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In general, it is not safe to invoke I/O functions from within signal handlers. Programmers should ensure a function is included in the list of an implementation's asynchronous-safe functions for all implementations their the code will run on before using them in signal handlers.

Noncompliant Code Example

In this noncompliant example, the C standard library functions fprintffputs() and free() are called from the signal handler via the function log_message(). Neither function is asynchronous-safe.

Code Block
bgColor#FFcccc
langc
#include <signal.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

enum { MAXLINE = 1024 };
char *info = NULL;

void log_message(void) {
  fprintffputs(stderrinfo, infostderr);
}

void handler(int signum) {
  log_message();
  free(info);
  info = NULL;
}

int main(void) {
  if (signal(SIGINT, handler) == SIG_ERR) {
    /* Handle error */
  }
  info = (char *)malloc(MAXLINE);
  if (info == NULL) {
    /* Handle Error */
  }

  while (1) {
    /* Main loop program code */

    log_message();

    /* More program code */
  }
  return 0;
}

...

Code Block
bgColor#ccccff
langc
#include <signal.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

enum { MAXLINE = 1024 };
volatile sig_atomic_t eflag = 0;
char *info = NULL;

void log_message(void) {
  fprintffputs(stderrinfo, infostderr);
}

void handler(int signum) {
  eflag = 1;
}

int main(void) {
  if (signal(SIGINT, handler) == SIG_ERR) {
    /* Handle error */
  }
  info = (char *)malloc(MAXLINE);
  if (info == NULL) {
    /* Handle error */
  }

  while (!eflag) {
    /* Main loop program code */

    log_message();

    /* More program code */
  }

  log_message();
  free(info);
  info = NULL;

  return 0;
}

...

Code Block
bgColor#ccccff
langc
#include <signal.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

enum { MAXLINE = 1024 };
volatile sig_atomic_t eflag = 0;

void handler(int signum) {
  eflag = 1;
}

void log_message(char *info1, char *info2) {
  static char *buf = NULL;
  static size_t bufsize;
  char buf0[MAXLINE];

  if (buf == NULL) {
    buf = buf0;
    bufsize = sizeof(buf0);
  }

  /*
   * Try to fit a message into buf, else reallocate
   * it on the heap and then log the message.
   */
  if (buf == buf0) {
    buf = NULL;
  }
}

int main(void) {
  if (signal(SIGINT, handler) == SIG_ERR) {
    /* Handle error */
  }
  char *info1;
  char *info2;

  /* info1 and info2 are set by user input here */

  while (!eflag) {
    /* Main loop program code */
    log_message(info1, info2);
    /* More program code */
  }

  log_message(info1, info2);

  return 0;
}

Noncompliant Code Example (raise())

In this noncompliant code example, the int_handler() function is used to carry out tasks specific to SIGINT and then raises SIGTERM. However, there is a nested call to the raise() function, which is undefined behavior.

...

Code Block
bgColor#ccccff
langc
#include <signal.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
 
void term_handler(int signum) {
  /* SIGTERM handler */
}
 
void int_handler(int signum) {
  /* SIGINT handler */
  /* Pass control to the SIGTERM handler */
  term_handler(SIGTERM);
}
 
int main(void) {
  if (signal(SIGTERM, term_handler) == SIG_ERR) {
    /* Handle error */
  }
  if (signal(SIGINT, int_handler) == SIG_ERR) {
    /* Handle error */
  }
 
  /* Program code */
  if (raise(SIGINT) != 0) {
    /* Handle error */
  }
  /* More code */
 
  return EXIT_SUCCESS;
}

Implementation Details

POSIX

The following table from the POSIX standard [IEEE Std 1003.1:2013] defines a set of functions that are asynchronous-signal-safe. Applications may invoke these functions, without restriction, from a signal handler.

Asynchronous-Signal-Safe Functions 

_Exit()

fexecve()

posix_trace_event()

sigprocmask()

_exit()

fork()

pselect()

sigqueue()

abort()

fstat()

pthread_kill()

sigset()

accept()

fstatat()

pthread_self()

sigsuspend()

access()

fsync()

pthread_sigmask()

sleep()

aio_error()

ftruncate()

raise()

sockatmark()

aio_return()

futimens()

read()

socket()

aio_suspend()

getegid()

readlink()

socketpair()

alarm()

geteuid()

readlinkat()

stat()

bind()

getgid()

recv()

symlink()

cfgetispeed()

getgroups()

recvfrom()

symlinkat()

cfgetospeed()

getpeername()

recvmsg()

tcdrain()

cfsetispeed()

getpgrp()

rename()

tcflow()

cfsetospeed()

getpid()

renameat()

tcflush()

chdir()

