Semantics

Joe-E: A Security-Oriented Subset of Java

Joe-E: A Security-Oriented Subset of Java. Adrian Mettler, David Wagner, and Tyler Close. To appear at ISOC NDSS 2010.

We present Joe-E, a language designed to support the development of secure software systems. Joe-E is a subset of Java that makes it easier to architect and implement programs with strong security properties that can be checked during a security review. It enables programmers to apply the principle of least privilege to their programs; implement application-specific reference monitors that cannot be bypassed; introduce and use domain-specific security abstractions; safely execute and interact with untrusted code; and build secure, extensible systems. Joe-E demonstrates how it is possible to achieve the strong security properties of an object-capability language while retaining the features and feel of a mainstream object-oriented language...

Section 5.2 discuss how Joe-E leverages Java static typing. Joe-E is implemented as a source-code verifier not a bytecode verifier. Section 6 of the paper explains this design choice.

Joe-E was mentioned on LtU in the past and is available here.

Monads in Action

Monads in Action, Andrzej Filinski, POPL 2010.

In functional programming, monadic characterizations of computational effects are normally understood denotationally: they describe how an effectful program can be systematically expanded or translated into a larger, pure program, which can then be evaluated according to an effect-free semantics. Any effect-specific operations expressible in the monad are also given purely functional definitions, but these definitions are only directly executable in the context of an already translated program. This approach thus takes an inherently Church-style view of effects: the nominal meaning of every effectful term in the program depends crucially on its type.

We present here a complementary, operational view of monadic effects, in which an effect definition directly induces an imperative behavior of the new operations expressible in the monad. This behavior is formalized as additional operational rules for only the new constructs; it does not require any structural changes to the evaluation judgment. Specifically, we give a small-step operational semantics of a prototypical functional language supporting programmer-definable, layered effects, and show how this semantics naturally supports reasoning by familiar syntactic techniques, such as showing soundness of a Curry-style effect-type system by the progress+preservation method.

The idea of monadic reflection was one I never felt I really understood properly until I read this paper, so now I'll have to go back and re-read some of his older papers on the subject.

Delimited Control in OCaml, Abstractly and Concretely, System Description

Delimited Control in OCaml, Abstractly and Concretely, System Description

We describe the first implementation of multi-prompt delimited control operators in OCaml that is direct in that it captures only the needed part of the control stack. The implementation is a library that requires no changes to the OCaml compiler or run-time, so it is perfectly compatible with existing OCaml source code and byte-code. The library has been in fruitful practical use for four years.

We present the library as an implementation of an abstract machine derived by elaborating the definitional machine. The abstract view lets us distill a minimalistic API, scAPI, sufficient for implementing multi-prompt delimited control. We argue that a language system that supports exception and stack-overflow handling supports scAPI. Our library illustrates how to use scAPI to implement multi-prompt delimited control in a typed language. The approach is general and can be used to add multi-prompt delimited control to other existing language systems.

Oleg was kind enough to send me an e-mail letting me know of this paper's existence (it appears not yet to be linked from the "Computation" page under which it is stored) and to include me in the acknowledgements. Since the paper in its current form has been accepted for publication, he indicated that it can be made more widely available, so here it is. In typical Oleg fashion, it offers insights at both the theoretical and implementation levels.

Verified Just-In-Time Compiler on x86

Verified Just-In-Time Compiler on x86
Magnus O. Myreen

This paper presents a method for creating formally correct just-in-time (JIT) compilers. The tractability of our approach is demonstrated through, what we believe is the first, verification of a JIT compiler with respect to a realistic semantics of self-modifying x86 machine code. Our semantics includes a model of the instruction cache. Two versions of the verified JIT compiler are presented: one generates all of the machine code at once, the other one is incremental i.e. produces code on-demand. All proofs have been performed inside the HOL4 theorem prover.

(To appear in next week's POPL.)

