13.1. Performing Error Handling


Many security vulnerabilities are possible as a consequence of a programmer’s omitting proper error handling. Developers find it extremely taxing to have to check error conditions continually. The unfortunate result is that these conditions often go forgotten.


If you have the luxury of designing an API, design it in such a way that it minimizes the amount of error handling that is required, if at all possible. In addition, try to design APIs so that failures are not potentially critical if they go unhandled.

Otherwise, appropriate exception handling can help you ensure that no errors that go unhandled will propagate dangerous error conditions. Use wrappers to convert functions that may fail with a traditional error code, so that they instead use exception handling.


There are plenty of situations in which assuming that a function returns successfully leads to a security vulnerability. One simple example is the case of using a secure random number generator to fill a buffer with random bytes. If the return value indicates failure, it’s likely that no randomness was put into the buffer. If the programmer does not check the return code, predictable data will be used.

In general, those functions that are not directly security-critical when their return value goes unchecked are often indirect security problems. (This can often happen with memory allocation functions, for example.) At the very least, such problems are often denial ...

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