C Stubs

Mopsa can only analyze full C programs, which requires that:

  • an entry point is specified (a single entry-point, main by default, although a unit test mode is available to run several test_ functions in a row),

  • and a definition for every C function that is called is provided.

In case the entry point function is not found, the analyzer stops with an error:

Analysis aborted
panic in {test.c}: entry function main not found

If a called function is not found, the analyzer continues nevertheless, but reports a potentially unsound analysis, as follows:

Unsound analysis
 No alarm
Analysis time: 0.022s
Checks summary: 0 total

1 assumption:
  test.c:2.2-5: ignoring side-effects of calling undefined function 'f'


The possible unsoundness comes from the fact that the analyzer will consider that the function can return any value but has not side-effect (no modification of global variables nor memory reachable by the function arguments, no function call, no error). If this is not the case, more information on the undefined function is required, in the form of a stub.

A stub is a definition that is added to your program for the purpose of the analysis. Stubs can be useful in order to:

  • provide definitions for functions with missing C source, such as library functions (note that stubs for the standard C library are already provided and automatically used if needed during the analysis);

  • provide alternate definitions for C functions that cannot be analyzed by Mopsa due to unsupported features (such as in-line assembly);

  • provide alternate definitions for C functions that are too complex to analyze;

  • write a library driver, i.e., a synthetic entry point that simulates an environment and the expected sequences of calls to the library, in order to verify the library without its client code; hopefully, the driver should be as general as possible, to cover all possible use cases;

  • write unit tests to analyze selected program parts, selected library functions, or stress-test the analyzer.

An important aspect is that the provided definitions may be abstracted: it is possible to introduce imprecision in stubs to simplify them. This is easy thanks to a set of built-in non-deterministic functions provided by Mopsa, such as _mopsa_rand_s32: when encountering non-deterministic choices, Mopsa will analyze every possible outcome, allowing us to request the systematic analysis of a large range of behaviors in a very compact way.


Stubs can be written as C functions. Alternatively, Mopsa provides a specific contract language to write stubs in a more logical form, using pre- and post-conditions instead of C code, which is often more compact (especially when reasoning at an abstract level). The rest of this sections provides a few example stubs. The following sections will present in more details the built-in C functions available to write stubs and unit tests, and the stub contract language for C.

Stubs as C code

The following example uses built-in C to write a stub for a function f taking as argument a buffer, its size, and a double value; it modifies the buffer up to the size, filling the rest with 0 bytes, and returns the number of bytes actually stored; in case of an error, -1 is returned and a global error variable is set:

 1#include <mopsa.h>
 3int error;
 5int f(char* buf, int size, double x) {
 6  _mopsa_assert(size > 0);
 7  _mopsa_assert_valid_bytes(buf, size);
 8  _mopsa_assert(__builtin_isfinite(x));
10  if (_mopsa_rand_s8()) {
11    int r;
12    _mopsa_assume(r >= 0 && r <= size);
13    if (r > 0) _mopsa_memrand(buf, 0, r-1);
14    _mopsa_memset(buf, 0, r, size-1);
15    return r;
16  }
17  else {
18    error = 1;
19    return -1;
20  }
23void main() {
24  char buf[256];
25  f(buf, 256, 12.);

Requirements on the arguments are expressed using _mopsa_assert: the size size must be strictly positive and x must be a valid (non infinity nor NaN) float. Moreover, _mopsa_assert_valid_bytes(buf, size) requires the buffer to contain at least size bytes. Failure to meet the requirements will result in Assertion failure alarms, and the analysis continues with only the execution traces that obey the requirements. Non-deterministic behaviors, to model errors, uses _mopsa_rand_s8, which returns a random value in [-128, 127]. By soundness, Mopsa will consider that both branches can be executed for any call to f. Assumptions on the returned value (it must be less than size) are expressed with _mopsa_assume, and the buffer modification uses the _mopsa_memrand(buf, i, j) function, which modifies non-deterministically buf from byte offsets i to j (included), and _mopsa_memset(buf, c, i, j) which stores c bytes from offsets i to j (included) into buf.

The analysis of the main function with Mopsa shows that there is no error.

The model is relatively compact thanks to built-in _mopsa_... functions. In particular, _mopsa_assert_valid_bytes, _mopsa_memrand, and _mopsa_memset avoid the use of explicit loops to iterate on buf elements (but it is not always possible to avoid them).

