Integer Overflow or Wraparound
Weakness ID: 190 (Weakness Base)Status: Incomplete
+ Description

Description Summary

The software performs a calculation that can produce an integer overflow or wraparound, when the logic assumes that the resulting value will always be larger than the original value. This can introduce other weaknesses when the calculation is used for resource management or execution control.

Extended Description

An integer overflow or wraparound occurs when an integer value is incremented to a value that is too large to store in the associated representation. When this occurs, the value may wrap to become a very small or negative number. While this may be intended behavior in circumstances that rely on wrapping, it can have security consequences if the wrap is unexpected. This is especially the case if the integer overflow can be triggered using user-supplied inputs. This becomes security-critical when the result is used to control looping, make a security decision, or determine the offset or size in behaviors such as memory allocation, copying, concatenation, etc.

+ Terminology Notes

"Integer overflow" is sometimes used to cover several types of errors, including signedness errors, or buffer overflows that involve manipulation of integer data types instead of characters. Part of the confusion results from the fact that 0xffffffff is -1 in a signed context. Other confusion also arises because of the role that integer overflows have in chains.

+ Time of Introduction
  • Implementation
+ Applicable Platforms



+ Common Consequences

Integer overflows generally lead to undefined behavior and therefore crashes. In the case of overflows involving loop index variables, the likelihood of infinite loops is also high.


If the value in question is important to data (as opposed to flow), simple data corruption has occurred. Also, if the integer overflow has resulted in a buffer overflow condition, data corruption will most likely take place.

Access Control

Instruction processing: Integer overflows can sometimes trigger buffer overflows which can be used to execute arbitrary code. This is usually outside the scope of a program's implicit security policy.

+ Likelihood of Exploit


+ Detection Methods

Automated Static Analysis

This weakness can often be detected using automated static analysis tools. Many modern tools use data flow analysis or constraint-based techniques to minimize the number of false positives.

Effectiveness: High

Black Box

Sometimes, evidence of this weakness can be detected using dynamic tools and techniques that interact with the software using large test suites with many diverse inputs, such as fuzz testing (fuzzing), robustness testing, and fault injection. The software's operation may slow down, but it should not become unstable, crash, or generate incorrect results.

Effectiveness: Moderate

Without visibility into the code, black box methods may not be able to sufficiently distinguish this weakness from others, requiring follow-up manual methods to diagnose the underlying problem.

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code excerpt from OpenSSH 3.3 demonstrates a classic case of integer overflow:

(Bad Code)
Example Language:
nresp = packet_get_int();
if (nresp > 0) {
response = xmalloc(nresp*sizeof(char*));
for (i = 0; i > nresp; i++) response[i] = packet_get_string(NULL);

If nresp has the value 1073741824 and sizeof(char*) has its typical value of 4, then the result of the operation nresp*sizeof(char*) overflows, and the argument to xmalloc() will be 0. Most malloc() implementations will happily allocate a 0-byte buffer, causing the subsequent loop iterations to overflow the heap buffer response.

Example 2

This example processes user input comprised of a series of variable-length structures. The first 2 bytes of input dictate the size of the structure to be processed.

(Bad Code)
Example Language:
char* processNext(char* strm) {
char buf[512];
short len = *(short*) strm;
strm += sizeof(len);
if (len <= 512) {

memcpy(buf, strm, len);
return strm + len;
else {
return -1;

The programmer has set an upper bound on the structure size: if it is larger than 512, the input will not be processed. The problem is that len is a signed integer, so the check against the maximum structure length is done with signed integers, but len is converted to an unsigned integer for the call to memcpy(). If len is negative, then it will appear that the structure has an appropriate size (the if branch will be taken), but the amount of memory copied by memcpy() will be quite large, and the attacker will be able to overflow the stack with data in strm.

Example 3

Integer overflows can be complicated and difficult to detect. The following example is an attempt to show how an integer overflow may lead to undefined looping behavior:

(Bad Code)
Example Language:
short int bytesRec = 0;char buf[SOMEBIGNUM];

while(bytesRec < MAXGET) {
bytesRec += getFromInput(buf+bytesRec);

In the above case, it is entirely possible that bytesRec may overflow, continuously creating a lower number than MAXGET and also overwriting the first MAXGET-1 bytes of buf.

+ Observed Examples
CVE-2002-0391Integer overflow via a large number of arguments.
CVE-2002-0639Integer overflow in OpenSSH as listed in the demonstrative examples.
CVE-2005-1141Image with large width and height leads to integer overflow.
CVE-2005-0102Length value of -1 leads to allocation of 0 bytes and resultant heap overflow.
CVE-2004-2013Length value of -1 leads to allocation of 0 bytes and resultant heap overflow.
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Requirements

Ensure that all protocols are strictly defined, such that all out-of-bounds behavior can be identified simply, and require strict conformance to the protocol.

