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Bug Concerning Data Location during Inheritance

Posted by Solidity Team on May 17, 2022

Security Alerts

On February 5th 2021, Nicolas Venturo reported a bug that allows overriding functions to change the data location of parameters from memory to calldata.

The bug was introduced in Solidity 0.6.9 together with the ability to use calldata data location for all variables (and not just parameters of external functions).

We assigned the bug a severity of "very low".

Which Contracts are Affected?

The effect of the bug is that a memory pointer is interpreted as a calldata pointer or vice-versa. It can only happen if you change the data location of a function during inheritance and perform an internal call at a location that is only aware of the original function signature from the base contract.

One case is that you have a base contract where you perform an internal call to a virtual function of the same base contract and there is a derived contract that overrides the base contract's function and changes the data location.

abstract contract I {
    // The base contract uses "calldata"
    function f(uint[] calldata x) virtual internal;
contract C is I {
    // The derived contract uses "memory" and the compiler
    // does not complain - this is the bug in the compiler.
    function f(uint[] memory x)  override internal {
        // If you use `x`, it will access memory
        // even if `D.g` passed us a calldata pointer.
        // This leads to the wrong data being accessed.
abstract contract D is I {
    function g(uint[] calldata x)  external {
        // Since D only "knows" `I`, the signature of `f`
        // uses calldata, while the virtual lookup ends
        // up with `C.f`, which uses memory. This results
        // in the calldata pointer `x` being passed and
        // interpreted as a memory pointer.
contract X is C, D { }

In the example above, the bug will only manifest itself in X, which combines the faulty override in C with the virtual function call in D.

It is likely that any test covering the affected function call will be able to detect the problem.

External calls are not affected, and it is actually not a problem to change the data location between calldata and memory for external functions. This is also how the bug was introduced: The compiler did not distinguish between calldata and memory in inheritance because it does not matter for external functions and calldata was only allowed inside external functions.

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