I've been enjoying this paper on my commute this week. It's a nice little distillation of some of the basics of the engineering structure of a JITted language and how the pieces fit together in a correct implementation. As JIT compilers become more and more commonplace, I'd like to see them presented in such a way that they're no more scary or daunting -- at least in principle -- than traditional offline compilers. Perhaps a chapter in EoPL4?

Syntactic Proofs of Compositional Compiler Correctness

Syntactic Proofs of Compositional Compiler Correctness

Semantic preservation by compilers for higher-order languages can be verified using simple syntactic methods. At the heart of classic techniques are relations between source-level and target-level values. Unfortunately, these relations are specific to particular compilers, leading to correctness theorems that have nothing to say about linking programs with functions compiled by other compilers or written by hand in the target language. Theorems based on logical relations manage to avoid this problem, but at a cost: standard logical relations do not apply directly to programs with non-termination or impurity, and extensions to handle those features are relatively complicated, compared to the classical compiler verification literature.

In this paper, we present a new approach to “open” compiler correctness theorems that is “syntactic” in the sense that the core relations do not refer to semantics. Though the technique is much more elementary than previous proposals, it scales up nicely to realistic languages. In particular, untyped and impure programs may be handled simply, while previous work has addressed neither in this context.

Our approach is based on the observation that it is an unnecessary handicap to consider proofs as black boxes. We identify some theorem-specific proof skeletons, such that we can define an algebra of nondeterministic compilations and their proofs, and we can compose any two compilations to produce a correct-by-construction result. We have prototyped these ideas with a Coq implementation of multiple CPS translations for an untyped Mini-ML source language with recursive functions, sums, products, mutable references, and exceptions.

A submitted draft of another paper from Adam, continuing to expand LambdaTamer's reach.

A Verified Compiler for an Impure Functional Language

A Verified Compiler for an Impure Functional Language

We present a verified compiler to an idealized assembly language from a small, untyped functional language with mutable references and exceptions. The compiler is programmed in the Coq proof assistant and has a proof of total correctness with respect to big-step operational semantics for the source and target languages. Compilation is staged and includes standard phases like translation to continuation-passing style and closure conversion, as well as a common subexpression elimination optimization. In this work, our focus has been on discovering and using techniques that make our proofs easy to engineer and maintain. While most programming language work with proof assistants uses very manual proof styles, all of our proofs are implemented as adaptive programs in Coq's tactic language, making it possible to reuse proofs unchanged as new language features are added.

In this paper, we focus especially on phases of compilation that rearrange the structure of syntax with nested variable binders. That aspect has been a key challenge area in past compiler verification projects, with much more effort expended in the statement and proof of binder-related lemmas than is found in standard pencil-and-paper proofs. We show how to exploit the representation technique of parametric higher-order abstract syntax to avoid the need to prove any of the usual lemmas about binder manipulation, often leading to proofs that are actually shorter than their pencil-and-paper analogues. Our strategy is based on a new approach to encoding operational semantics which delegates all concerns about substitution to the meta language, without using features incompatible with general purpose type theories like Coq's logic.

Further work on/with LambdaTamer for certified compiler development.

Certified Programming With Dependent Types Goes Beta

Certified Programming With Dependent Types

From the introduction:

We would all like to have programs check that our programs are correct. Due in no small part to some bold but unfulfilled promises in the history of computer science, today most people who write software, practitioners and academics alike, assume that the costs of formal program verification outweigh the benefits. The purpose of this book is to convince you that the technology of program verification is mature enough today that it makes sense to use it in a support role in many kinds of research projects in computer science. Beyond the convincing, I also want to provide a handbook on practical engineering of certified programs with the Coq proof assistant.

This is the best Coq tutorial that I know of, partially for being comprehensive, and partially for taking a very different tack than most with Adam's emphasis on proof automation using Coq's Ltac tactic language. It provides an invaluable education toward understanding what's going on either in LambdaTamer or Ynot, both of which are important projects in their own rights.

Please note that Adam is explicitly requesting feedback on this work.

