Coverity Scan

Coverity Scan is a free service for static code analysis of Open Source projects. It is based on Coverity’s commercial product and is able to analyze C, C++ and Java code.

Coverity’s static code analysis doesn’t run the code. Instead of that it uses abstract interpretation to gain information about the code’s control flow and data flow. It’s able to follow all possible code paths that a program may take. For example the analyzer understands that malloc() returns a memory that must be freed with free() later. It follows all branches and function calls to see if all possible combinations free the memory. The analyzer is able to detect all sorts of issues like resource leaks (memory, file descriptors), NULL dereferencing, use after free, unchecked return values, dead code, buffer overflows, integer overflows, uninitialized variables, and many more.

Access to analysis reports

The results are available on the Coverity Scan website. In order to access the results you have to create an account yourself. Then go to Projects using Scan and add yourself to the Python project. New members must be approved by an admin (see Contact).

Access is restricted to Python core developers only. Other individuals may be given access at our own discretion, too. Every now and then Coverity detects a critical issue in Python’s code – new analyzers may even find new bugs in mature code. We don’t want to disclose issues prematurely.

Building and uploading analysis

The process is automated. A script runs hg pull, hg update, cov-build and uploads the latest analysis to Coverity. Since Coverity has limited the maximum number of builds per week Python is analyzed every second day. The build runs on a dedicated virtual machine on PSF’s infrastructure at OSU Open Source Labs. The process is maintained by Christian Heimes (see Contact). At present only the tip is analyzed with the 64bit Linux tools.

Known limitations

Some aspects of Python’s C code are not yet understood by Coverity.

False positives

Py_BuildValue("N", PyObject*)
Coverity doesn’t understand that N format char passes the object along without touching its reference count. On this ground the analyzer detects a resource leak. CID 719685
PyLong_FromLong() for negative values
Coverity claims that PyLong_FromLong() and other PyLong_From*() functions cannot handle a negative value because the value might be used as an array index in get_small_int(). CID 486783
PyLong_FromLong() for n in [-5 ... +255]
For integers in the range of Python’s small int cache the PyLong_From*() function can never fail and never returns NULL. CID 1058291
PyArg_ParseTupleAndKeywords(args, kwargs, "s#", &data, &length)
Some functions use the format char combination such as s#, u# or z# to get data and length of a character array. Coverity doesn’t recognize the relation between data and length. Sometimes it detects a buffer overflow if data is written to a fixed size buffer although length <= sizeof(buffer). CID 486613
path_converter() dereferencing after null check
The path_converter() function in posixmodule.c makes sure that either path_t.narrow or path_t.wide is filled unless path_t.nullable is explicitly enabled. CID 719648


Python is written in C89 (ANSI C), therefore it can’t use C99 features such as va_copy(). Python’s own variant Py_VA_COPY() uses memcpy() to make a copy of a va_list variable. Coverity detects two issues in this approach: “Passing argument “lva” of type “va_list” and sizeof(va_list) to function memcpy() is suspicious.” CID 486405 and “Uninitialized pointer read” CID 486630.


Modeling is explained in the Coverity Help Center which is available in the help menu of Coverity Connect. coverity_model.c contains a copy of Python’s modeling file for Coverity. Please keep the copy in sync with the model file in Analysis Settings of Coverity Scan.


False positive and intentional issues

If the problem is listed under Known limitations then please set the classification to either “False positive” or “Intentional”, the action to “Ignore”, owner to your own account and add a comment why the issue is considered false positive or intentional.

If you think it’s a new false positive or intentional then please contact an admin. The first step should be an updated to Python’s Modeling file.

Positive issues

You should always create an issue unless it’s really a trivial case. Please add the full url to the ticket under Ext. Reference and add the CID (Coverity ID) to both the ticket and the checkin message. It makes it much easier to understand the relation between tickets, fixes and Coverity issues.


Please include both Brett and Christian in any mail regarding Coverity. Mails to Coverity should go through Brett or Christian, too.

Christian Heimes <christian (at) python (dot) org>
admin, maintainer of build machine, intermediary between Python and Coverity
Brett Cannon <brett (at) python (dot) org>
Dakshesh Vyas <>
Technical Manager - Coverity Scan