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Casper: Automatic tracking of null dereferences to inception with causality traces

Cornu, B; Barr, ET; Seinturier, L; Monperrus, M; (2016) Casper: Automatic tracking of null dereferences to inception with causality traces. Journal of Systems and Software , 122 pp. 52-62. 10.1016/j.jss.2016.08.062. Green open access

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Abstract

Fixing a software error requires understanding its root cause. In this paper, we introduce “causality traces”, crafted execution traces augmented with the information needed to reconstruct the causal chain from the root cause of a bug to an execution error. We propose an approach and a tool, called Casper, based on code transformation, which dynamically constructs causality traces for null dereference errors. The core idea of Casper is to replace nulls with special objects, called “ghosts”, that track the propagation of the nulls from inception to their error-triggering dereference. Causality traces are extracted from these ghosts. We evaluate our contribution by providing and assessing the causality traces of 14 real null dereference bugs collected over six large, popular open-source projects.

Type: Article
Title: Casper: Automatic tracking of null dereferences to inception with causality traces
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jss.2016.08.062
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jss.2016.08.062
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Debugging, Null pointer, Causality analysis
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10066381
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