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High level overview of KLEE.

This document contains a high level overview of the inner workings of KLEE.

KLEE implements symbolic execution by interpreting LLVM bitcode. Symbolic memory is defined by inserting special calls to KLEE (namely klee_make_symbolic) During execution, KLEE tracks all uses of symbolic memory. Constraints on symbolic memory usage are collected. Memory that is defined using previously declared symbolic memory become symbolic as well. Whenever a branch refering to symbolic memory is encountered, KLEE forks the entire states and explores each side of the branch for which a possible solution to the symbolic constraints can be found. KLEE makes queries to STP to solve symbolic constraints.

The rest of this document describes some of the important components of KLEE


klee::Interpreter is the main abstract class defining the interface of the bitcode interpreter. klee::Executor is the main concrete instance of this class. Application states (i.e. memory, registers and PC) are stored in instances of class klee::ExecutionState. There is one such instance for each path beeing executed (except when some states are merged together). On a branch, if condition is symbolic, klee::Executor::fork returns a klee::ExecutionState::StatePair which is a pair of ExecutionState to be executed.

Memory model

MemoryObject's represent allocation sites in the program (calls to malloc, stack objects, global variables) and, at least conceptually, can be thought of as the unique name for the object allocated at that site. ObjectState's are used to store the actual contents of a MemoryObject in a particular ExecutionState (but can be shared). I need better names for these two things.

Each ExecutionState stores a mapping of MemoryObjects -> ObjectState using the AddressSpace data structure (implemented as an immutable tree so that copying is cheap and the shared structure is exploited). Each AddressSpace may "own" some subset of the ObjectStates in the mapping. When an AddressSpace is duplicated it loses ownership of the ObjectState in the map. Any subsequent write to an ObjectState will create a copy of the object (AddressSpace::getWriteable). This is the COW mechanism (which gets used for all objects, not just globals).

From the point of view of the state and this mapping there is no distinction between stack, heap, and global objects. The only special handling for stack objects is that the MemoryObject is marked as isLocal and the MemoryObject is stored in the StackFrame alloca list. When the StackFrame is popped these objects are then unbound so that the state can no longer access the memory directly (references to the memory object may still remain in ReadExprs, but conceptually the actual memory is no longer addressable).

It is also important that the AddressSpace mapping is ordered. We use this when we need to resolve a symbolic address to an ObjectState by first getting a particular value for the symbolic address, and using that value to start looking for objects that the pointer can fall within. Difference betweens MemoryObjects and ObjectStates ?


The various Expr classes mostly model the llvm instruction set. ref<Expr> is used to maintain the reference count but also embeds any constant expressions. In fact in the current code base ConstantExprs should almost never be created. Most of the Expr's are straightforward. Some of the most important ones are Concat?Expr, which join some number of bytes into a larger type, ExtractExpr which extracts smaller types from larger ones, and ReadExpr which is a symbolic array access.

The way memory is implemented all accesses are broken down into byte level operations. This means that the memory system (by which I mean the ObjectState data structure) tends to use a lot of ExtractExpr and Concat?Expr, so it is very important that these expressions fold their operands when possible.

The ReadExpr is probably the most important one. Conceptually it is simply an index and a list of (index, value) updates (writes). The ReadExpr evaluates to all the values for which the two indices can be equal. The ObjectState structure uses a cache for concrete writes and for symbolic writes at concrete indices, but for writes at symbolic indices it must construct a list of such updates. These are stored in the UpdateList and UpdateNode structures which are again immutable data structures so that copy is cheap and the sharing is exploited.


Base classe: klee::Searcher. The Executor uses a Searcher to select the next state (i.e. program instance following a single path) for which an instruction will be executed. There are multiple implementations of Searcher in klee, implementing different search policies. klee::RandomSearcher selects the next state randomly. klee::DFSSearcher uses a depth first approach. klee::MergingSearcher tries to merge states ?