities discussed in the book are also cross-referenced with real-world examples from the US-CERT Vulnerability Notes Database at

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Table of Contents

Foreword xvii

Preface xxi

Acknowledgments xxv

About the Author xxvii

Chapter 1: Running with Scissors 1

1.1 Gauging the Threat 5

1.2 Security Concepts 12

1.3 C and C++ 17

1.4 Development Platforms 25

1.5 Summary 27

1.6 Further Reading 28

Chapter 2: Strings 29

2.1 Character Strings 29

2.2 Common String Manipulation Errors 42

2.3 String Vulnerabilities and Exploits 50

2.4 Mitigation Strategies for Strings 72

2.5 String-Handling Functions 84

2.6 Runtime Protection Strategies 101

2.7 Notable Vulnerabilities 117

2.8 Summary 118

2.9 Further Reading 120

Chapter 3: Pointer Subterfuge 121

3.1 Data Locations 122

3.2 Function Pointers 123

3.3 Object Pointers 124

3.4 Modifying the Instruction Pointer 125

3.5 Global Offset Table 127

3.6 The .dtorsSection 129

3.7 Virtual Pointers 131

3.8 The atexit()and on_exit()Functions 133

3.9 The longjmp()Function 134

3.10 Exception Handling 136

3.11 Mitigation Strategies 139

3.12 Summary 142

3.13 Further Reading 143

Chapter 4: Dynamic Memory Management 145

4.1 C Memory Management 146

4.2 Common C Memory Management Errors 151

4.3 C++ Dynamic Memory Management 162

4.4 Common C++ Memory Management Errors 172

4.5 Memory Managers 180

4.6 Doug Lea’s Memory Allocator 182

4.7 Double-Free Vulnerabilities 191

4.8 Mitigation Strategies 212

4.9 Notable Vulnerabilities 222

4.10 Summary 224

Chapter 5: Integer Security 225

5.1 Introduction to Integer Security 225

5.2 Integer Data Types 226

5.3 Integer Conversions 246

5.4 Integer Operations 256

5.5 Integer Vulnerabilities 283

5.6 Mitigation Strategies 288

5.7 Summary 307

Chapter 6: Formatted Output 309

6.1 Variadic Functions 310

6.2 Formatted Output Functions 313

6.3 Exploiting Formatted Output Functions 319

6.4 Stack Randomization 332

6.5 Mitigation Strategies 337

6.6 Notable Vulnerabilities 348

6.7 Summary 349

6.8 Further Reading 351

Chapter 7: Concurrency 353

7.1 Multithreading 354

7.2 Parallelism 355

7.3 Performance Goals 359

7.4 Common Errors 362

7.5 Mitigation Strategies 368

7.6 Mitigation Pitfalls 384

7.7 Notable Vulnerabilities 399

7.8 Summary 401

Chapter 8: File I/O 403

8.1 File I/O Basics 403

8.2 File I/O Interfaces 407

8.3 Access Control 413

8.4 File Identification 432

8.5 Race Conditions 450

8.6 Mitigation Strategies 461

8.7 Summary 472

Chapter 9: Recommended Practices 473

9.1 The Security Development Lifecycle 474

9.2 Security Training 480

9.3 Requirements 481

9.4 Design 486

9.5 Implementation 503

9.6 Verification 512

9.7 Summary 518

9.8 Further Reading 518

References 519

Acronyms 539

Index 545

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