CodeQL documentation

Use of string after lifetime ends

ID: cpp/use-of-string-after-lifetime-ends
Kind: problem
Security severity: 8.8
Severity: warning
Precision: high
   - reliability
   - security
   - external/cwe/cwe-416
   - external/cwe/cwe-664
Query suites:
   - cpp-code-scanning.qls
   - cpp-security-extended.qls
   - cpp-security-and-quality.qls

Click to see the query in the CodeQL repository

Calling c_str on a std::string object returns a pointer to the underlying character array. When the std::string object is destroyed, the pointer returned by c_str is no longer valid. If the pointer is used after the std::string object is destroyed, then the behavior is undefined.

Typically, this problem occurs when a std::string is returned by a function call (or overloaded operator) by value, and the result is not immediately stored in a variable by value or reference in a way that extends the lifetime of the temporary object. The resulting temporary std::string object is destroyed at the end of the containing expression statement, along with any memory returned by a call to c_str.


Ensure that the pointer returned by c_str does not outlive the underlying std::string object.


The following example concatenates two std::string objects, and then converts the resulting string to a C string using c_str so that it can be passed to the work function. However, the underlying std::string object that represents the concatenated string is destroyed as soon as the call to c_str returns. This means that work is given a pointer to invalid memory.

#include <string>
void work(const char*);

// BAD: the concatenated string is deallocated when `c_str` returns. So `work`
// is given a pointer to invalid memory.
void work_with_combined_string_bad(std::string s1, std::string s2) {
  const char* combined_string = (s1 + s2).c_str();

The following example fixes the above code by ensuring that the pointer returned by the call to c_str does not outlive the underlying std::string objects. This ensures that the pointer passed to work points to valid memory.

#include <string>
void work(const char*);

// GOOD: the concatenated string outlives the call to `work`. So the pointer
// obtainted from `c_str` is valid.
void work_with_combined_string_good(std::string s1, std::string s2) {
  auto combined_string = s1 + s2;


  • © GitHub, Inc.
  • Terms
  • Privacy