Flow-sensitive type-based heap cloning

Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics, LIPIcs, 2020, 166
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By respecting program control-flow, flow-sensitive pointer analysis promises more precise results than its flow-insensitive counterpart. However, existing heap abstractions for C and C++ flow-sensitive pointer analyses model the heap by creating a single abstract heap object for each memory allocation. Two runtime heap objects which originate from the same allocation site are imprecisely modelled using one abstract object, which makes them share the same imprecise points-to sets and thus reduces the benefit of analysing heap objects flow-sensitively. On the other hand, equipping flow-sensitive analysis with context-sensitivity, whereby an abstract heap object would be created (cloned) per calling context, can yield a more precise heap model, but at the cost of uncontrollable analysis overhead when analysing larger programs. This paper presents TypeClone, a new type-based heap model for flow-sensitive analysis. Our key insight is to differentiate concrete heap objects lazily using type information at use sites within the program control-flow (e.g., when accessed via pointer dereferencing) for programs which conform to the strict aliasing rules set out by the C and C++ standards. The novelty of TypeClone lies in its lazy heap cloning: an untyped abstract heap object created at an allocation site is killed and replaced with a new object (i.e. a clone), uniquely identified by the type information at its use site, for flow-sensitive points-to propagation. Thus, heap cloning can be performed within a flow-sensitive analysis without the need for context-sensitivity. Moreover, TypeClone supports new kinds of strong updates for flow-sensitive analysis where heap objects are filtered out from imprecise points-to relations at object use sites according to the strict aliasing rules. Our method is neither strictly superior nor inferior to context-sensitive heap cloning, but rather, represents a new dimension that achieves a sweet spot between precision and efficiency. We evaluate our analysis by comparing TypeClone with state-of-the-art sparse flow-sensitive points-to analysis using the 12 largest programs in GNU Coreutils. Our experimental results also confirm that TypeClone is more precise than flow-sensitive pointer analysis and is able to, on average, answer over 15% more alias queries with a no-alias result.
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