According to the C Standard, subclause 126.96.36.199, paragraph 14 [ISO/IEC 9899:2011],
An identifier list declares only the identifiers of the parameters of the function. An empty list in a function declarator that is part of a definition of that function specifies that the function has no parameters. The empty list in a function declarator that is not part of a definition of that function specifies that no information about the number or types of the parameters is supplied.
Subclause 6.11.6 states that
The use of function declarators with empty parentheses (not prototype-format parameter type declarators) is an obsolescent feature.
Consequently, functions that accept no arguments should explicitly declare a
void parameter in their parameter list. This holds true in both the declaration and definition sections (which should match).
Defining a function with a
void argument list differs from declaring it with no arguments because, in the latter case, the compiler will not check whether the function is called with parameters at all [TIGCC, void usage]. Consequently, function calling with arbitrary parameters will be accepted without a warning at compile time.
Failure to declare a
void parameter will result in
- An ambiguous functional interface between the caller and callee.
- Sensitive information outflow.
A similar recommendation deals with parameter type in a more general sense: DCL07-C. Include the appropriate type information in function declarators.
Noncompliant Code Example (Ambiguous Interface)
In this noncompliant code example, the caller calls
foo() with an argument of 3. The caller expects
foo() to accept a single
int argument and to output the argument as part of a longer message. Because
foo() is declared without the
void parameter, the compiler will not perform any caller check. It is therefore possible that the caller may not detect the error. In this example, for instance,
foo() might output the value 3 as expected.
Because no function parameter has the same meaning as an arbitrary parameter, the caller can provide an arbitrary number of arguments to the function.
Compliant Solution (Ambiguous Interface)
In this compliant solution,
void is specified explicitly as a parameter in the declaration of
Implementation Details (Ambiguous Interface)
When the compliant solution is used and
foo(3) is called, the GCC compiler issues the following diagnostic, which alerts the programmer about the misuse of the function interface:
Noncompliant Code Example (Information Outflow)
Another possible vulnerability is the leak of privileged information. In this noncompliant code example, a user with high privileges feeds some secret input to the caller that the caller then passes to
foo(). Because of the way
foo() is defined, we might assume there is no way for
foo() to retrieve information from the caller. However, because the value of
i is really passed into a stack (before the return address of the caller), a malicious programmer can change the internal implementation and copy the value manually into a less privileged file.
Compliant Solution (Information Outflow)
Again, the simplest solution is to explicitly specify
void as the only parameter.
|Axivion Bauhaus Suite||6.9.0||CertC-DCL20|
|CodeSonar||5.0p0||LANG.FUNCS.PROT||Incomplete function prototype|
|LDRA tool suite||9.7.1||63 S||Fully Implemented|
|The number of arguments passed to a function shall match the number of parameters|
|Polyspace Bug Finder|
|MISRA C:2012 Rule 8.2|
Function types shall be in prototype form with named parameters
|SonarQube C/C++ Plugin|
foo(void) have exactly the same meaning and effect, so this rule doesn't apply to C++. However,
foo(void) should be declared explicitly instead of
foo() to distinguish it from
foo(...), which accepts an arbitrary number and type of arguments.
Rule 8.2 (required)
|[ISO/IEC 9899:2011]||Subclause 188.8.131.52, "Function Declarators (including Prototypes)"|
Subclause 6.11.6, "Function Declarators"
|[TIGCC, void usage]||Manual, "C Language Keywords": void|