CodeQL documentation

Uncontrolled data used in OS command

ID: cpp/command-line-injection
Kind: path-problem
Severity: error
Precision: high
   - security
   - external/cwe/cwe-078
   - external/cwe/cwe-088
Query suites:
   - cpp-code-scanning.qls
   - cpp-security-extended.qls
   - cpp-security-and-quality.qls

Click to see the query in the CodeQL repository

The code passes user input as part of a call to system or popen without escaping special elements. It generates a command line using sprintf, with the user-supplied data directly passed as a formatting argument. This leaves the code vulnerable to attack by command injection.


Use a library routine to escape characters in the user-supplied string before passing it to a command shell.


The following example runs an external command in two ways. The first way uses sprintf to build a command directly out of a user-supplied argument. As such, it is vulnerable to command injection. The second way quotes the user-provided value before embedding it in the command; assuming the encodeShellString utility is correct, this code should be safe against command injection.

int main(int argc, char** argv) {
  char *userName = argv[2];
    // BAD: a string from the user is injected directly into
    // a command line.
    char command1[1000] = {0};
    sprintf(command1, "userinfo -v \"%s\"", userName);

    // GOOD: the user string is encoded by a library routine.
    char userNameQuoted[1000] = {0};
    encodeShellString(userNameQuoted, 1000, userName); 
    char command2[1000] = {0};
    sprintf(command2, "userinfo -v %s", userNameQuoted);


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