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

The restrictions on reading and writing a sequence controlled by an object of class basic_filebuf<charT, traits> are the same as for reading and writing with the Standard C library FILEs.

The C Standard, subclause 7.19.5.3, paragraph 6 [ISO/IEC 9899:1999], places the following restrictions on FILE objects opened for both reading and writing:

When a file is opened with update mode . . ., both input and output may be performed on the associated stream. However, output shall not be directly followed by input without an intervening call to the fflush function or to a file positioning function (fseekfsetpos, or rewind), and input shall not be directly followed by output without an intervening call to a file positioning function, unless the input operation encounters end-of-file.

Consequently, the following scenarios can result in undefined behavior:

  •  Receiving input from a stream directly following an output to that stream without an intervening call to std::basic_filebuf<T>::seekoff() if the file is not at end-of-file
  •  Outputting to a stream after receiving input from that stream without a call to std::basic_filebuf<T>::seekoff() if the file is not at end-of-file

No other std::basic_filebuf<T> function guarantees behavior as if a call were made to a standard C library file-positioning function, or std::fflush().

Calling std::basic_ostream<T>::seekp() or std::basic_istream<T>::seekg() eventually results in a call to std::basic_filebuf<T>::seekoff() for file stream positioning. Given that std::basic_iostream<T> inherits from both std::basic_ostream<T> and std::basic_istream<T>, and std::fstream inherits from std::basic_iostream, either function is acceptable to call to ensure the file buffer is in a valid state before the subsequent I/O operation.

Noncompliant Code Example

This noncompliant code example appends data to the end of a file and then reads from the same file. However, because there is no intervening positioning call between the formatted output and input calls, the behavior is undefined.

#include <fstream>
#include <string>

void f(const std::string &fileName) {
  std::fstream file(fileName);
  if (!file.is_open()) {
    // Handle error
    return;
  }
  
  file << "Output some data";
  std::string str;
  file >> str;
}

Compliant Solution

In this compliant solution, the std::basic_istream<T>::seekg() function is called between the output and input, eliminating the undefined behavior.

#include <fstream>
#include <string>

void f(const std::string &fileName) {
  std::fstream file(fileName);
  if (!file.is_open()) {
    // Handle error
    return;
  }
  
  file << "Output some data";
 
  std::string str;
  file.seekg(0, std::ios::beg);
  file >> str;
}

Risk Assessment

Alternately inputting and outputting from a stream without an intervening flush or positioning call is undefined behavior.

Rule

Severity

Likelihood

Remediation Cost

Priority

Level

FIO50-CPP

Low

Likely

Medium

P6

L2

Automated Detection

Tool

Version

Checker

Description

Parasoft C/C++test

10.4.2

CERT_CPP-FIO50-a

Do not alternately input and output from a stream without an intervening flush or positioning call
Polyspace Bug Finder

R2019b

CERT C++: FIO50-CPPChecks for alternating input and output from a stream without flush or positioning call (rule fully covered)

Related Vulnerabilities

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

Related Guidelines

This rule supplements FIO39-C. Do not alternately input and output from a stream without an intervening flush or positioning call.



Bibliography

[ISO/IEC 9899:1999]Subclause 7.19.5.3, "The fopen Function"
[ISO/IEC 14882-2014]Clause 27, "Input/Output Library"