use of memset and optimization

Ben Cox cox at
Fri Nov 8 13:21:01 EST 2002

On Fri, 2002-11-08 at 12:24, Tom Yu wrote:
> john>    1) volatile requirement (as you mention)
> john>    2) the signal handler has no way to access that object anyway
> john>       (it's only pointed to by "key" which is local to the function)
> It also occurs to me that even if a pointer to "key" escapes, e.g. by
> way of the encrypt() function, which is an external reference, a
> signal handler can't have defined behavior if it references "key",
> since accesses through a pointer after it has been free()ed are
> undefined, and there's no guarantee that the signal handler will be
> called before free() invalidates the pointer.  I don't think the
> standard requires that a signal only be delivered at sequence points.

If free() is also an external reference, it's possible that the pointer
could be remembered by encrypt() (or maybe memset(), for that matter, if
the compiler can't prove you're using the system memset()) and forgotten
in free(), so the signal handler could know whether it was safe to

It's also possible to write signal handlers that *can* work on pointers
even after they've been freed.  (For example, ones that know the
structure of the malloc arena; consider Purify and its ilk, which can
dump memory allocation details on a signal or via timer.)  From an
*application* point of view, free()ing a pointer makes it "invalid";
from a lower level point of view, calling free() just makes the target
memory part of a different data structure.  The fact that the standard
cries foul if that pointer gets used doesn't mean that a process that
does it is necessarily broken.

-- Ben

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