Use Explicit Overriding Annotations (OOP05)

Level \(\rightarrow\) Required













Remediation \(\rightarrow\) Low

Verification Method \(\rightarrow\) GNATcheck rule: Style_Checks:O


[AdaOOP2016] section 4.3


The declaration of a primitive operation that overrides an inherited operation must include an explicit overriding annotation.

The semantics of inheritance in mainstream object-oriented languages may result in two kinds of programming errors: 1) intending, but failing, to override an inherited subprogram, and 2) intending not to override an inherited subprogram, but doing so anyway. Because an overridden subprogram may perform subclass-specific safety or security checks, the invocation of the parent subprogram on a subclass instance can introduce a vulnerability.

The first issue (intending but failing to override) typically occurs when the subprogram name is misspelled. In this case a new or overloaded subprogram is actually declared.

The second issue (unintended overriding) can arise when a new subprogram is added to a parent type in an existing inheritance hierarchy. The new subprogram happens to cause one or more inherited subprograms below it to override the new superclass version. This mistake typically happens during program maintenance.

In Ada, much like other modern languages, one can annotate a subprogram declaration (and body) with an indication that the subprogram is an overriding of an inherited version. This is done with the overriding reserved word preceding the subprogram specification.

Similarly, in Ada one can explicitly indicate that a subprogram is not an overriding. To do so, the programmer includes the reserved words not overriding immediately prior to the subprogram specification.

Of course, incorrect marking errors are flagged by the compiler. If a subprogram is explicitly marked as overriding but is not actually overriding, the compiler will reject the code. Likewise, if a primitive subprogram is explicitly marked as not overriding, but actually is overriding, the compiler will reject the code.

However, most subprograms are not overriding so it would be a heavy burden on the programmer to make them explicitly indicate that fact. That's not to mention the relatively heavy syntax required.

In addition, both annotations are optional for the sake of compatibility with prior versions of the language. Therefore, a subprogram without either annotation might or might not be overriding. A legal program could contain some explicitly annotated subprograms and some that are not annotated at all. But because the compiler will reject explicit annotations that are incorrect, all we require is that one of the two cases be explicitly indicated for all such subprograms. Any unannotated subprograms not flagged as errors are then necessarily not that case, they must be the other one.

Since overriding is less common and involves slightly less syntax to annotate, the guideline requires explicit annotations only for overriding subprograms. It follows that any subprograms not flagged as errors by the compiler are not overriding, so they need not be marked explicitly as such.

This guideline is implemented by compiler switches, or alternatively, by a GNATcheck rule (specified below the table). With this guideline applied and enforced, the two inheritance errors described in the introduction cannot happen.

Note that the compiler switches will also require the explicit overriding indicator when overriding a language-defined operator. The switches also apply to inherited primitive subprograms for non-tagged types.

Applicable Vulnerability within ISO TR 24772-2

  • 6.34 Subprogram signature mismatch [OTR]

  • 6.41 Inheritance [RIP]

Noncompliant Code Example

type Root_T is tagged null record;
procedure Primitive (X : in out Root_T) is null;
type Noncompliant_Child_T is new Root_T with null record;
procedure Primitive (X : in out Noncompliant_Child_T) is null;

Compliant Code Example

type Compliant_Child_T is new Root_T with null record;
overriding procedure Primitive (X : in out Compliant_Child_T) is null;


This rule requires the GNAT compiler switches -gnatyO and -gnatwe in order for the compiler to flag missing overriding annotations as errors. The first causes the compiler to generate the warnings, and the second causes those warnings to be treated as errors.