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The handler functions new_handler, terminate_handler, and unexpected_handler can be globally replaced by custom implementations, as specified by [handler.functions], paragraph 2, of the C++ Standard [ISO/IEC 14882-2014]. For instance, an application could set a custom termination handler by calling std::set_terminate(), and the custom termination handler may log the termination for later auditing. However, the C++ Standard, [res.on.functions], paragraph 1, states the following:

In certain cases (replacement functions, handler functions, operations on types used to instantiate standard library template components), the C++ standard library depends on components supplied by a C++ program. If these components do not meet their requirements, the Standard places no requirements on the implementation.

Paragraph 2, in part, further states the following:

In particular, the effects are undefined in the following cases:
— for handler functions, if the installed handler function does not implement the semantics of the applicable Required behavior: paragraph

A replacement for any of the handler functions must meet the semantic requirements specified by the appropriate Required behavior: clause of the replaced function.

New Handler

The requirements for a replacement new_handler are specified by [new.handler], paragraph 2:

Required behavior: A new_handler shall perform one of the following:
— make more storage available for allocation and then return;
— throw an exception of type bad_alloc or a class derived from bad_alloc;
— terminate execution of the program without returning to the caller;

Terminate Handler

The requirements for a replacement terminate_handler are specified by [terminate.handler], paragraph 2:

Required behavior: A terminate_handler shall terminate execution of the program without returning to the caller.

Unexpected Handler

The requirements for a replacement unexpected_handler are specified by [unexpected.handler], paragraph 2. 

Required behavior: An unexpected_handler shall not return. See also 15.5.2.

unexpected_handler is a deprecated feature of C++.

Noncompliant Code Example

In this noncompliant code example, a replacement new_handler is written to attempt to release salvageable resources when the dynamic memory manager runs out of memory. However, this example does not take into account the situation in which all salvageable resources have been recovered and there is still insufficient memory to satisfy the allocation request. Instead of terminating the replacement handler with an exception of type std::bad_alloc or terminating the execution of the program without returning to the caller, the replacement handler returns as normal. Under low memory conditions, an infinite loop will occur with the default implementation of ::operator new(). Because such conditions are rare in practice, it is likely for this bug to go undiscovered under typical testing scenarios.

#include <new>
void custom_new_handler() {
  // Returns number of bytes freed.
  extern std::size_t reclaim_resources();
int main() {
  // ...

Compliant Solution

In this compliant solution, custom_new_handler() uses the return value from reclaim_resources(). If it returns 0, then there will be insufficient memory for operator new to succeed. Hence, an exception of type std::bad_alloc is thrown, meeting the requirements for the replacement handler.

#include <new>

void custom_new_handler() noexcept(false) {
  // Returns number of bytes freed.
  extern std::size_t reclaim_resources();
  if (0 == reclaim_resources()) {
    throw std::bad_alloc();
int main() {
  // ...

Risk Assessment

Failing to meet the required behavior for a replacement handler results in undefined behavior.




Remediation Cost









Automated Detection





Helix QAC


DF4776, DF4777, DF4778, DF4779

Parasoft C/C++test



Properly define terminate handlers
Properly define unexpected handlers
Properly define new handlers

Related Vulnerabilities

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

Related Guidelines


[ISO/IEC 14882-2014]Subclause, "Other Functions"
Subclause, "Type new_handler
Subclause, "Type terminate_handler"
Subclause D.11.1, "Type unexpected_handler