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The C++ Standard, [stmt.return], paragraph 2 [ISO/IEC 14882-2014], states the following: 

Flowing off the end of a function is equivalent to a return with no value; this results in undefined behavior in a value-returning function.

A value-returning function must return a value from all code paths; otherwise, it will result in undefined behavior. This includes returning through less-common code paths, such as from a function-try-block, as explained in the C++ Standard, [except.handle], paragraph 15:

Flowing off the end of a function-try-block is equivalent to a return with no value; this results in undefined behavior in a value-returning function (6.6.3).

Noncompliant Code Example

In this noncompliant code example, the programmer forgot to return the input value for positive input, so not all code paths return a value.

int absolute_value(int a) {
  if (a < 0) {
    return -a;
  }
}

Compliant Solution

In this compliant solution, all code paths now return a value.

int absolute_value(int a) {
  if (a < 0) {
    return -a;
  }
  return a;
}

Noncompliant Code Example

In this noncompliant code example, the function-try-block handler does not return a value, resulting in undefined behavior when an exception is thrown.

#include <vector>
 
std::size_t f(std::vector<int> &v, std::size_t s) try {
  v.resize(s);
  return s;
} catch (...) {
}

Compliant Solution

In this compliant solution, the exception handler of the function-try-block also returns a value.

#include <vector>
 
std::size_t f(std::vector<int> &v, std::size_t s) try {
  v.resize(s);
  return s;
} catch (...) {
  return 0;
}

Exceptions

MSC54-CPP-EX1: Flowing off the end of the main() function is equivalent to a return 0; statement, according to the C++ Standard, [basic.start.main], paragraph 5 [ISO/IEC 14882-2014].  Thus, flowing off the end of the main() function does not result in undefined behavior.

MSC54-CPP-EX2: It is permissible for a control path to not return a value if that code path is never expected to be taken and a function marked [[noreturn]] is called as part of that code path or if an exception is thrown, as is illustrated in the following code example.

#include <cstdlib>
#include <iostream>
[[noreturn]] void unreachable(const char *msg) {
  std::cout << "Unreachable code reached: " << msg << std::endl;
  std::exit(1);
}

enum E {
  One,
  Two,
  Three
};

int f(E e) {
  switch (e) {
  case One: return 1;
  case Two: return 2;
  case Three: return 3;
  }
  unreachable("Can never get here");
}

Risk Assessment

Failing to return a value from a code path in a value-returning function results in undefined behavior that might be exploited to cause data integrity violations.

Rule

Severity

Likelihood

Remediation Cost

Priority

Level

MSC52-CPP

Medium

Probable

Medium

P8

L2

Automated Detection

Tool

Version

Checker

Description

Axivion Bauhaus Suite

6.9.0

CertC++-MSC52
Clang
3.9
-Wreturn-typeDoes not catch all instances of this rule, such as function-try-blocks
CodeSonar
5.1p0

LANG.STRUCT.MRS

Missing return statement
LDRA tool suite
9.7.1

 

2 D, 36 S

Fully implemented

Parasoft C/C++test
10.4.2

CERT_CPP-MSC52-a

All exit paths from a function with non-void return type shall have an explicit return statement with an expression

Polyspace Bug Finder

R2019b

CERT C++: MSC52-CPPChecks for missing return statements (rule partially covered)
SonarQube C/C++ Plugin
4.10
S935
PRQA QA-C++

4.3

1510
PVS-Studio

6.23

V591

Related Vulnerabilities

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

Bibliography

[ISO/IEC 14882-2014]

Subclause 3.6.1, "Main Function"
Subclause 6.6.3, "The return Statement"
Subclause 15.3, "Handling an Exception"