Invariants cannot be enforced for public nonfinal fields or for final fields that reference a mutable object. A protected member of an exported (non-final) class represents a public commitment to an implementation detail. Attackers can manipulate such fields to violate class , or they may be corrupted by multiple threads accessing them concurrently [Bloch 2008]. As a result, fields must be declared private or package-private.
Noncompliant Code Example (Public Primitive Field)
In this noncompliant code example, the
total field tracks the total number of elements as they are added to and removed from a container using the methods
As a public field,
total can be altered by client code independently of the
Compliant Solution (Private Primitive Field)
Accessor methods provide controlled access to fields outside of the package in which their class is declared. This compliant solution declares
total as private and provides a public accessor. The
remove() methods modify its value while preserving class invariants.
Accessor methods can perform additional functions, such as input validation and security manager checks, before manipulating the state.
Noncompliant Code Example (Public Mutable Field)
Programmers often incorrectly assume that declaring a field or variable final makes the referenced object immutable. Declaring variables that have a primitive type final does prevent changes to their values after initialization (by normal Java processing). However, when the field has a reference type, declaring the field final only makes the reference itself immutable. The final clause has no effect on the referenced object. According to The Java Language Specification, §4.12.4, "final Variables" [JLS 2015],
finalvariable holds a reference to an object, then the state of the object may be changed by operations on the object, but the variable will always refer to the same object.
This noncompliant code example declares a static final mutable hash map with public accessibility:
Compliant Solution (Private Mutable Fields)
Mutable fields must be declared private:
Depending on the required functionality, accessor methods may return a copy of the
HashMap or a value contained by the
HashMap. This compliant solution adds an accessor method that returns the value of an element given its key in the
HashMap. Make sure that you do not return references to private mutable objects from accessor methods (see OBJ05-J. Do not return references to private mutable class members for details).
Noncompliant Code Example (Public Final Array)
A nonzero-length array is always mutable. Declaring a public final array is a potential security risk as the array elements may be modified by a client.
Declaring the array reference final prevents modification of the reference but does not prevent clients from modifying the contents of the array.
Compliant Solution (Index Getter)
This compliant solution declares a private array and provides public methods to get individual items and array size:
Providing direct access to the array objects themselves is safe because
String is immutable.
Compliant Solution (Clone the Array)
This compliant solution defines a private array and a public method that returns a copy of the array:
Because a copy of the array is returned, the original array values (the references to the String objects) cannot be modified by a client. Note that a manual deep copy could be required when dealing with arrays of objects. This generally happens when the objects do not export a
clone() method (see OBJ06-J. Defensively copy mutable inputs and mutable internal components for more information).
As before, this method provides direct access to the array objects themselves, but this is safe because
String is immutable. If the array contained mutable objects, the
getItems() method should return an array of cloned objects instead.
Compliant Solution (Unmodifiable Wrappers)
This compliant solution constructs a public immutable list from the private array. It is safe to share immutable objects without risk that the recipient can modify them [Mettler 2010]. This example is safe because
String is immutable.
Neither the original array values nor the public list can be modified by a client. For more details about unmodifiable wrappers, refer to OBJ56-J. Provide sensitive mutable classes with unmodifiable wrappers.
OBJ01-J-EX0: Fields with no associated behavior or invariants can be public. According to Sun's Code Conventions document [Conventions 2009]:
One example of appropriate public instance variables is the case where the class is essentially a data structure, with no behavior. In other words, if you would have used a
structinstead of a class (if Java supported
struct), then it's appropriate to make the class's instance variables
OBJ01-J-EX1: Fields in a package-private class or in a private nested class may be pubic or protected. There is nothing inherently wrong with declaring fields to be public or protected in these cases. Eliminating accessor methods generally improves the readability of the code both in the class definition and in the client [Bloch 2008].
OBJ01-J-EX2: Static final fields that contain or reference immutable constants may be public or protected.
Failing to limit field accessibility can defeat encapsulation, allow attackers to manipulate fields to violate class invariants, or allow these fields to be corrupted as the result of concurrent accesses from multiple threads.
Detection of public and protected fields is trivial; heuristic detection of the presence or absence of accessor methods is straightforward. However, simply reporting all detected cases without suppressing those cases covered by the exceptions to this rule would produce excessive false positives. Sound detection and application of the exceptions to this rule is infeasible; however, heuristic techniques may be useful.
Implemented for public static array, Collection, Date, and awt.Point members.
CWE-766, Critical Variable Declared Public
Guideline 6-8 / MUTABLE-8: Define wrapper methods around modifiable internal state
Item 13, "Minimize the Accessibility of Classes and Members"
Chapter 6, "Interfaces and Inner Classes"
Section 2.2, "Public Fields"