Stubs as Contracts

We now show the same stub but using Mopsa’s contract language:

 1int error;
 4 * requires : _size > 0;
 5 * requires : valid_float(x);
 6 * requires : valid_ptr(buf) and offset(buf) + _size <= bytes(buf);
 7 * 
 8 * case "OK" {
 9 *    assigns : buf[0,_size);
10 *    ensures : return >= 0 and return <= _size;
11 *    ensures : forall int i in [return,_size): (buf[i])' == 0;
12 * }
13 *
14 * case "error" {
15 *    assigns : error;
16 *    ensures : error' == 1;
17 *    ensures : return == -1;
18 * }
19 */
20int f(char* buf, int _size, double x);
22void main() {
23  char buf[256];
24  f(buf, 256, 12.);

(size has been replaced with _size because the former is a reserved keyword in contracts).

The contract is typeset inside special comments /*$ ... */. Requirements are now typeset with the requires keyword. To check that the buffer is large enough, the contract has access to meta-information about pointers such as bytes(buf), the byte-size of the memory block buf is pointing into, and its offset offset(buf) with respect to the beginning of the memory block. The valid_ptr predicate ensures that buf is not NULL nor points to an invalid location (freed memory, etc.), while valid_float checks the value of a floating-point number.

The non-deterministic behaviors is expressed as two alternate cases with the case statement, both of which will be included in the analysis. Every modified memory area is declared with the assigns keyword. The ensures keyword can express some information about the memory state when the function returns, including the returned value (return variable), the part of buf initialized to 0, the value of error. The prime ' in error' and (buf[i])' indicates that the constraint is on the value of the expression when the function returns, not when it is called (we need to make this distinction because the function changes their values).

Note that the use of loops is replaced with a very compact quantified formula forall int i..., which is one of the main benefits of contracts. Actually, the _mopsa_memrand and _mopsa_memset built-ins, used in the last example to simplify the C stub, are defined using contracts with quantified formulas in share/mopsa/stubs/c/mopsa/mopsa.c. Likewise, the _mopsa_assert_valid_bytes built-in is defined as a contract using the bytes and offsets functions to access pointer meta-information.

C Library Analysis Driver

The following example analyzes the C API for file streams:

 1#include <stdio.h>
 3int main() {
 4  char* str = _mopsa_new_valid_string();
 5  char buf[1024];
 7  FILE* f = fopen(str, "rw");
 8  if (f == NULL)  return 0;
10  while (_mopsa_rand_s8()) {
11    switch (_mopsa_rand_s8()) {        
12    case 0:
13      fread(buf, 1, _mopsa_range_u32(0, sizeof(buf)), f);
14      break;
15    case 1:
16      fwrite(buf, 1, _mopsa_range_u32(0, sizeof(buf)), f);
17      break;
18    case 2:
19      _mopsa_assert(ftell(f) >= -1);
20      break;
21    case 3:
22      _mopsa_assert(fseek(f, _mopsa_rand_s32(), _mopsa_range_s32(0, 2)) >= -1);
23      break;
24    case 4:
25      rewind(f);
26      break;
27    case 5:
28      feof(f);
29      break;
30    }      
31  }
32  fclose(f);
34  return 0;

The file stream is first open with an arbitrary file name (generated by _mopsa_new_valid_string, which returns an unbounded string of non-deterministic contents) and checked for errors. Then, an unbounded loop calls stream API functions in arbitrary order, using random but valid argument values. Finally, the file is closed.

The non-deterministic nature of the test ensures that a large set of behaviors is covered by the analysis. The analysis with Mopsa of this entry point returns no alarm with the c/cell-string-length-itv.json configuration.

C Unit Test

The following example comes form the unit tests available in Mopsa in analyzer/tests/c/. It checks that the alloca function is correctly handled by Mopsa.

 1#include <alloca.h>
 3int *p;
 5int incr(int x) {
 6   p = (int*)alloca(sizeof(int));
 7  *p = x;
 8  return (*p + 1);
11void test_safe() {
12  int a = 10;
13  int b = incr(a);
14  _mopsa_assert_safe();
15  _mopsa_assert(b == a + 1);
18void test_unsafe() {
19  int a = 10;
20  p = &a;
21  int b = incr(a);
22  b = *p + 1;
23  _mopsa_assert_unsafe();

When run with the -unittest option, Mopsa will analyze both the test_safe and test_unsafe entry points and report errors.

In addition to a classic _mopsa_assert to check the correct values of the variables, the test_safe test uses _mopsa_assert_safe to ensure that the execution of the function does not raise any alarm. By contrast, test_unsafe deliberately performs an illegal instruction, accessing a memory block allocated with alloca after it has been automatically freed by the called function, and uses _mopsa_assert_unsafe to check that Mopsa indeed discovered the issue. Hence, the absence of alarm at the end of test_unsafe is actually a witness that Mopsa did raise an alarm at an earlier point in the function, as expected.