Don’t Miss the End: Preventing Unsafe End-of-File Comparisons

  • Charles Zhuo ChenEmail author
  • Werner Dietl
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10811)


Reading from an InputStream or Reader in Java either returns the read byte/character or \(-1\) if the end-of-file (EOF) has been reached. To support the additional \(-1\) as return value, the read methods return an int. For correct usage, the return value should be compared to \(-1\) before being converted to byte or char. If the conversion was performed before the comparison, it can cause a read-until-EOF-loop to either exit prematurely or be stuck in an infinite loop. The SEI CERT Oracle Coding Standard for Java rule FIO08-J “Distinguish between characters or bytes read from a stream and \(-1\)” describes this issue in detail. This paper presents a type system that prevents unsafe EOF value comparisons statically and is implemented for Java using the Checker Framework. In an evaluation of 35 projects (9 million LOC) it detected 3 defects in production software, 8 bad coding practices, and no false positives. The overall annotation effort is very low. Overrides for the read methods needed to be annotated, requiring a total of 44 annotations. Additionally, 3 annotations for fields and method parameters needed to be added. To the best of our knowledge this is the first open source tool to prevent this security issue.


Software security Static analysis Java type system CERT rules Practice 



We thank the reviewers for their comments, which helped us to improve the paper. We also thank Daniel Caccamo, Jeff Luo, and Sadaf Tajik for feedback on drafts. This work was partially supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. This material is based upon work supported by the United States Air Force under Contract No. FA8750-15-C-0010. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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