CodeQL documentation

Incorrect absolute value of random number

ID: java/abs-of-random
Kind: problem
Severity: warning
Precision: medium
   - reliability
   - maintainability
Query suites:
   - java-security-and-quality.qls

Click to see the query in the CodeQL repository

Using Math.abs on the result of a call to Random.nextInt() (or Random.nextLong()) is not guaranteed to return a non-negative number. Random.nextInt() can return Integer.MIN_VALUE, which when passed to Math.abs results in the same value, Integer.MIN_VALUE. (Because of the two’s-complement representation of integers in Java, the positive equivalent of Integer.MIN_VALUE cannot be represented in the same number of bits.) The case for Random.nextLong() is similar.


If a non-negative random integer is required, use Random.nextInt(int) instead, and use Integer.MAX_VALUE as its parameter. The values that might be returned do not include Integer.MAX_VALUE itself, but this solution is likely to be sufficient for most purposes.

Another solution is to increment the value of Random.nextInt() by one, if it is negative, before passing the result to Math.abs. This solution has the advantage that 0 has the same probability as other numbers.


In the following example, mayBeNegativeInt is negative if nextInt returns Integer.MIN_VALUE. The example shows how using the two solutions described above means that positiveInt is always assigned a positive number.

public static void main(String args[]) {
    Random r = new Random();

    // BAD: 'mayBeNegativeInt' is negative if
    // 'nextInt()' returns 'Integer.MIN_VALUE'.
    int mayBeNegativeInt = Math.abs(r.nextInt());

    // GOOD: 'nonNegativeInt' is always a value between 0 (inclusive)
    // and Integer.MAX_VALUE (exclusive).
    int nonNegativeInt = r.nextInt(Integer.MAX_VALUE);

    // GOOD: When 'nextInt' returns a negative number increment the returned value.
    int nextInt = r.nextInt();
    if(nextInt < 0)
    int nonNegativeInt = Math.abs(nextInt);