Symbolic Liveness Analysis of Real-World Software

Abstract

Liveness violation bugs are notoriously hard to detect, especially due to the difficulty inherent in applying formal methods to real-world programs. We present a generic and practically useful liveness property which defines a program as being live as long as it will eventually either consume more input or terminate. We show that this property naturally maps to many different kinds of real-world programs.To demonstrate the usefulness of our liveness property, we also present an algorithm that can be efficiently implemented to dynamically find lassos in the target program’s state space during Symbolic Execution. This extends Symbolic Execution, a well known dynamic testing technique, to find a new class of program defects, namely liveness violations, while only incurring a small runtime and memory overhead, as evidenced by our evaluation. The implementation of our method found a total of five previously undiscovered software defects in BusyBox and the GNU Coreutils. All five defects have been confirmed and fixed by the respective maintainers after shipping for years, most of them well over a decade.

Publication
International Conference on Computer-Aided Verification (CAV 2018)
PhD Student

I am a researcher and head of Systems Analysis at the Chair of Communication and Distributed Systems at RWTH Aachen University, where I research the testability of distributed systems. My specific focus is on the applicability of Symbolic Execution to real world software.

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