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Integer conversions, both implicit and explicit (using a cast), must be guaranteed not to result in lost or misinterpreted data. This rule is particularly true for integer values that originate from untrusted sources and are used in any of the following ways:

  • Integer operands of any pointer arithmetic, including array indexing
  • The assignment expression for the declaration of a variable length array
  • The postfix expression preceding square brackets [] or the expression in square brackets [] of a subscripted designation of an element of an array object
  • Function arguments of type size_t or rsize_t (for example, an argument to a memory allocation function)

This rule also applies to arguments passed to the following library functions that are converted to unsigned char:

  • memset()
  • memset_s()
  • fprintf() and related functions (For the length modifier c, if no l length modifier is present, the int argument is converted to an unsigned char, and the resulting character is written.)
  • fputc()
  • ungetc()
  • memchr()

and to arguments to the following library functions that are converted to char:

  • strchr()
  • strrchr()
  • All of the functions listed in <ctype.h>

The only integer type conversions that are guaranteed to be safe for all data values and all possible conforming implementations are conversions of an integral value to a wider type of the same signedness. The C Standard, subclause 6.3.1.3 [ISO/IEC 9899:2011], says

When a value with integer type is converted to another integer type other than _Bool, if the value can be represented by the new type, it is unchanged.

Otherwise, if the new type is unsigned, the value is converted by repeatedly adding or subtracting one more than the maximum value that can be represented in the new type until the value is in the range of the new type.

Otherwise, the new type is signed and the value cannot be represented in it; either the result is implementation-defined or an implementation-defined signal is raised.

Typically, converting an integer to a smaller type results in truncation of the high-order bits.

Noncompliant Code Example (Unsigned to Signed)

Type range errors, including loss of data (truncation) and loss of sign (sign errors), can occur when converting from a value of an unsigned integer type to a value of a signed integer type. This noncompliant code example results in a truncation error on most implementations:

#include <limits.h>
 
void func(void) {
  unsigned long int u_a = ULONG_MAX;
  signed char sc;
  sc = (signed char)u_a; /* Cast eliminates warning */
  /* ... */
}

Compliant Solution (Unsigned to Signed)

Validate ranges when converting from an unsigned type to a signed type. This compliant solution can be used to convert a value of unsigned long int type to a value of signed char type:

#include <limits.h>
 
void func(void) {
  unsigned long int u_a = ULONG_MAX;
  signed char sc;
  if (u_a <= SCHAR_MAX) {
    sc = (signed char)u_a;  /* Cast eliminates warning */
  } else {
    /* Handle error */
  }
}

Noncompliant Code Example (Signed to Unsigned)

Type range errors, including loss of data (truncation) and loss of sign (sign errors), can occur when converting from a value of a signed type to a value of an unsigned type. This noncompliant code example results in a loss of sign:

#include <limits.h>

void func(void) {
  signed int si = INT_MIN;
  /* Cast eliminates warning */
  unsigned int ui = (unsigned int)si;

  /* ... */
}

Compliant Solution (Signed to Unsigned)

Validate ranges when converting from a signed type to an unsigned type. This compliant solution converts a value of a signed int type to a value of an unsigned int type:

#include <limits.h>

void func(void) {
  signed int si = INT_MIN;
  unsigned int ui;
  if (si < 0) {
    /* Handle error */
  } else {
    ui = (unsigned int)si;  /* Cast eliminates warning */
  }
  /* ... */
}

Subclause 6.2.5, paragraph 9, of the C Standard [ISO/IEC 9899:2011] provides the necessary guarantees to ensure this solution works on a conforming implementation:

The range of nonnegative values of a signed integer type is a subrange of the corresponding unsigned integer type, and the representation of the same value in each type is the same.

Noncompliant Code Example (Signed, Loss of Precision)

A loss of data (truncation) can occur when converting from a value of a signed integer type to a value of a signed type with less precision. This noncompliant code example results in a truncation error on most implementations:

#include <limits.h>

void func(void) {
  signed long int s_a = LONG_MAX;
  signed char sc = (signed char)s_a; /* Cast eliminates warning */
  /* ... */
}

Compliant Solution (Signed, Loss of Precision)

Validate ranges when converting from a signed type to a signed type with less precision. This compliant solution converts a value of a signed long int type to a value of a signed char type:

#include <limits.h>

void func(void) {
  signed long int s_a = LONG_MAX;
  signed char sc;
  if ((s_a < SCHAR_MIN) || (s_a > SCHAR_MAX)) {
    /* Handle error */
  } else {
    sc = (signed char)s_a; /* Use cast to eliminate warning */
  }
  /* ... */
}

Conversions from a value of a signed integer type to a value of a signed integer type with less precision requires that both the upper and lower bounds are checked.

