CodeQL documentation

Potentially unsafe use of strcat

ID: cpp/unsafe-strcat
Kind: problem
Security severity: 9.8
Severity: warning
Precision: medium
   - reliability
   - correctness
   - security
   - external/cwe/cwe-676
   - external/cwe/cwe-120
   - external/cwe/cwe-251
Query suites:
   - cpp-security-extended.qls
   - cpp-security-and-quality.qls

Click to see the query in the CodeQL repository

The standard library function strcat appends a source string to a target string. If you do not check the size of the source string then you cannot guarantee that appending the data to the target string will not cause a buffer overflow. Buffer overflows can lead to anything from a segmentation fault to a security vulnerability.


Check the highlighted function calls carefully to ensure that no buffer overflow is possible. For a more robust solution, consider adding explicit range checks or using the strncat function instead.


void f(char *s) {
	char buf[80];
	strcpy(buf, "s: ");
	strcat(buf, s);  // wrong: buffer not checked before strcat

void g(char *s) {
	char buf[80];
	strcpy(buf, "s: ");
	if(strlen(s) < 77)
		strcat(buf, s);  // correct: buffer size checked before strcat


  • I. Gerg, An Overview and Example of the Buffer-Overflow Exploit. IANewsletter vol 7, no 4, 2005.

  • M. Donaldson, Inside the Buffer Overflow Attack: Mechanism, Method & Prevention. SANS Institute InfoSec Reading Room. 2002.

  • Common Weakness Enumeration: CWE-676.

  • Common Weakness Enumeration: CWE-120.

  • Common Weakness Enumeration: CWE-251.

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