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Memory leak

Memory leak definition

A memory leak refers to a situation where a computer program incorrectly manages memory allocations, decreasing available memory.

See also: ASLR, memory cache, memory refresh, vulnerability

Risks associated with memory leak

  • Decreased performance. Memory leaks accumulate and consume the system's available memory. This leads to a noticeable slowdown in the applications and overall system performance.
  • System instability. As available memory becomes scarce, applications and system processes experience issues or crashes.
  • Crashes. When an application suffering from a memory leak runs out of memory to allocate, it crashes or hangs, leading to data loss and the need for a restart.
  • Increased resource utilization. Memory leaks lead to increased usage of system resources, such as CPU and disk usage, as the system may start to use swap space (virtual memory) when physical memory is exhausted.
  • Difficulty in debugging. Memory leaks can be challenging to detect and diagnose, especially in complex applications. They may not become apparent until the application runs for a long time or under specific conditions.
  • Impact on user experience. For end-users, memory leaks in applications lead to frustrating experiences due to slowdowns, unresponsiveness, and unexpected crashes, leading to a loss of work.
  • Vulnerabilities. If an application leaks memory that contains sensitive information, attackers can exploit this leak to gain access to that data.
  • Resource starvation. In a multi-user or multi-process environment, a memory leak in one process can lead to resource starvation for others.