Noncompliant Code Example (Unsigned, Loss of Precision)

A loss of data (truncation) can occur when converting from a value of an unsigned integer type to a value of an unsigned type with less precision. This noncompliant code example results in a truncation error on most implementations:

#include <limits.h>

void func(void) {
  unsigned long int u_a = ULONG_MAX;
  unsigned char uc = (unsigned char)u_a; /* Cast eliminates warning */
  /* ... */
}

Compliant Solution (Unsigned, Loss of Precision)

Validate ranges when converting a value of an unsigned integer type to a value of an unsigned integer type with less precision. This compliant solution converts a value of an unsigned long int type to a value of an unsigned char type:

#include <limits.h>

void func(void) {
  unsigned long int u_a = ULONG_MAX;
  unsigned char uc;
  if (u_a > UCHAR_MAX) {
    /* Handle error */
  } else {
    uc = (unsigned char)u_a; /* Cast eliminates warning */
  }
  /* ... */
}

Conversions from unsigned types with greater precision to unsigned types with less precision require only the upper bounds to be checked.

Noncompliant Code Example (time_t Return Value)

The time() function returns the value (time_t)(-1) to indicate that the calendar time is not available. The C Standard requires that the time_t type is only a real type capable of representing time. (The integer and real floating types are collectively called real types.) It is left to the implementor to decide the best real type to use to represent time. If time_t is implemented as an unsigned integer type with less precision than a signed int, the return value of time() will never compare equal to the integer literal -1.

#include <time.h>
 
void func(void) {
  time_t now = time(NULL);
  if (now != -1) {
    /* Continue processing */
  }
}

Compliant Solution (time_t Return Value)

To ensure the comparison is properly performed, the return value of time() should be compared against -1 cast to type time_t:

#include <time.h>
 
void func(void) {
  time_t now = time(NULL);
  if (now != (time_t)-1) {
    /* Continue processing */
  }
}

This solution is in accordance with INT18-C. Evaluate integer expressions in a larger size before comparing or assigning to that size.

Noncompliant Code Example (memset())

For historical reasons, certain C Standard functions accept an argument of type int and convert it to either unsigned char or plain char. This conversion can result in unexpected behavior if the value cannot be represented in the smaller type. This noncompliant solution unexpectedly clears the array:

#include <string.h>
#include <stddef.h>
 
int *init_memory(int *array, size_t n) {
  return memset(array, 4096, n); 
} 

Compliant Solution (memset())

In general, the memset() function should not be used to initialize an integer array unless it is to set or clear all the bits, as in this compliant solution:

#include <string.h>
#include <stddef.h>

int *init_memory(int *array, size_t n) {
  return memset(array, 0, n); 
} 

Exceptions

INT31-C-EX1: The C Standard defines minimum ranges for standard integer types. For example, the minimum range for an object of type unsigned short int is 0 to 65,535, whereas the minimum range for int is −32,767 to +32,767. Consequently, it is not always possible to represent all possible values of an unsigned short int as an int. However, on the IA-32 architecture, for example, the actual integer range is from −2,147,483,648 to +2,147,483,647, meaning that it is quite possible to represent all the values of an unsigned short int as an int for this architecture. As a result, it is not necessary to provide a test for this conversion on IA-32. It is not possible to make assumptions about conversions without knowing the precision of the underlying types. If these tests are not provided, assumptions concerning precision must be clearly documented, as the resulting code cannot be safely ported to a system where these assumptions are invalid. A good way to document these assumptions is to use static assertions. (See DCL03-C. Use a static assertion to test the value of a constant expression.)

INT31-C-EX2: Conversion from any integer type with a value between SCHAR_MIN and UCHAR_MAX to a character type is permitted provided the value represents a character and not an integer.

Conversions to unsigned character types are well defined by C to have modular behavior. A character's value is not misinterpreted by the loss of sign or conversion to a negative number. For example, the Euro symbol is sometimes represented by bit pattern 0x80 which can have the numerical value 128 or −127 depending on the signedness of the type.

