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The std::abort() and std::_Exit() functions are used to terminate the program in an immediate fashion. They do so without calling exit handlers registered with std::atexit() and without executing destructors for objects with automatic, thread, or static storage duration. Whether open streams with unwritten buffered data are flushed, open streams are closed, or temporary files are removed [ISO/IEC 9899:1999] is implementation defined. Because these functions can leave external resources in an indeterminate state, they should be called explicitly only in direct response to a critical error in the application.

The std::terminate() function calls the current terminate_handler function, which defaults to calling std::abort().

The C++ Standard defines several ways in which std::terminate() may be called implicitly by an implementation [ISO/IEC 14882-2014]:

  • When the exception handling mechanism, after completing the initialization of the exception object but before activation of a handler for the exception, calls a function that exits via an exception. ([except.throw], paragraph 7)
  • When a throw-expression with no operand attempts to rethrow an exception and no exception is being handled. ([except.throw], paragraph 9)
  • When the exception handling mechanism cannot find a handler for a thrown exception. ([except.handle], paragraph 9)
  • When the search for a handler encounters the outermost block of a function with a noexcept-specification that does not allow the exception. ([except.spec], paragraph 9)
  • When the destruction of an object during stack unwinding terminates by throwing an exception. ([except.ctor], paragraph 3)
  • When initialization of a nonlocal variable with static or thread storage duration exits via an exception. ([basic.start.init], paragraph 6)
  • When destruction of an object with static or thread storage duration exits via an exception. ([basic.start.term], paragraph 1)
  • When execution of a function registered with std::atexit() or std::at_quick_exit() exits via an exception. ([support.start.term], paragraphs 8 and 12)
  • When the implementation’s default unexpected exception handler is called. ([except.unexpected], paragraph 2) Note that std::unexpected() is currently deprecated.
  • When std::unexpected() throws an exception that is not allowed by the previously violated dynamic-exception-specification, and std::bad_exception() is not included in that dynamic-exception-specification. ([except.unexpected], paragraph 3)
  • When the function std::nested_exception::rethrow_nested() is called for an object that has captured no exception. ([except.nested], paragraph 4)
  • When execution of the initial function of a thread exits via an exception. ([thread.thread.constr], paragraph 5)
  • When the destructor is invoked on an object of type std::thread that refers to a joinable thread. ([thread.thread.destr], paragraph 1)
  • When the copy assignment operator is invoked on an object of type std::thread that refers to a joinable thread. ([thread.thread.assign], paragraph 1)
  • When calling condition_variable::wait()condition_variable::wait_until(), or condition_variable::wait_for() results in a failure to meet the postcondition: lock.owns_lock() == true or lock.mutex() is not locked by the calling thread. ([thread.condition.condvar], paragraphs 11, 16, 21, 28, 33, and 40)
  • When calling condition_variable_any::wait()condition_variable_any::wait_until(), or condition_variable_any::wait_for() results in a failure to meet the postcondition: lock is not locked by the calling thread. ([thread.condition.condvarany], paragraphs 11, 16, and 22)

In many circumstances, the call stack will not be unwound in response to the implicit call to std::terminate(), and in a few cases, it is implementation-defined whether or not stack unwinding will occur. The C++ Standard, [except.terminate], paragraph 2 [ISO/IEC 14882-2014], states, in part:

In the situation where no matching handler is found, it is implementation-defined whether or not the stack is unwound before std::terminate() is called. In the situation where the search for a handler encounters the outermost block of a function with a noexcept-specification that does not allow the exception, it is implementation-defined whether the stack is unwound, unwound partially, or not unwound at all before std::terminate() is called. In all other situations, the stack shall not be unwound before std::terminate() is called.

Do not explicitly or implicitly call std::abort() or std::_Exit(). When the default terminate_handler is installed or the current terminate_handler responds by calling std::abort() or std::_Exit(), do not explicitly or implicitly call std::terminate()Abnormal process termination is the typical vector for denial-of-service attacks.

Noncompliant Code Example

In this noncompliant code example, the call to f(), which was registered as an exit handler with std::at_exit(), may result in a call to std::terminate() because throwing_func() may throw an exception:

#include <cstdlib>
void throwing_func() noexcept(false);
void f() {
int main() {
  if (0 != std::atexit(f)) {
    // Handle error
  // ...

Compliant Solution

In this compliant solution, f() handles all exceptions thrown by throwing_func() and does not rethrow:

#include <cstdlib>

void throwing_func() noexcept(false);

void f() {
  try {
  } catch (...) {
    // Handle error

int main() {
  if (0 != std::atexit(f)) {
    // Handle error
  // ...


ERR50-CPP-EX1: It is acceptable, after indicating the nature of the problem to the operator, to explicitly call std::abort()std::_Exit(), or std::terminate() in response to a critical program error for which no recovery is possible, as in this example:

#include <exception>

void report(const char *msg) noexcept;
[[noreturn]] void fast_fail(const char *msg) {
  // Report error message to operator
  // Terminate
void critical_function_that_fails() noexcept(false);
void f() {
  try {
  } catch (...) {
    fast_fail("Critical function failure");

Note that the assert() macro is permissible under this exception because failed assertions will notify the operator on the standard error stream in an implementation-defined manner before calling std::abort().

Risk Assessment

Allowing the application to abnormally terminate can lead to resources not being freed, closed, and so on. It is frequently a vector for denial-of-service attacks.




Remediation Cost









Automated Detection







4037, 4038, 4636, 4637


Related Vulnerabilities

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

Related Guidelines


[ISO/IEC 9899:1999]Subclause, "The abort Function"
Subclause, "The _Exit Function"
[ISO/IEC 14882-2014]

Subclause 15.5.1, "The std::terminate() Function"
Subclause 18.5, "Start and Termination" 

[MISRA 08]Rule 15-3-2 (Advisory)
Rule 15-3-4 (Required)


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