getppid()

rmdir()

tcgetattr()

chmod()

getsockname()

select()

tcgetpgrp()

chown()

getsockopt()

sem_post()

tcsendbreak()

clock_gettime()

getuid()

send()

tcsetattr()

close()

kill()

sendmsg()

tcsetpgrp()

connect()

link()

sendto()

time()

creat()

linkat()

setgid()

timer_getoverrun()

dup()

listen()

setpgid()

timer_gettime()

dup2()

lseek()

setsid()

timer_settime()

execl()

lstat()

setsockopt()

times()

execle()

mkdir()

setuid()

umask()

execv()

mkdirat()

shutdown()

uname()

execve()

mkfifo()

sigaction()

unlink()

faccessat()

mkfifoat()

sigaddset()

unlinkat()

fchdir()

mknod()

sigdelset()

utime()

fchmod()

mknodat()

sigemptyset()

utimensat()

fchmodat()

open()

sigfillset()

utimes()

fchown()

openat()

sigismember()

wait()

fchownat()

pause()

signal()

waitpid()

fcntl()

pipe()

sigpause()

write()

fdatasync()

poll()

sigpending()

 


All functions not listed in this table are considered to be unsafe with respect to signals. In the presence of signals, all POSIX functions behave as defined when called from or interrupted by a signal handler, with a single exception: when a signal interrupts an unsafe function and the signal handler calls an unsafe function, the behavior is undefined.

The C Standard, 7.14.1.1, paragraph 4 [ISO/IEC 9899:2011], states:

If the signal occurs as the result of calling the abort or raise function, the signal handler shall not call the raise function.

However, in the description of signal(), POSIX [IEEE Std 1003.1:2013] states:

This restriction does not apply to POSIX applications, as POSIX.1-2008 requires raise() to be async-signal-safe.

See also undefined behavior 131. 

OpenBSD

The OpenBSD signal() manual page lists a few additional functions that are asynchronous-safe in OpenBSD but "probably not on other systems" [OpenBSD], including snprintf()vsnprintf(), and syslog_r() ( but only when the syslog_data struct is initialized as a local variable).

Risk Assessment

Invoking functions that are not asynchronous-safe from within a signal handler is undefined behavior.

Rule

Severity

Likelihood

Remediation Cost

Priority

Level

SIG30-C

High

Likely

Medium

P18

L1

Automated Detection

Tool

Version

Checker

Description

Astrée
Include Page
Astrée_V
Astrée_V
signal-handler-unsafe-callPartially checked
Axivion Bauhaus Suite

Include Page
Axivion Bauhaus Suite_V
Axivion Bauhaus Suite_V

CertC-SIG30
Compass/ROSE
  


Can detect violations of the rule for single-file programs
LDRA tool suite
Include Page
LDRA_V
LDRA_V

88 D


, 89 D 

Fully implemented

Partially implemented

Parasoft C/C++test

Include Page
Parasoft_V
Parasoft_V

CERT_C-SIG30-a

Properly define signal handlers

Polyspace Bug Finder

Include Page
Polyspace Bug Finder_V
Polyspace Bug Finder_V

CERT C: Rule SIG30-C


Checks for function called from signal handler not asynchronous-safe (rule fully covered)

PRQA QA-C

Include Page
PRQA QA-C_v
PRQA QA-C_v

2028, 2030
RuleChecker

Include Page
RuleChecker_V
RuleChecker_V

signal-handler-unsafe-callPartially checked
Splint
Include Page
Splint_V
Splint_V

 

 



Related Vulnerabilities

For an overview of software vulnerabilities resulting from improper signal handling, see Michal Zalewski's paper "Delivering Signals for Fun and Profit" [Zalewski 2001].

...

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

Related Guidelines

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Key here (explains table format and definitions)

Taxonomy

Taxonomy item

Relationship

ISO/IEC TS 17961:2013Calling functions in the C Standard Library other than abort, _Exit, and signal from within a signal handler [asyncsig]
MITRE CWE
Prior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
CWE 2.11CWE-479, Signal Handler Use of a Non-reentrant Function2017-07-10: CERT: Exact

Bibliography

[C99 Rationale 2003]Subclause 5.2.3, "Signals and Interrupts"
Subclause 7.14.1.1, "The signal Function"
[Dowd 2006]Chapter 13, "Synchronization and State"
[Greenman 1997]
 

[IEEE Std 1003.1:2013] XSH, System Interfaces, longjmp
XSH, System Interfaces, raise
[ISO/IEC 9899:2011]7.14.1.1, "The signal Function"
[OpenBSD]signal() Man Page
[VU #834865]
 

[Zalewski 2001]"Delivering Signals for Fun and Profit"

 


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