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Semantics of Types for Mutable State (Thesis)

Report ID:
June 2004
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Proof-carrying code (PCC) is a framework for mechanically verifying
the safety of machine language programs. A program that is
successfully verified by a PCC system is guaranteed to be safe to
execute, but this safety guarantee is contingent upon the correctness
of various trusted components. For instance, in traditional PCC
systems the trusted computing base includes a large set of low-level
typing rules. Foundational PCC systems seek to minimize the size of
the trusted computing base. In particular, they eliminate the need to
trust complex, low-level type systems by providing machine-checkable
proofs of type soundness for real machine languages.

In this thesis, I demonstrate the use of logical relations for proving
the soundness of type systems for mutable state. Specifically, I
focus on type systems that ensure the safe allocation, update, and
reuse of memory. For each type in the language, I define logical
relations that explain the meaning of the type in terms of the
operational semantics of the language. Using this model of types, I
prove each typing rule as a lemma.

The major contribution is a model of System F with general references
-- that is, mutable cells that can hold values of any closed
type including other references, functions, recursive types, and
impredicative quantified types. The model is based on ideas from both
possible worlds and the indexed model of Appel and McAllester.

I show how the model of mutable references is encoded in higher-order
logic. I also show how to construct an indexed possible-worlds model
for a von Neumann machine. The latter is used in the Princeton
Foundational PCC system to prove type safety for a full-fledged
low-level typed assembly language. Finally, I present a semantic
model for a region calculus that supports type-invariant references as
well as memory reuse.

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