Conversions to signed character types are more problematic. The C Standard, subclause 6.3.1.3, paragraph 3 [ISO/IEC 9899:2011], says, regarding conversions

Otherwise, the new type is signed and the value cannot be represented in it; either the result is implementation-defined or an implementation-defined signal is raised.

Furthermore, subclause 6.2.6.2, paragraph 2, says, regarding integer modifications

If the sign bit is one, the value shall be modified in one of the following ways:
— the corresponding value with sign bit 0 is negated (sign and magnitude)
— the sign bit has the value −(2M ) (two’s complement);
— the sign bit has the value −(2M − 1) (ones’ complement).

Which of these applies is implementation-defined, as is whether the value with sign bit 1 and all value bits zero (for the first two), or with sign bit and all value bits 1 (for ones’ complement), is a trap representation or a normal value. [See note.]

          NOTE: Two's complement is shorthand for "radix complement in radix 2." Ones' complement is shorthand for "diminished radix complement in radix 2."

Consequently, the standard allows for this code to trap:

int i = 128; /* 1000 0000 in binary */
assert(SCHAR_MAX == 127);
signed char c = i; /* can trap */

However, platforms where this code traps or produces an unexpected value are rare. According to The New C Standard: An Economic and Cultural Commentary by Derek Jones [Jones 2008],

Implementations with such trap representations are thought to have existed in the past. Your author was unable to locate any documents describing such processors.

Risk Assessment

Integer truncation errors can lead to buffer overflows and the execution of arbitrary code by an attacker.

Rule

Severity

Likelihood

Remediation Cost

Priority

Level

INT31-C

High

Probable

High

P6

L2

Automated Detection

Tool

Version

Checker

Description

Astrée
19.04

Supported via MISRA C:2012 Rules 10.1, 10.3, 10.4, 10.6 and 10.7
CodeSonar
5.1p0

LANG.CAST.PC.AV
LANG.CAST.PC.CONST2PTR
LANG.CAST.PC.INT

LANG.CAST.COERCE
LANG.CAST.VALUE

ALLOC.SIZE.TRUNC
MISC.MEM.SIZE.TRUNC

LANG.MEM.TBA

Cast: arithmetic type/void pointer
Conversion: integer constant to pointer
Conversion: pointer/integer

Coercion alters value
Cast alters value

Truncation of allocation size
Truncation of size

Tainted buffer access

Compass/ROSE

Can detect violations of this rule. However, false warnings may be raised if limits.h is included

Coverity*

2017.07

NEGATIVE_RETURNS

REVERSE_NEGATIVE

MISRA_CAST

Can find array accesses, loop bounds, and other expressions that may contain dangerous implied integer conversions that would result in unexpected behavior

Can find instances where a negativity check occurs after the negative value has been used for something else

Can find instances where an integer expression is implicitly converted to a narrower integer type, where the signedness of an integer value is implicitly converted, or where the type of a complex expression is implicitly converted

 Cppcheck
 1.66
memsetValueOutOfRangeThe second argument to memset() cannot be represented as unsigned char
Klocwork
2018

PRECISION.LOSS
PRECISION.LOSS.CALL


LDRA tool suite
9.7.1

93 S, 433 S, 434 S

Partially implemented
Parasoft C/C++test

10.4.2

CERT_C-INT31-a
CERT_C-INT31-b
CERT_C-INT31-c
CERT_C-INT31-d
CERT_C-INT31-e
CERT_C-INT31-f
CERT_C-INT31-g
CERT_C-INT31-h
CERT_C-INT31-i
CERT_C-INT31-j
CERT_C-INT31-k
CERT_C-INT31-l
CERT_C-INT31-m
CERT_C-INT31-n

An expression of essentially Boolean type should always be used where an operand is interpreted as a Boolean value
An operand of essentially Boolean type should not be used where an operand is interpreted as a numeric value
An operand of essentially character type should not be used where an operand is interpreted as a numeric value
An operand of essentially enum type should not be used in an arithmetic operation
Shift and bitwise operations should not be performed on operands of essentially signed or enum type
An operand of essentially signed or enum type should not be used as the right hand operand to the bitwise shifting operator
An operand of essentially unsigned type should not be used as the operand to the unary minus operator
The value of an expression shall not be assigned to an object with a narrower essential type
The value of an expression shall not be assigned to an object of a different essential type category
Both operands of an operator in which the usual arithmetic conversions are performed shall have the same essential type category
The second and third operands of the ternary operator shall have the same essential type category
The value of a composite expression shall not be assigned to an object with wider essential type
If a composite expression is used as one operand of an operator in which the usual arithmetic conversions are performed then the other operand shall not have wider essential type
If a composite expression is used as one (second or third) operand of a conditional operator then the other operand shall not have wider essential type

Polyspace Bug Finder

R2019b

CERT C: Rule INT31-C


Checks for:

  • Integer conversion overflow
  • Call to memset with unintended value
  • Sign change integer conversion overflow
  • Tainted sign change conversion
  • Unsigned integer conversion overflow

Rule partially covered.

