Debunking the Myth: C++ and Cybersecurity Concerns

In recent times, there has been a surge in discussions surrounding the security vulnerabilities associated with the use of C++ in software development. The U.S. government’s urging of developers to transition away from unmanaged languages such as C and C++ due to cybersecurity concerns has sparked significant debate within the tech community. However, let’s delve deeper into the reality of C++ as a programming language, its historical significance, and why the fear surrounding its usage may be largely unfounded.

I may be biased as Bjarne Stroustrup was my C++ professor at Texas A&M University a decade ago, but that was also the time when significant changes were made to C++ to address this very issue. I have also been a .NET programmer for the same length of time, so I have a perspective of both unmanaged and managed languages. So let’s dive in and let me know what you think.


  • C++ has evolved to become a safer programming languages employing smart pointers, memory-safe standard library components, and improved compiler support for detecting vulnerabilities.
  • Built-in within C++ is a powerful technique called Resource Acquisition Is Initialization (RAII) that makes sure resources are released after they’re used.
  • Empirical evidence suggests that C++ is not inherently less secure than other programming languages.
  • Some of the biggest breaches in the last decade were online companies developed in programming languages other than C++.

Understanding C++: A Pillar of Software Development

C++, developed by Bjarne Stroustrup in the 1980s, has remained one of the most influential and widely used programming languages in the world. Its versatility and efficiency have made it a cornerstone in various domains, including system programming, game development, embedded systems, and high-performance computing. Its syntax, based on the C programming language, provides developers with powerful tools for creating complex software systems.

Memory Safety Vulnerabilities: Myth or Reality?

One of the primary concerns raised against C++ is its susceptibility to memory safety vulnerabilities, which can lead to exploits and cyberattacks. The language’s manual memory management features, such as pointers and direct memory access, have historically been cited as potential sources of vulnerabilities. However, it’s essential to note that modern development practices and tools have significantly mitigated these risks.

Consider the following example of a buffer overflow vulnerability in C++:

#include <iostream>
#include <cstring>

int main() {
    char buffer[10];
    strcpy(buffer, "overflowing buffer");
    std::cout << buffer << std::endl;
    return 0;

In this code snippet, the strcpy function copies a string into a buffer without checking its length, leading to a buffer overflow if the input exceeds the allocated space.

The Evolution of C++ Security: Progress and Innovation

Contrary to popular belief, C++ has not stagnated in terms of security. The C++ Standards Committee continuously updates and enhances the language to address emerging security concerns. Features like smart pointers, memory-safe standard library components, and improved compiler support for detecting vulnerabilities have significantly bolstered C++’s security posture. One powerful technique introduced to mitigate memory safety vulnerabilities is RAII (Resource Acquisition Is Initialization).

RAII is a design pattern in C++ that binds the lifetime of a resource to the lifetime of an object. By encapsulating resource acquisition and release within the constructor and destructor of a class, RAII ensures that resources are properly managed and released when they are no longer needed, thereby preventing memory leaks and dangling pointers.

Consider the following example code demonstrating RAII:

#include <iostream>
#include <memory>

class Resource {
    Resource() {
        std::cout << "Resource acquired." << std::endl;

    ~Resource() {
        std::cout << "Resource released." << std::endl;

int main() {
    std::cout << "Before resource acquisition." << std::endl;
        Resource r; // RAII ensures resource is released when 'r' goes out of scope
        std::cout << "Inside scope with resource." << std::endl;
    std::cout << "After resource release." << std::endl;
    return 0;

In this code snippet, the Resource class represents a hypothetical resource that requires proper acquisition and release. When an instance of Resource is created within a scope, its constructor is called, acquiring the resource. When the scope is exited, the destructor is automatically called, releasing the resource, regardless of how the scope is exited (e.g., through normal flow, exception, or early return).

The Inevitability of C++: Practicality Over Panic

While calls to abandon C++ in favor of supposedly safer alternatives may sound appealing, the reality is far more nuanced. C++’s ubiquity across a myriad of industries and legacy systems makes a sudden transition impractical, if not impossible. Many critical software systems, including operating systems, databases, and infrastructure components, heavily rely on C++ for performance and functionality.

Debunking the Misconceptions: C++’s Safety in Numbers

Despite its perceived risks, empirical evidence suggests that C++ is not inherently less secure than other programming languages. According to the National Vulnerability Database (NVD), the number of reported vulnerabilities in C++ projects does not disproportionately exceed those in comparable languages like Java or Python.

Social media giants like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, and Twitter were all developed in various combination of Java, C++ C#, JavaScript, Ruby on Rails and so on, and all these companies have experienced serious data breaches in the last decade. Twitter, originally developed in Ruby and later in Java/Scala, was hacked in 2018 and impacted about 300 million users. Yahoo, developed in PHP, was hacked in 2014 and impacted 500 million accounts. Facebook, developed in Hack/HHVM, Python, C++, Java, Erlang, D and Haskell, had a data breach that affected around 500 million users. LinkedIn, developed in Java, JavaScript, and Scala, had a data breach in 2021 that impacted 700 million users! eBay, also developed in Java, JavaScript, and Scala, had a data breach in 2014 impacting 145 million users!

But where is the government’s call to reduce the usage of managed languages like Java, JavaScript, Python and Scala for security concerns?

Moreover, the proactive measures taken by the C++ community and industry stakeholders continue to fortify the language’s defenses against potential threats.

Conclusion: Embracing Pragmatism in Software Security

In conclusion, while cybersecurity concerns should not be taken lightly, demonizing C++ as a breeding ground for vulnerabilities is both unfair and misguided. The language’s rich ecosystem, performance advantages, and continuous improvement efforts make it an indispensable tool for modern software development.

RAII, along with other modern security techniques and practices, exemplifies C++’s adaptability and resilience in mitigating memory safety vulnerabilities. Instead of succumbing to fear and uncertainty, developers should focus on adopting best practices, leveraging modern security tools, and staying informed about emerging threats. By doing so, we can collectively ensure that C++ remains a safe and reliable choice for building the next generation of software solutions.

Let’s not vilify a language based on outdated perceptions, but rather embrace its potential while remaining vigilant in safeguarding against potential risks.

Alejandrio Vasay
Alejandrio Vasay

Welcome to Coder Schmoder! I'm a .NET developer with a 15+ years of web and software development experience. I created this blog to impart my knowledge of programming to those who are interested in learning are just beginning in their programming journey.

I live in DFW, Texas and currently working as a .NET /Web Developer. I earned my Master of Computer Science degree from Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas. I hope, someday, to make enough money to travel to my birth country, the Philippines, and teach software development to people who don't have the means to learn it.

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