This guideline has been deprecated.  It has been superseded by:

11/05/2014 -- Version 2.0


When a guideline has been deprecated, it will remain available until the next major release at which point it will be moved to

The managed string library described in Specifications for Managed Strings [Burch 2006] was developed in response to the need for a string library that could improve the quality and security of newly developed C language code while eliminating obstacles to widespread adoption and possible standardization.

The managed string library is based on a dynamic approach in which memory is allocated and reallocated as required. This approach eliminates the possibility of unbounded copies, null-termination errors, and truncation by ensuring adequate space is always available for the resulting string (including the terminating null character).

A runtime-constraint violation occurs when memory cannot be allocated. In this way, the managed string library accomplishes success or failure in a pronounced manner.

The managed string library also provides a mechanism for dealing with data sanitization by (optionally) checking that all characters in a string belong to a predefined set of safe characters.

The following code shows how the managed string library can be used to create a managed string and retrieve a null-terminated byte string from the managed string:

errno_t retValue;
char *cstr;  /* Pointer to null-terminated byte string */
string_mx *str1 = NULL;

retValue = strcreate_m(&str1, "hello, world", 0, NULL);
if (retValue != 0) {
  fprintf(stderr, "Error %d from strcreate_m.\n", retValue);
else { /* Retrieve null-terminated byte string and print */
  retValue = getstr_m(&cstr, str1);
  if (retValue != 0) {
    fprintf(stderr, "error %d from getstr_m.\n", retValue);
  printf("(%s)\n", cstr);
  free(cstr); /* Free null-terminated byte string */
  cstr = NULL;

Note that the calls to fprintf() and printf() are C Standard functions and not managed string functions.

The technical report ISO/IEC TR 24731-2 [ISO/IEC TR 24731-2:2010] also provides an API that dynamically allocates the results of string functions as needed.

Risk Assessment

String-handling functions defined in the C Standard, subclause 7.24, and elsewhere are susceptible to common programming errors that can lead to serious, exploitable vulnerabilities. Managed strings, when used properly, can eliminate many of these errors, particularly in new development.




Remediation Cost









Related Vulnerabilities

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


[Burch 2006] 
[CERT 2006c] 
[Seacord 2013]Chapter 2, "Strings"



  1. Shouldn't this recommendation be labeled "not-for-cpp"? I would think that std::string would be preferred in C++ code.

    1. Agreed – I've added the label; thanks!

      1. I suppose a C++ analog of this rec would be "dont use C null-terminated byte strings, use std::string instead". If we have this rec, we should hav ethat C++ rec, too.

          1. we've really stopped recommending this managed string library in favor of C11 Annex K.  I'm going to deprecate this recommendation.