When forking a child process, file descriptors are copied to the child process, which can result in concurrent operations on the file. Concurrent operations on the same file can cause data to be read or written in a nondeterministic order, creating race conditions and unpredictable behavior.
Noncompliant Code Example
In this example, the programmer wishes to open a file, read a character, fork, and then have both parent and child process read the second character of the file independently. However, because both processes share a file descriptor, one process might get the second character, and one might get the third. Furthermore, there is no guarantee the reads are atomic—the processes might get unpredictable results. Regardless of what the programmer is trying to accomplish with this code, this code is incorrect because it contains a race condition.
If the file accessed has contents
"abc", the output of this program could be either
This code's output cannot reliably be determined and should not be used.
In this compliant solution, the programmer closes the file descriptor in the child after forking and then reopens it, ensuring that the file has not been modified in the meantime. See POS01-C. Check for the existence of links when dealing with files for details.
The output of this code is
Because race conditions in code are extremely hard to find, this problem might not appear during standard debugging stages of development. However, depending on what file is being read and how important the order of read operations is, this problem can be particular dangerous.
Use of fork
Avoid race conditions when using fork and file descriptors
|CERT C: Rule POS38-C||Checks for file descriptor exposure to child process (rule fully covered)|