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Verification of Pointer-Based Programs with Partial Information

LUO, CHENGUANG (2011) Verification of Pointer-Based Programs with Partial Information. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The proliferation of software across all aspects of people's life means that software failure can bring catastrophic result. It is therefore highly desirable to be able to develop software that is verified to meet its expected specification. This has also been identified as a key objective in one of the UK Grand Challenges (GC6) (Jones et al., 2006; Woodcock, 2006). However, many difficult problems still remain in achieving this objective, partially due to the wide use of (recursive) shared mutable data structures which are hard to keep track of statically in a precise and concise way.

This thesis aims at building a verification system for both memory safety and functional correctness of programs manipulating pointer-based data structures, which can deal with two scenarios where only partial information about the program is available. For instance the verifier may be supplied with only partial program specification, or with full specification but only part of the program code. For the first scenario, previous state-of-the-art works (Nguyen et al., 2007; Chin et al., 2007; Nguyen and Chin, 2008; Chin et al, 2010) generally require users to provide full specifications for each method of the program to be verified. Their approach seeks much intellectual effort from users, and meanwhile users are liable to make mistakes in writing such specifications. This thesis proposes a new approach to program verification that allows users to provide only partial specification to methods. Our approach will then refine the given annotation into a more complete specification by discovering missing constraints. The discovered constraints may involve both numerical and multiset properties that could be later confirmed or revised by users. Meanwhile, we further augment our approach by requiring only partial specification to be given for primary methods of a program. Specifications for loops and auxiliary methods can then be systematically discovered by our augmented mechanism, with the help of information propagated from the primary methods. This work is aimed at verifying beyond shape properties, with the eventual goal of analysing both memory safety and functional properties for pointer-based data structures. Initial experiments have confirmed that we can automatically refine partial specifications with non-trivial constraints, thus making it easier for users to handle specifications with richer properties.

For the second scenario, many programs contain invocations to unknown components and hence only part of the program code is available to the verifier. As previous works generally require the whole of program code be present, we target at the verification of memory safety and functional correctness of programs manipulating pointer-based data structures, where the program code is only partially available due to invocations to unknown components. Provided with a Hoare-style specification ({Pre} prog {Post}) where program (prog) contains calls to some unknown procedure (unknown), we infer a specification (mspecu) for the unknown part (unknown) from the calling contexts, such that the problem of verifying program (prog) can be safely reduced to the problem of proving that the unknown procedure (unknown) (once its code is available) meets the derived specification (mspecu). The expected specification (mspecu) is automatically calculated using an abduction-based shape analysis specifically designed for a combined abstract domain. We have implemented a system to validate the viability of our approach, with encouraging experimental results.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Science > Engineering and Computing Science, School of (2008-2017)
Thesis Date:2011
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:01 Feb 2011 14:41

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