Composable Thread Role Analysis

NYU Community Event

Speaker: Dean Sutherland, CERT


Many multi-threaded software systems contain policies that regulate associations among threads, executable code, and potentially shared state. A system, for example, may constrain which threads are permitted to execute particular code segments, usually as a means to constrain those threads from accessing or writing particular elements of state. These policies ensure properties such as state confinement or reader/writer constraints, often without recourse to locking or transaction discipline. We call this language-independent concept thread usage policy.

Our approach allows developers to concisely document their thread usage policies in a manner that enables the use of sound scalable analysis to assess consistency of policy and as-written code. We identify the key semantic concepts of our thread role language and illustrate how to use its succinct source-level annotations to express models of thread usage policies, following established annotation conventions for languages such as Java and C++11.

We have built a prototype static analysis tool, implemented as an integrated development environment plug-in (for the Eclipse IDE), that notifies developers of discrepancies between policy annotations and as-written code. Our analysis technique uses several underlying algorithms based on abstract interpretation, call-graphs, and type inference. The resulting overall analysis is both sound and composable. We have used this prototype analysis tool in case studies to model and analyze more than a million lines of code.


Dean F. Sutherland is a senior software security engineer at CERT. Dean received his Ph.D. in software engineering from Carnegie Mellon in 2008. Before his return to academia, he spent 14 years working as a professional software engineer at Tartan, Inc. He spent the last six of those years as a senior member of the technical staff and a technical lead for compiler backend technology. He was the primary active member of the corporate R&D group, was a key instigator of the design and deployment of a new software development process for Tartan, led R&D projects, and provided both technical and project leadership for the 12-person compiler back-end group.