Null pointer dereference

Vulnerability potential High
DDoS potential High

Dereferencing null pointer might have harmful effect on the application or the complete operating system.


In case there is no page assigned to null address, accessing data by that address and all adjacent addresses will terminate the application. For the kernel mode, the defect will panic the kernel.

Vulnerability potential

This issue has a potential to be a vulnerability.

  1. Since the default behavior is to terminate the application or panic the kernel, this defect might be used as a part of Denial of Service attack.
  2. The termination of application might open other security issues in complex systems, leading to the attacker gaining access to the system.
  3. If attacker has an access to signal handler, this defect may be used to perform remote code execution.

Technical details

The issue comes from memory management unit (MMU) de-facto conventions. When such a memory access occurs, the operating system looks up the page in the page table. The address range of the page containing null address is historically not mapped to any page on most systems, leading to SIGSEGV signal (on POSIX systems), which by default terminates an application. On Windows and Visual C++ compiler with Structured Exception Handling (SEH), the


Beware that most microcontrollers have null address page mapped to the vector of interrupt handlers. Changing the value on that address may have serious impact and may come unattended.

Catching the issue

There are methods to catch the issue in runtime, however, you must be assured that the signal handler may actually recover the program from the issue, otherwise, you risk to have the handler invoked repeatedly.


Set up the SIGSEGV signal handler to catch the issue.


Use __try/__except if the compiler supports Structured Exception Handling (Microsoft Visual C++ does).

How to reproduce