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Since std::basic_string is a container of characters, this rule is a specific instance of CTR51-CPP. Use valid references, pointers, and iterators to reference elements of a container. As a container, it supports iterators just like other containers in the Standard Template Library. However, the std::basic_string template class has unusual invalidation semantics. The C++ Standard, [string.require], paragraph 5 [ISO/IEC 14882-2014], states the following:

References, pointers, and iterators referring to the elements of a basic_string sequence may be invalidated by the following uses of that basic_string object:

  • As an argument to any standard library function taking a reference to non-const basic_string as an argument.
  • Calling non-const member functions, except operator[], at, front, back, begin, rbegin, end, and rend.

Examples of standard library functions taking a reference to non-const std::basic_string are std::swap(), ::operator>>(basic_istream &, string &), and std::getline().

Do not use an invalidated reference, pointer, or iterator because doing so results in undefined behavior.

Noncompliant Code Example

This noncompliant code example copies input into a std::string, replacing semicolon (;) characters with spaces. This example is noncompliant because the iterator loc is invalidated after the first call to insert(). The behavior of subsequent calls to insert() is undefined.

#include <string>
 
void f(const std::string &input) {
  std::string email;

  // Copy input into email converting ";" to " "
  std::string::iterator loc = email.begin();
  for (auto i = input.begin(), e = input.end(); i != e; ++i, ++loc) {
    email.insert(loc, *i != ';' ? *i : ' ');
  }
}

Compliant Solution (std::string::insert())

In this compliant solution, the value of the iterator loc is updated as a result of each call to insert() so that the invalidated iterator is never accessed. The updated iterator is then incremented at the end of the loop.

#include <string>
 
void f(const std::string &input) {
  std::string email;

  // Copy input into email converting ";" to " "
  std::string::iterator loc = email.begin();
  for (auto i = input.begin(), e = input.end(); i != e; ++i, ++loc) {
    loc = email.insert(loc, *i != ';' ? *i : ' ');
  }
}

Compliant Solution (std::replace())

This compliant solution uses a standard algorithm to perform the replacement. When possible, using a generic algorithm is preferable to inventing your own solution.

#include <algorithm>
#include <string>
 
void f(const std::string &input) {
  std::string email{input};
  std::replace(email.begin(), email.end(), ';', ' ');
}

Noncompliant Code Example

In this noncompliant code example, data is invalidated after the call to replace(), and so its use in g() is undefined behavior.

#include <iostream>
#include <string>
 
extern void g(const char *);
 
void f(std::string &exampleString) {
  const char *data = exampleString.data();
  // ...
  exampleString.replace(0, 2, "bb");
  // ...
  g(data);
}

Compliant Solution

In this compliant solution, the pointer to exampleString's internal buffer is not generated until after the modification from replace() has completed.

#include <iostream>
#include <string>

extern void g(const char *);

void f(std::string &exampleString) {
  // ...
  exampleString.replace(0, 2, "bb");
  // ...
  g(exampleString.data());
}

Risk Assessment

Using an invalid reference, pointer, or iterator to a string object could allow an attacker to run arbitrary code.

Rule

Severity

Likelihood

Remediation Cost

Priority

Level

STR52-CPP

High

Probable

High

P6

L2

Automated Detection

Tool

Version

Checker

Description

Parasoft C/C++test

10.4.2

CERT_CPP-STR52-a

Use valid references, pointers, and iterators to reference elements of a basic_string

Related Vulnerabilities

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

Related Guidelines

Bibliography

[ISO/IEC 14882-2014]

Subclause 21.4.1, "basic_string General Requirements"

[Meyers 2001]Item 43, "Prefer Algorithm Calls to Hand-written Loops"