Specification and verification in the field: Applying formal methods to BPF just-in-time compilers in the Linux kernel

Authors: 

Luke Nelson, Jacob Van Geffen, Emina Torlak, and Xi Wang, University of Washington

Abstract: 

This paper describes our experience applying formal methods to a critical component in the Linux kernel, the just-in-time compilers ("JITs") for the Berkeley Packet Filter (BPF) virtual machine. We verify these JITs using Jitterbug, the first framework to provide a precise specification of JIT correctness that is capable of ruling out real-world bugs, and an automated proof strategy that scales to practical implementations. Using Jitterbug, we have designed, implemented, and verified a new BPF JIT for 32-bit RISC-V, found and fixed 16 previously unknown bugs in five other deployed JITs, and developed new JIT optimizations; all of these changes have been upstreamed to the Linux kernel. The results show that it is possible to build a verified component within a large, unverified system with careful design of specification and proof strategy.

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BibTeX
@inproceedings {258848,
author = {Luke Nelson and Jacob Van Geffen and Emina Torlak and Xi Wang},
title = {Specification and verification in the field: Applying formal methods to {BPF} just-in-time compilers in the Linux kernel},
booktitle = {14th {USENIX} Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation ({OSDI} 20)},
year = {2020},
isbn = {978-1-939133-19-9},
pages = {41--61},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/osdi20/presentation/nelson},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = nov,
}
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