APSEC 2016 – Projected Control Graph for Accurate and Efficient Analysis of Safety and Security Vulnerabilities


The goal of path-sensitive analysis (PSA) is to achieve accuracy by accounting precisely for the execution behavior along each path of a control flow graph (CFG). A practical adoption of PSA is hampered by two roadblocks: (a) the exponential growth of the number of CFG paths, and (b) the exponential complexity of a path feasibility check. We introduce projected control graph (PCG) as an optimal mathematical abstraction to address these roadblocks.

The PCG follows from the simple observation that for any given analysis problem, the number of distinct relevant execution behaviors may be much smaller than the number of CFG paths. The PCG is a projection of the CFG to retain only the relevant execution behaviors and elide duplicate paths with identical execution behavior. A mathematical definition of PCG and an efficient algorithm to transform CFG to PCG are presented.

We present an empirical study for three major versions of the Linux kernel to assess the practical benefit of using the optimal mathematical abstraction. As a measure of the efficiency gain, the study reports the reduction from CFG to PCG graphs for all relevant functions for pairing Lock and Unlock on all feasible execution paths. We built a tool to compute these graphs for 66,609 Lock instances. The CFG and PCG graphs with their source correspondence are posted on a website. We used these PCG graphs in a classroom project to audit the results of Lock and Unlock pairing done by the Linux Driver Verification (LDV) tool, the top-rated formal verification tool for the Linux kernel. Our audit has revealed complex Linux bugs missed by LDV.

Venue: APSEC 2016 23rd Asia-Pacific Software Engineering Conference, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand, December 6-9, 2016

Authors: Ahmed Tamrawi, Suresh Kothari

Paper (PDF): PCG-APSEC2016.pdf

Categories: Papers

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