CodeQL documentation

Type confusion

ID: cpp/type-confusion
Kind: path-problem
Security severity: 9.3
Severity: warning
Precision: medium
   - security
   - external/cwe/cwe-843
Query suites:
   - cpp-security-extended.qls
   - cpp-security-and-quality.qls

Click to see the query in the CodeQL repository

Certain casts in C and C++ place no restrictions on the target type. For example, C style casts such as (MyClass*)p allows the programmer to cast any pointer p to an expression of type MyClass*. If the runtime type of p turns out to be a type that’s incompatible with MyClass, this results in undefined behavior.


If possible, use dynamic_cast to safely cast between polymorphic types. If dynamic_cast is not an option, use static_cast to restrict the kinds of conversions that the compiler is allowed to perform. If C++ style casts is not an option, carefully check that all casts are safe.


Consider the following class hierachy where we define a base class Shape and two derived classes Circle and Square that are mutually incompatible:

struct Shape {
  virtual ~Shape();

  virtual void draw() = 0;

struct Circle : public Shape {

  void draw() override {
    /* ... */

  int getRadius();

struct Square : public Shape {

  void draw() override {
    /* ... */

  int getLength();

The following code demonstrates a type confusion vulnerability where the programmer assumes that the runtime type of p is always a Square. However, if p is a Circle, the cast will result in undefined behavior.

void allocate_and_draw_bad() {
  Shape* shape = new Circle;
  // ...
  // BAD: Assumes that shape is always a Square
  Square* square = static_cast<Square*>(shape);
  int length = square->getLength();

The following code fixes the vulnerability by using dynamic_cast to safely cast between polymorphic types. If the cast fails, dynamic_cast returns a null pointer, which can be checked for and handled appropriately.

void allocate_and_draw_good() {
  Shape* shape = new Circle;
  // ...
  // GOOD: Dynamically checks if shape is a Square
  Square* square = dynamic_cast<Square*>(shape);
  if(square) {
    int length = square->getLength();
  } else {
    // handle error


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