AGERE 2012

Soter: An Automatic Safety Verifier for Erlang

This paper presents Soter, a fully-automatic program analyser and verifier for Erlang modules. The fragment of Erlang accepted by Soter includes the higher-order functional constructs and all the key features of actor concurrency, namely, dynamic spawning of processes and asynchronous message passing. Soter uses a combination of static analysis and infinite-state model checking to verify safety properties specified by the user. Given an Erlang module and a set of properties, Soter first extracts an abstract (approximate, sound) model in the form of an actor communicating system (ACS), and then checks if the properties are satisfied using a Petri net coverability checker, BFC. To our knowledge, Soter is the first fully-automatic, infinite-state model checker for a large fragment of Erlang. We find that in practice our abstraction technique is accurate enough to verify an interesting range of safety properties such as mutual-exclusion or boundedness of mailboxes. Though the ACS coverability problem is Expspace-complete, Soter can analyse these problems surprisingly efficiently.