On the Design of Generic Static Analyzers for Imperative Languages

Publication TypeMiscellaneous
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsBagnara R, Hill PM, Pescetti A, Zaffanella E
Keywordsabstract interpretation, software verification, static analysis, structured operational semantics

The design and implementation of precise static analyzers for significant fragments of imperative languages like C, C++, Java and Python is a challenging problem. In this paper, we consider a core imperative language that has several features found in mainstream languages such as those including recursive functions, run-time system and user-defined exceptions, and a realistic data and memory model. For this language we provide a concrete semantics –-characterizing both finite and infinite computations–- and a generic abstract semantics that we prove sound with respect to the concrete one. We say the abstract semantics is generic since it is designed to be completely parametric on the analysis domains: in particular, it provides support for \emph{relational} domains (i.e., abstract domains that can capture the relationships between different data objects). We also sketch how the proposed methodology can be extended to accommodate a larger language that includes pointers, compound data objects and non-structured control flow mechanisms. The approach, which is based on structured, big-step $\mathrm{G}^ınfty\mathrm{SOS}$ operational semantics and on abstract interpretation, is modular in that the overall static analyzer is naturally partitioned into components with clearly identified responsibilities and interfaces, something that greatly simplifies both the proof of correctness and the implementation.

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