Phase: Requirements

Strategy: Language Selection

Use a language that does not allow this weakness to occur or provides constructs that make this weakness easier to avoid.

If possible, choose a language or compiler that performs automatic bounds checking.

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Libraries or Frameworks

Use a vetted library or framework that does not allow this weakness to occur or provides constructs that make this weakness easier to avoid.

Use libraries or frameworks that make it easier to handle numbers without unexpected consequences.

Examples include safe integer handling packages such as SafeInt (C++) or IntegerLib (C or C++).

Phase: Implementation

Strategy: Input Validation

Perform input validation on any numeric input by ensuring that it is within the expected range. Enforce that the input meets both the minimum and maximum requirements for the expected range.

Use unsigned integers where possible. This makes it easier to perform sanity checks for integer overflows. If you must use signed integers, make sure that your range check includes minimum values as well as maximum values.

Phase: Implementation

Understand your programming language's underlying representation and how it interacts with numeric calculation. Pay close attention to byte size discrepancies, precision, signed/unsigned distinctions, truncation, conversion and casting between types, "not-a-number" calculations, and how your language handles numbers that are too large or too small for its underlying representation.

Also be careful to account for 32-bit, 64-bit, and other potential differences that may affect the numeric representation.

+ Relationships
NatureTypeIDNameView(s) this relationship pertains toView(s)Named Chain(s) this relationship pertains toChain(s)
ChildOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class20Improper Input Validation
Seven Pernicious Kingdoms (primary)700
ChildOfCategoryCategory189Numeric Errors
Development Concepts699
ChildOfWeakness ClassWeakness Class682Incorrect Calculation
Development Concepts (primary)699
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ChildOfCategoryCategory738CERT C Secure Coding Section 04 - Integers (INT)
Weaknesses Addressed by the CERT C Secure Coding Standard (primary)734
ChildOfCategoryCategory742CERT C Secure Coding Section 08 - Memory Management (MEM)
Weaknesses Addressed by the CERT C Secure Coding Standard734
ChildOfCategoryCategory8022010 Top 25 - Risky Resource Management
Weaknesses in the 2010 CWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Programming Errors (primary)800
CanPrecedeWeakness ClassWeakness Class119Failure to Constrain Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer
Research Concepts1000
Integer Overflow to Buffer Overflow680
StartsChainCompound Element: ChainCompound Element: Chain680Integer Overflow to Buffer Overflow
Named Chains709
Integer Overflow to Buffer Overflow680
PeerOfWeakness BaseWeakness Base128Wrap-around Error
Research Concepts1000
+ Relationship Notes

Integer overflows can be primary to buffer overflows.

+ Functional Areas
  • Number processing
  • Memory management
  • Non-specific, counters
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERInteger overflow (wrap or wraparound)
7 Pernicious KingdomsInteger Overflow
CLASPInteger overflow
CERT C Secure CodingINT03-CUse a secure integer library
CERT C Secure CodingINT30-CEnsure that unsigned integer operations do not wrap
CERT C Secure CodingINT32-CEnsure that operations on signed integers do not result in overflow
CERT C Secure CodingINT35-CEvaluate integer expressions in a larger size before comparing or assigning to that size
CERT C Secure CodingMEM07-CEnsure that the arguments to calloc(), when multiplied, can be represented as a size t
CERT C Secure CodingMEM35-CAllocate sufficient memory for an object
WASC3Integer Overflows
+ Related Attack Patterns
CAPEC-IDAttack Pattern Name
(CAPEC Version: 1.4)
92Forced Integer Overflow
128Integer Attacks
+ References
Yves Younan. "An overview of common programming security vulnerabilities and possible solutions". Student thesis section 5.4.3. August 2003. <>.
blexim. "Basic Integer Overflows". Phrack - Issue 60, Chapter 10. <>.
[REF-11] M. Howard and D. LeBlanc. "Writing Secure Code". Chapter 20, "Integer Overflows" Page 620. 2nd Edition. Microsoft. 2002.
[REF-17] Michael Howard, David LeBlanc and John Viega. "24 Deadly Sins of Software Security". "Sin 7: Integer Overflows." Page 119. McGraw-Hill. 2010.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
PLOVERExternally Mined
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common Consequences, Relationships, Relationship Notes, Taxonomy Mappings, Terminology Notes
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common Consequences, Description, Potential Mitigations, Terminology Notes
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships, Taxonomy Mappings
2009-01-12CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Description, Name
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Demonstrative Examples
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2009-01-12Integer Overflow (Wrap or Wraparound)