Infer#: Interprocedural Memory Safety Analysis For C#

Xin Shi

“The refinement of techniques for the prompt discovery of error serves as well as any other as a hallmark of what we mean by science.” : -J. Robert Oppenheimer

We are excited to announce the public release of Infer#, which brings the interprocedural static analysis capabilities of Infer to the .NET community. Additionally, as part of our commitment to open-sourcing, the project has been released on GitHub under an MIT license.

Static analysis is a technique commonly used in the developer workflow to validate the correctness of source code without needing to execute it. Popular analyzers within the .NET ecosystem include FxCop and Roslyn analyzers. Infer# complements these tools by detecting interprocedural memory safety bugs such as null dereferences and resource leaks.

By integrating directly in the developer workflow to detect reliability and security bugs before they ship, Infer# supports agile development for .NET. Indeed, we already are observing promising early results on Microsoft software such as Roslyn, .NET SDK, and ASP.NET Core.

We plan to continue expanding Infer#, with support for thread safety coming next.

Interprocedural Memory Safety Validation For .NET

Infer# currently detects null dereferences and resource leaks, with race condition detection in development. We illustrate each capability below with a buggy piece of code along with the corresponding warning Infer# would report on it.

To learn more about the technical implementation of Infer#, please see our wiki.

Null Dereference

    static void Main(string[]) args)
        var returnNull = ReturnNull();
        _ = returnNull.Value;

    private static NullObj ReturnNull()
        return null;

internal class NullObj
    internal string Value { get; set; }

The returnNull variable is interprocedurally assigned null and is dereferenced via a read on the Value field. This dereference is detected:

/home/runner/work/infersharpaction/infersharpaction/Examples/NullDereference/Program.cs:11: error: NULL_DEREFERENCE (biabduction/
  pointer 'returnNull' could be null and is dereferenced at line 11, column 13.

Resource Leak

public StreamWriter AllocatedStreamWriter()
    FileStream fs = File.Create("everwhat.txt");
    return new StreamWriter(fs);

public void ResourceLeakBad()
    StreamWriter stream = AllocateStreamWriter();
    // FIXME: should close the StreamWriter by calling stream.Close() if stream is not null.

The stream StreamWriter variable is returned from AllocateStreamWriter but not closed. Infer# reports the resulting resource leak, enabling the developer to fix the error:

/home/runner/work/infersharpaction/infersharpaction/Examples/ResourceLeak/Program.cs:11: error: RESOURCE_LEAK
  Leaked { %0 -> 1 } resource(s) at type(s) System.IO.StreamWriter.

Coming next: Thread Safety Violations

Given the positive feedback we have already received on Infer#’s ability to catch null dereferences and resource leaks, we’re working on additional defect detection scenarios. Thread safety violation is the next scenario on the horizon, which we preview below:

public class RaceCondition
    private readonly object __lockobj = new object();
    public int intField;
    public void WriteToField(int input)
        lock (__lockObj)
            intField = input;

    public int ReadFromField()
        return intField;

Although the feature is still in development, the warnings will appear analogously to how they do within Java; lock() statement blocks will trigger the RacerD analysis just as synchronized() Java blocks do.

/.../Examples/RaceCondition/Program.cs:39: error: THREAD_SAFTY_VIOLATION
  Read/Write race. Non-private method 'Int32 RaceCondition.ReadFromField()' reads without synchronization from 'this.intField'. Potentially races
with write in method 'RaceCondition.WriteToField(...)'.
  Reporting because another access to the same memory occurs on a background thread, although this access may not.

Trying Infer#

  • You can play with Infer# and these examples simply using our Docker image:
docker pull

Start a container in interactive mode, then run the following command in the container:

sh Examples output

To view the bug report:

cat output/filtered_bugs.txt
  • You can run Infer# on your own code by copying the .dll and .pdb files to a folder in the Docker container, then replace Examples from the steps above with your folder name:
sh <folder_name> output

Please sumit your feedback and feature requests to our GitHub repository.


Discussion is closed. Login to edit/delete existing comments.

  • MgSam 0

    I’m a little confused about the null dereference analysis. The C# compiler has had nullable reference types since Sept 2019. This project looks only 3 months old judging by Github. What is the use-case for that feature?

    • Xin ShiMicrosoft employee 0

      Hi, nullable references in C# is a great feature to address null dereference, but it will take time to be widely adopted especially on existing codebases. Infer# by no means replaces it, but instead is complementary.

  • Shyam Sohane 0

    How we can use this tool without github action or container? do we have any vs extension or util which we can run on repo or codebase on local.

    • Xin ShiMicrosoft employee 0

      Hi, we are looking at supporting more scenarios like the ones you mentioned. Can you please open an issue on our repo here?

  • Bjego 0

    Good Morning Xin,
    are there any plans to integrate your tool with Azure Pipelines as well?

    I would love to use it in my pull requests for analysis! And it would be great, if a plugin could decorate a pull request with comments on the issued files / lines (as SonarCloud does)

    • Bart Sipes 0

      I agree, please add this to Azure Pipelines. All of my development is done in Azure DevOps not GitHub.

    • Xin ShiMicrosoft employee 0

      Hi, thanks for the feedback! We’ve tagged this as a feature request, and will be looking into this.

  • Ryan Tongs 0

    Cheers to Xin and the Microsoft devs that made this happen. Surprised we’re only just getting this now but very happy it’s here!

  • Tom Winter 0

    Looks great!

    What version of .NET does this work with? Can I use it with a project that targets .NET Standard 2.0?

    • Xin ShiMicrosoft employee 0


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