Proceedings of ISP RAS

Statically detecting buffer overflows in C/C++

I. Dudina (ISP RAS, Moscow, Russia; CMC MSU, Moscow, Russia)
V. Koshelev (ISP RAS, Moscow, Russia)
A. Borodin (ISP RAS, Moscow, Russia)


The paper describes a static analysis approach for buffer overflow detection in C/C++ source code. This algorithm is designed to be path-sensitive as it is based on symbolic execution with state merging. For now, it works only with buffers on stack or on static memory with compile-time known size. We propose a formal definition for buffer overflow errors that are caused by executing a particular sequence of program control-flow edges. To detect such errors, we present an algorithm for computing a summary for each program value at any program point along multiple paths. This summary includes all joined values at join points with path conditions. It also tracks value relations such as arithmetic operations, cast instructions, binary relations from constraints. For any buffer access we compute a sufficient condition for overflow using this summary for index variable and the reachability condition for the current function point. If this condition is proved to be satisfiable by an SMT-solver, we use its model given by the solver to detect error path and report the warning with this path. This approach was implemented for Svace static analyzer as the new buffer overflow detector, and it has found a significant amount of unique true warnings that are not covered by the old buffer overflow detector implementations.


static analysis, software error detection, buffer overflow, path-sensitivity, symbolic execution


Proceedings of the Institute for System Programming, vol. 28, issue 4, 2016, pp. 149-168.

ISSN 2220-6426 (Online), ISSN 2079-8156 (Print).

DOI: 10.15514/ISPRAS-2016-28(4)-9

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