Static Analysis for Checking Data Format Compatibility of Programs

Authors Pranavadatta Devaki, Aditya Kanade

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Pranavadatta Devaki
Aditya Kanade

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Pranavadatta Devaki and Aditya Kanade. Static Analysis for Checking Data Format Compatibility of Programs. In IARCS Annual Conference on Foundations of Software Technology and Theoretical Computer Science (FSTTCS 2012). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 18, pp. 522-533, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2012)


Large software systems are developed by composing multiple programs. If the programs manipulate and exchange complex data, such as network packets or files, it is essential to establish that they follow compatible data formats. Most of the complexity of data formats is associated with the headers. In this paper, we address compatibility of programs operating over headers of network packets, files, images, etc. As format specifications are rarely available, we infer the format associated with headers by a program as a set of guarded layouts. In terms of these formats, we define and check compatibility of (a) producer-consumer programs and (b) different versions of producer (or consumer) programs. A compatible producer-consumer pair is free of type mismatches and logical incompatibilities such as the consumer rejecting valid outputs generated by the producer. A backward compatible producer (resp. consumer) is guaranteed to be compatible with consumers (resp. producers) that were compatible with its older version. With our prototype tool, we identified 5 known bugs and 1 potential bug in (a) sender-receiver modules of Linux network drivers of 3 vendors and (b) different versions of a TIFF image library.
  • Data format compatibility
  • producer-consumer/version-related programs


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