Trustworthy Systems

Don't sweat the small stuff: Formal verification of C code without the pain


David Greenaway, Japheth Lim, June Andronick and Gerwin Klein




We present an approach for automatically generating provably correct abstractions from C source code that are useful for practical implementation verification. The abstractions are easier for a human verification engineer to reason about than the implementation and increase the productivity of interactive code proof. We guarantee soundness by automatically generating proofs that the abstractions are correct.

In particular, we show two key abstractions that are critical for verifying systems-level C code: automatically turning potentially overflowing machine-word arithmetic into ideal integers, and transforming low-level C pointer reasoning into separate abstract heaps. Previous work carrying out such transformations has either done so using unverified translations, or required significant proof engineering effort.

We implement these abstractions in an existing proof-producing specification transformation framework named AutoCorres, developed in Isabelle/HOL, and demonstrate its effectiveness in a number of case studies. We show scalability on multiple OS microkernels, and we show how our changes to AutoCorres improve productivity for total correctness by porting an existing high-level verification of the Schorr-Waite algorithm to a low-level C implementation with minimal effort.

BibTeX Entry

    address          = {Edinburgh, UK},
    author           = {Greenaway, David and Lim, Japheth and Andronick, June and Klein, Gerwin},
    booktitle        = {ACM SIGPLAN Conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation},
    doi              = {10.1145/2594291.2594296},
    keywords         = {c verification; isabelle/hol},
    month            = jun,
    pages            = {429--439},
    paperurl         = {},
    publisher        = {ACM},
    title            = {Don't Sweat the Small Stuff: Formal Verification of {C} Code Without the Pain},
    year             = {2014}