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CERT® C Coding Standard, Second Edition, The: 98 Rules for Developing Safe, Reliable, and Secure Systems, 2nd Edition

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CERT® C Coding Standard, Second Edition, The: 98 Rules for Developing Safe, Reliable, and Secure Systems, 2nd Edition


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  • Provides the fixed set of rules that organizations must follow in order to certify compliance with a recognized security standard, backed by CERT and ISO/IEC
  • Guidelines include suggestions for improving system performance and how to improve source code readability
  • Each rule is exemplified by compliant and non-compliant sample code 
  • Fully updated for the new C11 standard
  • This edition includes a new section on concurrency
  • Description

    • Copyright 2014
    • Dimensions: 7" x 9-1/4"
    • Pages: 576
    • Edition: 2nd
    • Book
    • ISBN-10: 0-321-98404-8
    • ISBN-13: 978-0-321-98404-3

    “At Cisco, we have adopted the CERT C Coding Standard as the internal secure coding standard for all C developers. It is a core component of our secure development lifecycle. The coding standard described in this book breaks down complex software security topics into easy-to-follow rules with excellent real-world examples. It is an essential reference for any developer who wishes to write secure and resilient software in C and C++.”
    —Edward D. Paradise, vice president, engineering, threat response, intelligence, and development, Cisco Systems

    Secure programming in C can be more difficult than even many experienced programmers realize. To help programmers write more secure code, The CERT® C Coding Standard, Second Edition, fully documents the second official release of the CERT standard for secure coding in C. The rules laid forth in this new edition will help ensure that programmers’ code fully complies with the new C11 standard; it also addresses earlier versions, including C99.

    The new standard itemizes those coding errors that are the root causes of current software vulnerabilities in C, prioritizing them by severity, likelihood of exploitation, and remediation costs. Each of the text’s 98 guidelines includes examples of insecure code as well as secure, C11-conforming, alternative implementations. If uniformly applied, these guidelines will eliminate critical coding errors that lead to buffer overflows, format-string vulnerabilities, integer overflow, and other common vulnerabilities.

    This book reflects numerous experts’ contributions to the open development and review of the rules and recommendations that comprise this standard.

    Coverage includes

    • Preprocessor
    • Declarations and Initialization
    • Expressions
    • Integers
    • Floating Point
    • Arrays
    • Characters and Strings
    • Memory Management
    • Input/Output
    • Environment
    • Signals
    • Error Handling
    • Concurrency
    • Miscellaneous Issues


    Companion Site

    Please visit the site associated with CERT® C Coding Standard here.

    Sample Content


    Preface to The CERT® C Coding Standard, second edition

    Sample Pages

    Download the sample pages (includes Chapters 3, 7, and 13)

    Table of Contents

    Preface xiii
    Acknowledgments xxxvii
    Contributors xxxix
    About the Author xliii


    Chapter 1: Preprocessor (PRE) 1
    PRE30-C. Do not create a universal character name through concatenation 2
    PRE31-C. Avoid side effects in arguments to unsafe macros 3
    PRE32-C. Do not use preprocessor directives in invocations of function-like macros 8

    Chapter 2: Declarations and Initialization (DCL) 11
    DCL30-C. Declare objects with appropriate storage durations 12
    DCL31-C. Declare identifiers before using them 16
    DCL36-C. Do not declare an identifier with conflicting linkage classifications 20
    DCL37-C. Do not declare or define a reserved identifier 23
    DCL38-C. Use the correct syntax when declaring a flexible array member 29
    DCL39-C. Avoid information leakage in structure padding 32
    DCL40-C. Do not create incompatible declarations of the same function or object 37
    DCL41-C. Do not declare variables inside a switch statement before the first case label 43

    Chapter 3: Expressions (EXP) 47
    EXP30-C. Do not depend on the order of evaluation for side effects 48
    EXP32-C. Do not access a volatile object through a nonvolatile reference 54
    EXP33-C. Do not read uninitialized memory 56
    EXP34-C. Do not dereference null pointers 65
    EXP35-C. Do not modify objects with temporary lifetime 70
    EXP36-C. Do not cast pointers into more strictly aligned pointer types 73
    EXP37-C. Call functions with the correct number and type of arguments 77
    EXP39-C. Do not access a variable through a pointer of an incompatible type 83
    EXP40-C. Do not modify constant objects 89
    EXP42-C. Do not compare padding data 91
    EXP43-C. Avoid undefined behavior when using restrict-qualified pointers 93
    EXP44-C. Do not rely on side effects in operands to sizeof, _Alignof, or _Generic 102
    EXP45-C. Do not perform assignments in selection statements 105

    Chapter 4: Integers (INT) 111
    INT30-C. Ensure that unsigned integer operations do not wrap 112
    INT31-C. Ensure that integer conversions do not result in lost or misinterpreted data 118
    INT32-C. Ensure that operations on signed integers do not result in overflow 126
    INT33-C. Ensure that division and remainder operations do not result in divide-by-zero errors 135
    INT34-C. Do not shift an expression by a negative number of bits or by greater than or equal to the number of bits that exist in the operand 138
    INT35-C. Use correct integer precisions 143
    INT36-C. Converting a pointer to integer or integer to pointer 145

