Typing-based Analysis of C Programs

I am investigating the use of sophisticated type systems and type inference to statically deduce properties of C programs. Such methods can be highly efficient, and elegantly handle features such as pointers and function pointers - features that traditional analyses for imperative programs find difficult.

Lackwit: Practical Program Understanding With Type Inference

Many questions that arise in the reverse engineering or restructuring of a program can be answered by determining, statically, where the structure of the program requires sets of variables to share a common representation. With this information we can find abstract data types, detect abstraction violations, identify unused variables, functions, and fields of data structures, detect simple errors of operations on abstract datatypes (such as failure to close after open), and locate sites of possible references to a value.

We have a method for computing representation sharing by using types to encode representations. We use polymorphic type inference to compute new types for all variables, eliminating cases of incidental type sharing where the variables might have different representations. The method is fully automatic and smoothly integrates pointer aliasing and higher-order functions. Because it is fully modular and computationally inexpensive, it should scale to very large systems.

We show how we used a prototype tool to analyze Morphin, a 17,000 line robot control program written in C, answering a userís questions about program structure, detecting abstraction violations, and finding unused data structures and memory leaks.

This work is described in Tech Report CMU-CS-96-130.

Another version, which is more readable, appeared in ICSE 97.

Current Status

Lackwit is now available. It is not a product; this is simply a snapshot of my research code. You may well encounter some bugs; please tell me about any you find, but I make no guarantees about quality of support --- though I will to my best to deal with any problems that come up.

Instructions for installing Lackwit are available here.


Robert O'Callahan - roc+ctyping@cs.cmu.edu (7/5/97)