For all the power that comes with proof technology, one sometimes has to pay the price of writing a loop invariant. Along the years, we've strived to facilitate writing loop invariants by improving the documentation and the technology in different ways, but writing loops invariants remains difficult sometimes, in particular for beginners. To completely remove the need for loop invariants in simple cases, we have implemented loop unrolling in GNATprove. It turns out it is quite powerful when applicable.
A friend pointed me to recent posts by Tommy M. McGuire, in which he describes how Frama-C can be used to functionally prove a brute force version of string search, and to find a previously unknown bug in a faster version of string search called quick search. Frama-C and SPARK share similar history, techniques and goals. So it was tempting to redo the same proofs on equivalent code in SPARK, and completing them with a functional proof of the fixed version of quick search. This is what I'll present in this post.
Well-known SPARK expert and advocate Rod Chapman presented at the latest Ada Europe conference a paper on "Sanitizing Sensitive Data: How to get it Right (or at least Less Wrong...)". Rod's work in the latest years has switched to more security-focused topics it seems, and this work is attacking a subtle problem with new ideas. Definitely worth reading.
SPARK Discovery GPL 2017 is out! With more automation of proofs, new modes of user interaction, support for type invariants. Note that the optional provers CVC4 and Z3 are no longer distributed with SPARK Discovery GPL 2017, and should be installed separately.
Two years ago, we redeveloped the code of a small quadcopter called Crazyflie in SPARK, as a proof-of-concept to show it was possible to prove absence of run-time errors (no buffer overflows, not division by zero, etc.) on such code. The researchers Martin Becker and Emanuel Regnath have raised the bar by developing the code for the autopilot of a small glider in SPARK in three months only. Their paper and slides are available, and they have released their code as FLOSS for others to use/modify/enhance!
It is notoriously hard to prove properties of floating-point computations, including the simpler bounding properties that state safe bounds on the values taken by entities in the program. Thanks to the recent changes in SPARK 17, users can now benefit from much better provability for these programs, by combining the capabilities of different provers. For the harder cases, this requires using ghost code to state intermediate assertions proved by one of the provers, to be used by others. This work is described in an article which was accepted at VSTTE 2017 conference.
While SPARK has been used for years in companies like Altran UK, companies without the same know-how may find it intimidating to get started on formal program verification. To help with that process, AdaCore has collaborated with Thales throughout the year 2016 to produce a 70-pages detailed guidance document for the adoption of SPARK. These guidelines are based on five levels of assurance that can be achieved on software, in increasing order of costs and benefits: Stone level (valid SPARK), Bronze level (initialization and correct data flow), Silver level (absence of run-time errors), Gold level (proof of key properties) and Platinum level (full functional correctness). These levels, and their mapping to the Development Assurance Levels (DAL) and Safety Integrity Levels (SIL) used in certification standards, were presented at the recent High Confidence Software and Systems conference.
This year again, the VerifyThis competition took place as part of ETAPS conferences. This is the occasion for builders and users of formal program verification platforms to use their favorite tools on common challenges. The first challenge this year was a good fit for SPARK, as it revolves around proving properties of an imperative sorting procedure. In this post, I am using this challenge to show how one can reach different levels of software assurance with SPARK.
Euclid's algorithm for computing the greatest common divisor of two numbers is one of the first ones we learn in school, and also one of the first algorithms that humans devised. So it's quite appealing to try to prove it with an automatic proving toolset like SPARK. It turns out that proving it automatically is not so easy, just like understanding why it works is not so easy. In this post, I am using ghost code to prove correct implementations of the GCD, starting from a naive linear search algorithm and ending with Euclid's algorithm.
GNATprove performs auto-active verification, that is, verification is done automatically, but usually requires annotations by the user to succeed. In SPARK, annotations are most often given in the form of contracts (pre and postconditions). But some language features, in particular ghost code, allow proof guidance to be much more involved. In a paper we are presenting at NASA Formal Methods symposium 2017, we describe how an imperative red black tree implementation in SPARK was verified using intensive auto-active verification.