Verifying Dereference Safety via Expanding-Scope Analysis

Loginov A., Yahav E., Chandra S., Fink S., Rinetzky N., Nanda M. G.

ISSTA '08: International Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis

This paper addresses the challenging problem of verifying the safety of pointer dereferences in real Java programs. We provide an automatic approach to this problem based on a sound interprocedural analysis. We present a staged expanding-scope algorithm for interprocedural abstract interpretation, which invokes sound analysis with partial programs of increasing scope. This algorithm achieves many benefits typical of whole-program interprocedural analysis, but scales to large programs by limiting analysis to small program fragments. To address cases where the static analysis of program fragments fails to prove safety, the analysis also suggests possible annotations which, if a user accepts, ensure the desired properties. Experimental evaluation on a number of Java programs shows that we are able to verify 90% of all dereferences soundly and automatically, and further reduce the number of remaining dereferences using non-nullness annotations.

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