cppcoreguidelines-owning-memory

This check implements the type-based semantics of gsl::owner<T*>, which allows static analysis on code, that uses raw pointers to handle resources like dynamic memory, but won’t introduce RAII concepts.

The relevant sections in the C++ Core Guidelines are I.11, C.33, R.3 and GSL.Views The definition of a gsl::owner<T*> is straight forward

namespace gsl { template <typename T> owner = T; }

It is therefore simple to introduce the owner even without using an implementation of the Guideline Support Library.

All checks are purely type based and not (yet) flow sensitive.

The following examples will demonstrate the correct and incorrect initializations of owners, assignment is handled the same way. Note that both new and malloc()-like resource functions are considered to produce resources.

// Creating an owner with factory functions is checked.
gsl::owner<int*> function_that_returns_owner() { return gsl::owner<int*>(new int(42)); }

// Dynamic memory must be assigned to an owner
int* Something = new int(42); // BAD, will be caught
gsl::owner<int*> Owner = new int(42); // Good
gsl::owner<int*> Owner = new int[42]; // Good as well

// Returned owner must be assigned to an owner
int* Something = function_that_returns_owner(); // Bad, factory function
gsl::owner<int*> Owner = function_that_returns_owner(); // Good, result lands in owner

// Something not a resource or owner should not be assigned to owners
int Stack = 42;
gsl::owner<int*> Owned = &Stack; // Bad, not a resource assigned

In the case of dynamic memory as resource, only gsl::owner<T*> variables are allowed to be deleted.

// Example Bad, non-owner as resource handle, will be caught.
int* NonOwner = new int(42); // First warning here, since new must land in an owner
delete NonOwner; // Second warning here, since only owners are allowed to be deleted

// Example Good, Ownership correclty stated
gsl::owner<int*> Owner = new int(42); // Good
delete Owner; // Good as well, statically enforced, that only owners get deleted

The check will furthermore ensure, that functions, that expect a gsl::owner<T*> as argument get called with either a gsl::owner<T*> or a newly created resource.

void expects_owner(gsl::owner<int*> o) { delete o; }

// Bad Code
int NonOwner = 42;
expects_owner(&NonOwner); // Bad, will get caught

// Good Code
gsl::owner<int*> Owner = new int(42);
expects_owner(Owner); // Good
expects_owner(new int(42)); // Good as well, recognized created resource

// Port legacy code for better resource-safety
gsl::owner<FILE*> File = fopen("my_file.txt", "rw+");
FILE* BadFile = fopen("another_file.txt", "w"); // Bad, warned

// ... use the file

fclose(File); // Ok, File is annotated as 'owner<>'
fclose(BadFile); // BadFile is not an 'owner<>', will be warned

Options

LegacyResourceProducers

Semicolon-separated list of fully qualified names of legacy functions that create resources but cannot introduce gsl::owner<>. Defaults to ::malloc;::aligned_alloc;::realloc;::calloc;::fopen;::freopen;::tmpfile.

LegacyResourceConsumers

Semicolon-separated list of fully qualified names of legacy functions expecting resource owners as pointer arguments but cannot introduce gsl::owner<>. Defaults to ::free;::realloc;::freopen;::fclose.

Limitations

Using gsl::owner<T*> in a typedef or alias is not handled correctly.

using heap_int = gsl::owner<int*>;
heap_int allocated = new int(42); // False positive!

The gsl::owner<T*> is declared as a templated type alias. In template functions and classes, like in the example below, the information of the type aliases gets lost. Therefore using gsl::owner<T*> in a heavy templated code base might lead to false positives. This limitation results in std::vector<gsl::owner<T*>> not being diagnosed correctly.

// This template function works as expected. Type information doesn't get lost.
template <typename T>
void delete_owner(gsl::owner<T*> owned_object) {
  delete owned_object; // Everything alright
}

gsl::owner<int*> function_that_returns_owner() { return gsl::owner<int*>(new int(42)); }

// Type deduction does not work for auto variables.
// This is caught by the check and will be noted accordingly.
auto OwnedObject = function_that_returns_owner(); // Type of OwnedObject will be int*

// Problematic function template that looses the typeinformation on owner
template <typename T>
void bad_template_function(T some_object) {
  // This line will trigger the warning, that a non-owner is assigned to an owner
  gsl::owner<T*> new_owner = some_object;
}

// Calling the function with an owner still yields a false positive.
bad_template_function(gsl::owner<int*>(new int(42)));


// The same issue occurs with templated classes like the following.
template <typename T>
class OwnedValue {
public:
  const T getValue() const { return _val; }
private:
  T _val;
};

// Code, that yields a false positive.
OwnedValue<gsl::owner<int*>> Owner(new int(42)); // Type deduction yield T -> int *
// False positive, getValue returns int* and not gsl::owner<int*>
gsl::owner<int*> OwnedInt = Owner.getValue();

Another limitation of the current implementation is only the type based checking. Suppose you have code like the following:

// Two owners with assigned resources
gsl::owner<int*> Owner1 = new int(42);
gsl::owner<int*> Owner2 = new int(42);

Owner2 = Owner1; // Conceptual Leak of initial resource of Owner2!
Owner1 = nullptr;

The semantic of a gsl::owner<T*> is mostly like a std::unique_ptr<T>, therefore assignment of two gsl::owner<T*> is considered a move, which requires that the resource Owner2 must have been released before the assignment. This kind of condition could be catched in later improvements of this check with flowsensitive analysis. Currently, the Clang Static Analyzer catches this bug for dynamic memory, but not for general types of resources.