PRQA QA-C
9.5

2850, 2851, 2852, 2853, 2855, 2856, 2857, 2858,

2890, 2891, 2892, 2893, 2895, 2896, 2897, 2898

2900, 2901, 2902, 2903, 2905, 2906, 2907, 2908

Partially implemented
PRQA QA-C++
4.3

2850, 2851, 2852, 2853, 2855, 2856, 2857, 2858,

2890, 2891, 2892, 2893, 2895, 2896, 2897, 2898,

2900, 2901, 2902, 2903, 2905, 2906, 2907, 2908,

3000, 3010


PVS-Studio

6.23

V569, V642, V724, V739
RuleChecker

19.04


Supported via MISRA C:2012 Rules 10.1, 10.3, 10.4, 10.6 and 10.7
TrustInSoft Analyzer

1.38

signed_downcastExhaustively verified.

* Coverity Prevent cannot discover all violations of this rule, so further verification is necessary.

Related Vulnerabilities

CVE-2009-1376 results from a violation of this rule. In version 2.5.5 of Pidgin, a size_t offset is set to the value of a 64-bit unsigned integer, which can lead to truncation [xorl 2009] on platforms where a size_t is implemented as a 32-bit unsigned integer. An attacker can execute arbitrary code by carefully choosing this value and causing a buffer overflow.

Search for vulnerabilities resulting from the violation of this rule on the CERT website.

Related Guidelines

Key here (explains table format and definitions)

Taxonomy

Taxonomy item

Relationship

CERT CDCL03-C. Use a static assertion to test the value of a constant expressionPrior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
CERT CINT18-C. Evaluate integer expressions in a larger size before comparing or assigning to that sizePrior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
CERT CFIO34-C. Distinguish between characters read from a file and EOF or WEOFPrior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for JavaNUM12-J. Ensure conversions of numeric types to narrower types do not result in lost or misinterpreted dataPrior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
ISO/IEC TR 24772:2013Numeric Conversion Errors [FLC]Prior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
MISRA C:2012Rule 10.1 (required)Prior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
MISRA C:2012Rule 10.3 (required)Prior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
MISRA C:2012Rule 10.4 (required)Prior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
MISRA C:2012Rule 10.6 (required)Prior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
MISRA C:2012Rule 10.7 (required)Prior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
CWE 2.11CWE-192, Integer Coercion Error2017-07-17: CERT: Exact
CWE 2.11CWE-197, Numeric Truncation Error2017-06-14: CERT: Rule subset of CWE
CWE 2.11CWE-681, Incorrect Conversion between Numeric Types2017-07-17: CERT: Rule subset of CWE
CWE 2.11CWE-7042017-07-17: CERT: Rule subset of CWE

CERT-CWE Mapping Notes

Key here for mapping notes

CWE-195 and INT31-C

CWE-195 = Subset( CWE-192)

INT31-C = Union( CWE-195, list) where list =

  • Unsigned-to-signed conversion error
  • Truncation that does not change sign

CWE-197 and INT31-C

See CWE-197 and FLP34-C

CWE-194 and INT31-C

CWE-194 = Subset( CWE-192)

INT31-C = Union( CWE-194, list) where list =

  • Integer conversion that truncates significant data, but without loss of sign

CWE-20 and INT31-C

See CWE-20 and ERR34-C

CWE-704 and INT31-C

CWE-704 = Union( INT31-C, list) where list =

  • Improper type casts where either the source or target type is not an integral type

CWE-681 and INT31-C

CWE-681 = Union( INT31-C, FLP34-C)

