CodeQL documentation

Uncontrolled format string

ID: cpp/tainted-format-string
Kind: path-problem
Severity: warning
Precision: high
   - reliability
   - security
   - external/cwe/cwe-134
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 program uses input from the user as a format string for printf style functions. This can lead to buffer overflows or data representation problems. An attacker can exploit this weakness to crash the program, disclose information or even execute arbitrary code.

The results of this rule do not include inputs from the user that are transferred through global variables. Those can be found in the related rule “Uncontrolled format string (through global variable)”.


Use constant expressions as the format strings. If you need to print a value from the user, use printf("%s", value_from_user).


#include <stdio.h>

void printWrapper(char *str) {

int main(int argc, char **argv) {
	// This should be avoided

	// This should be avoided too, because it has the same effect

	// This is fine
	printf("%s", argv[1]);