Verification Via Structure Simulation

Neil Immerman, Alexander Rabinovich, Thomas Reps, Mooly Sagiv, and Greta Yorsh

In Proc. Computer Aided Verification, 2004 (CAV 2004)

This paper shows how to harness decision procedures to automatically verify safety properties of imperative programs that perform dynamic storage allocation and destructive updating of structure fields. Decidable logics that can express reachability properties are used to state properties of linked data structures, while guaranteeing that the verification method always terminates. The main technical contribution is a method of structure simulation in which a set of original structures that we wish to model, e.g., doubly linked lists, nested linked lists, binary trees, etc., are mapped to a set of tractable structures that can be reasoned about using decidable logics. Decidable logics that can express reachability are rather limited in the data structures that they can directly model. For instance, our examples use the logic MSO-E, which can only model function graphs; however, the simulation technique provides an indirect way to model additional data structures.

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