Difference between revisions of "Deletion of data-structure sentinel"

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Revision as of 14:48, 8 June 2006


Overview

The accidental deletion of a data structure sentinel can cause serious programing logic problems.

Consequences

  • Availability: Generally this error will cause the data structure to not work properly.
  • Authorization: If a control character, such as NULL is removed, one may cause resource access control problems.

Exposure period

  • Requirements specification: The choice could be made to use a language that is not susceptible to these issues.
  • Design: Mitigating technologies such as safe-string libraries and container abstractions could be introduced.
  • Implementation: Many logic errors can lead to this condition. It can be exacerbated by lack of or misuse of mitigating technologies.

Platform

  • Languages: C, C++, Fortran, Assembly
  • Operating platforms: All, although partial preventative measures may be deployed depending on environment.

Required resources

Any

Severity

Very High

Likelihood of exploit

High to Very High

Avoidance and mitigation

  • Pre-design: Use a language or compiler that performs automatic bounds checking.
  • Design: Use an abstraction library to abstract away risky APIs. Not a complete solution.
  • Pre-design through Build: Compiler-based canary mechanisms such as StackGuard, ProPolice and the Microsoft Visual Studio / GS flag. Unless this provides automatic bounds checking, it is not a complete solution.
  • Operational: Use OS-level preventative functionality. Not a complete solution.

Discussion

Often times data-structure sentinels are used to mark structure of the data structure. A common example of this is the null character at the end of strings. Another common example is linked lists which may contain a sentinel to mark the end of the list.

It is, of course, dangerous to allow this type of control data to be easily accessible. Therefore, it is important to protect from the deletion or modification outside of some wrapper interface which provides safety.

Examples

In C/C++:

char *foo;
int counter;
foo=malloc(sizeof(char)*10);
for (counter=0;counter!=14;counter++){
  foo[counter]='a';
  printf("%s\n",foo);
}

Related problems

Not available.