    Chapter 5: Floating Point (FLP) 151
    FLP30-C. Do not use floating-point variables as loop counters 152
    FLP32-C. Prevent or detect domain and range errors in math functions 154
    FLP34-C. Ensure that floating-point conversions are within range of the new type 163
    FLP36-C. Preserve precision when converting integral values to floating-point type 166

    Chapter 6: Arrays (ARR) 169
    ARR30-C. Do not form or use out-of-bounds pointers or array subscripts 170
    ARR32-C. Ensure size arguments for variable length arrays are in a valid range 180
    ARR36-C. Do not subtract or compare two pointers that do not refer to the same array 182
    ARR37-C. Do not add or subtract an integer to a pointer to a non-array object 184
    ARR38-C. Guarantee that library functions do not form invalid pointers 187
    ARR39-C. Do not add or subtract a scaled integer to a pointer 196

    Chapter 7: Characters and Strings (STR) 201
    STR30-C. Do not attempt to modify string literals 202
    STR31-C. Guarantee that storage for strings has sufficient space for character data and the null terminator 205
    STR32-C. Do not pass a non-null-terminated character sequence to a library function that expects a string 218
    STR34-C. Cast characters to unsigned char before converting to larger integer sizes 223
    STR37-C. Arguments to character handling functions must be representable as an unsigned char 227
    STR38-C. Do not confuse narrow and wide character strings and functions 229

    Chapter 8: Memory Management (MEM) 233
    MEM30-C. Do not access freed memory 234
    MEM31-C. Free dynamically allocated memory when no longer needed 239
    MEM33-C. Allocate and copy structures containing a flexible array member dynamically 241
    MEM34-C. Only free memory allocated dynamically 246
    MEM35-C. Allocate sufficient memory for an object 250
    MEM36-C. Do not modify the alignment of objects by calling realloc() 253

    Chapter 9: Input/Output (FIO) 257
    FIO30-C. Exclude user input from format strings 258
    FIO31-C. Do not open a file that is already open 263
    FIO32-C. Do not perform operations on devices that are only appropriate for files 265
    FIO34-C. Distinguish between characters read from a file and EOF or WEOF 272
    FIO37-C. Do not assume that fgets() or fgetws() returns a nonempty string when successful 277
    FIO38-C. Do not copy a FILE object 279
    FIO39-C. Do not alternately input and output from a stream without an intervening flush or positioning call 280
    FIO40-C. Reset strings on fgets() or fgetws() failure 283
    FIO41-C. Do not call getc(), putc(), getwc(), or putwc() with a stream argument that has side effects 284
    FIO42-C. Close files when they are no longer needed 288
    FIO44-C. Only use values for fsetpos() that are returned from fgetpos() 292
    FIO45-C. Avoid TOCTOU race conditions while accessing files 294
    FIO46-C. Do not access a closed file 298
    FIO47-C. Use valid format strings 299

    Chapter 10: Environment (ENV) 305
    ENV30-C. Do not modify the object referenced by the return value of certain functions 306
    ENV31-C. Do not rely on an environment pointer following an operation that may invalidate it 311
    ENV32-C. All exit handlers must return normally 315
    ENV33-C. Do not call system() 319
    ENV34-C. Do not store pointers returned by certain functions 325

    Chapter 11: Signals (SIG) 333
    SIG30-C. Call only asynchronous-safe functions within signal handlers 334
    SIG31-C. Do not access shared objects in signal handlers 342
    SIG34-C. Do not call signal() from within interruptible signal handlers 345
    SIG35-C. Do not return from a computational exception signal handler 349

    Chapter 12: Error Handling (ERR) 353
    ERR30-C. Set errno to zero before calling a library function known to set errno, and check errno only after the function returns a value indicating failure 354
    ERR32-C. Do not rely on indeterminate values of errno 361
    ERR33-C. Detect and handle standard library errors 365

    Chapter 13: Concurrency (CON) 383
    CON30-C. Clean up thread-specific storage 384
    CON31-C. Do not destroy a mutex while it is locked 388
    CON32-C. Prevent data races when accessing bit-fields from multiple threads 391
    CON33-C. Avoid race conditions when using library functions 394
    CON34-C. Declare objects shared between threads with appropriate storage durations 398
    CON35-C. Avoid deadlock by locking in a predefined order 406
    CON36-C. Wrap functions that can spuriously wake up in a loop 411
    CON37-C. Do not call signal() in a multithreaded program 414
    CON38-C. Preserve thread-safety and liveness when using condition variables 416
    CON39-C. Do not join or detach a thread that was previously joined or detached 424
    CON40-C. Do not refer to an atomic variable twice in an expression 426
    CON41-C. Wrap functions that can fail spuriously in a loop 430

    Chapter 14: Miscellaneous (MSC) 435
    MSC30-C. Do not use the rand() function for generating pseudorandom numbers 436
    MSC32-C. Properly seed pseudorandom number generators 439
    MSC33-C. Do not pass invalid data to the asctime() function 443
    MSC37-C. Ensure that control never reaches the end of a non-void function 446
    MSC38-C. Do not treat a predefined identifier as an object if it might only be implemented as a macro 449
    MSC39-C. Do not call va_arg() on a va_list that has an indeterminate value 451
    MSC40-C. Do not violate constraints 453

    Appendix A: Glossary 459

    Appendix B: Undefined Behavior 465

    Appendix C: Unspecified Behavior 481


    Bibliography 487
    Index 495


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