Cambridge, UK
Known As: Sam

Archibald Samuel Elliott

Language & Compiler Developer

Putting the Checks into Checked C

Archibald Samuel Elliott

October 2017 • Checked C Technical Report Number 2

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Checked C is an extension to C that aims to provide a route for programmers to upgrade their existing C programs to a safer language without losing the low-level control they enjoy. Checked C currently only addresses unsafe code with spatial memory violations such as buffer overruns and out-of-bounds memory accesses.

Checked C addresses these memory safety problems by adding new pointer and array types to C, and a method for annotating pointers with expressions denoting the bounds of the objects they reference in memory. To ensure memory safety, the Checked C compiler uses a mixture of static and dynamic checks over these additions to the C language.

This Technical Report concerns these Dynamic Checks, and the algorithms and infrastructure required to support them, including: the soundness property Checked C is aiming to preserve, propagation rules for bounds information, and the code generation algorithm for the checks themselves. This report includes an evaluation of these dynamic bounds checks, their overhead, and their interaction with a state-of-the-art optimizer.