Intersection( INT31-C, FLP34-C) = Ø

Bibliography

[Dowd 2006]Chapter 6, "C Language Issues" ("Type Conversions," pp. 223–270)
[ISO/IEC 9899:2011]6.3.1.3, "Signed and Unsigned Integers"
[Jones 2008]Section 6.2.6.2, "Integer Types"
[Seacord 2013b]Chapter 5, "Integer Security"
[Viega 2005]Section 5.2.9, "Truncation Error"
Section 5.2.10, "Sign Extension Error"
Section 5.2.11, "Signed to Unsigned Conversion Error"
Section 5.2.12, "Unsigned to Signed Conversion Error"
[Warren 2002]Chapter 2, "Basics"
[xorl 2009]"CVE-2009-1376: Pidgin MSN SLP Integer Truncation"



8 Comments

  1. There's one more signed to unsigned type conversion that might be worth mentioning. Basically, when you go from a narrow signed type to a wider unsigned type, it somewhat counter-intuitively performs sign-extension, and it's necessarily value changing. Something like:

    unsigned int bob;
    signed char fred = -1;
    
    bob = (unsigned int)fred; /* sign extension occurs, bob is 0xffffffff */
    
    1. I should mention I've seen this in code a few times. One example was trying to fix code relying on older ctype libs with lookup tables:

      char jim=get_input();
      jim=my_toupper(jim);
      

      The toupper() function took an int argument and used it to lookup the correct value in a table, and an attacker could cause it to look behind the table in memory. They tried to fix this with:

      jim=my_toupper((unsigned int)jim);
      

      But that didn't work since sign-extension still happened. Another good example was from antisniff, where they tried to fix a problem caused by a signed char having negative values with this:

      unsigned int count;
      unsigned char *indx;
      
      count = (char) *indx;
      

      So, *indx is an unsigned char with a range of 0-255. However, it's converted to a char by the type cast, so it then has a range of -128-127. Then, it's converted to an unsigned int, which will do sign-extension. Oops.

  2. My comment on INT30 also applies here. I don't believe we actually have written ROSE code to handle this, I think ROSE does some of these checks automatically.

  3. In related vulnerability you wrote "An unsigned integer (offset) is set to the value of a 64-bit unsigned integer". You may have meant an unsigned int, which may be smaller than a 64-bit unsigned integer. Anyway, you probably want to refer to the type in each case, and maybe the sizes on a particular platform as a specific example.

    1. I've fixed the wording to be more accurate; it was a size_t that was being given a 64-bit value, which overflows on platforms where a size_t is treated as a 32-bit value.

  4. A reference to The New C Standard: An Economic and Cultural Commentary by Derek Jones will need to be added to the Bibliography.

  5. Looking at some real-world code, I think we need to be more precise about "misinterpretation-of-sign"  and when it constitutes violation of this rule. Here are some examples:

    Does this code violate this rule? ((time_t)-1)

    It is included in the time_t compliant solution, but if time_t is unsigned (which is permitted by both ISO C18 and POSIX), then it gets misinterpreted as a large integer.  The time() function can return ((time_t)-1).

    How about this code? ((size_t)-1)

    Some systems define SIZE_MAX this way.

    And what about this code? ((unsigned int)INT_MIN)

    This code comes from the signed-to-unsigned noncompliant code example, and this rule advocates on converting nonnegative values to unsigned int in the compliant solution.

    1. Some background on my above comment:

      Each CERT rule should be independent of user intent. That is, each code example (compliant or non-) should be discernible from the rule's title, intro text, and exceptions. Whatever the developer intended should be irrelevant; the code is all that matters. My previous post shows three very similar code examples. But, according to the rule, the first is compliant, the third is noncompliant, and it is not obvious whether the second is compliant or noncompliant.

      The concept of "misinterpreted data" (from the title) is precise, although it could be explained better in the intro. Misinterpreted data specifically refers to the most significant non-padding bit in the integer. For unsigned types, this is a value bit, and for signed types, this bit indicates the sign.  So "misinterpreted data" means that a conversion does not lose the bit pattern but causes a negative number to be misinterpreted as a large positive number, or vice versa.  The expression ((time_t) -1) is an intentional instance of misinterpreted data.

      So in theory, ((time_t) -1) should violate this rule. But then ISO C violates the rule quite often, in having time() return ((time_t) -1). There is no standard way to reference the maximum time_t value (assuming it is unsigned) except by saying ((time_t) -1).

      Our options are either:

      • Demote this rule to a recommendation, which saves us from answering this question
      • Provide some normative wording to address whether my three code examples violate the rule. This wording could go in the introduction, or into an exception.