A Type-theoretic Foundation for Programming with Higher-order Abstract Syntax and First-class Substitutions

A Type-theoretic Foundation for Programming with Higher-order Abstract Syntax and First-class Substitutions by Brigitte Pientka, appeared in POPL 08.
Higher-order abstract syntax (HOAS) is a simple, powerful technique for implementing object languages, since it directly supports common and tricky routines dealing with variables, such as capture-avoiding substitution and renaming. This is achieved by representing binders in the object-language via binders in the meta-language. However, enriching functional programming languages with direct support for HOAS has been a major challenge, because recursion over HOAS encodings requires one to traverse - abstractions and necessitates programming with open objects.

We present a novel type-theoretic foundation based on contextual modal types which allows us to recursively analyze open terms via higher-order pattern matching. By design, variables occurring in open terms can never escape their scope. Using several examples, we demonstrate that our framework provides a name-safe foundation to operations typically found in nominal systems. In contrast to nominal systems however, we also support capture-avoiding substitution operations and even provide first-class substitutions to the programmer. The main contribution of this paper is a syntax directed bi-directional type system where we distinguish between the data language and the computation language together with the progress and preservation proof for our language.

Its been a while since I posted, but this paper appears that it may be of interest to some members of this community. It looks interesting to me, but I just wish I understood all the terminology. I don't know what "open objects" are, and why they are a problem. I don't understand what HOAS is. I don't even know what binders are. The list goes on. I surely can't be the only person who is interested, but feels that this is just out of their grasp. I bet that I probably could understand these things with a minimum of explanation, given I have experience implementing languages. If anyone is interested in rephrasing the abstract in more basic terms, I would be very appreciative. [Edit: corrected spelling of Brigitte Pientka. My apologies.]

A Verified Compiler for an Impure Functional Language

A Verified Compiler for an Impure Functional Language

We present a verified compiler to an idealized assembly language from a small, untyped functional language with mutable references and exceptions. The compiler is programmed in the Coq proof assistant and has a proof of total correctness with respect to big-step operational semantics for the source and target languages. Compilation is staged and includes standard phases like translation to continuation-passing style and closure conversion, as well as a common subexpression elimination optimization. In this work, our focus has been on discovering and using techniques that make our proofs easy to engineer and maintain. While most programming language work with proof assistants uses very manual proof styles, all of our proofs are implemented as adaptive programs in Coq’s tactic language, making it possible to reuse proofs unchanged as new language features are added.

In this paper, we focus especially on phases of compilation that rearrange the structure of syntax with nested variable binders. That aspect has been a key challenge area in past compiler verification projects, with much more effort expended in the statement and proof of binder-related lemmas than is found in standard pencil-and-paper proofs. We show how to exploit the representation technique of parametric higher-order abstract syntax to avoid the need to prove any of the usual lemmas about binder manipulation, often leading to proofs that are actually shorter than their pencil-and-paper analogues. Our strategy is based on a new approach to encoding operational semantics which delegates all concerns about substitution to the meta language, without using features incompatible with general-purpose type theories like Coq’s logic.

The latest from Adam Chlipala. Yet another evolutionary step for Lambda Tamer. Between this and Ynot the Coq/certified compiler story seems to be getting more impressive nearly daily.

LNGen

LNGen

LNgen generates locally nameless infrastructure for the Coq proof assistant from Ott-like specifications. Its output is based on the locally nameless style advocated in Engineering Formal Metatheory and includes all of the "infrastructure" lemmas associated with that style. Compared to Ott's locally nameless backend, LNgen favors generating a large collection of infrastructure lemmas over handling complex binding specifications and methods of defining syntax and relations.

There are really three stories here:

  1. Coq 8.2 shipped a while ago.
  2. Ott, a tool for PLT semantics work, has acquired a backend in support of the increasingly-popular "locally nameless" representation of binding structure in mechanized programming language metatheory.
  3. LNGen is another tool, using a subset of Ott syntax, that takes a slightly different approach from Ott's new backend to addressing the same issues.

From the U. Penn folks who brought us the Coq tutorial at POPL '08.

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