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POPL 2021
Sun 17 - Fri 22 January 2021 Online

This talk will describe our work to establish and use mechanised and rather complete semantics for full-scale architectures: the mainstream Armv8-A architecture, the emerging RISC-V architecture, the CHERI-MIPS and CHERI-RISC-V research architectures that use hardware capabilities for improved security, and Arm’s prototype Morello architecture - an industrial demonstrator incorporating the CHERI ideas.

It brings together a variety of tools, especially our Sail ISA definition language and Isla symbolic evaluation engine, to build semantic definitions that are readable, executable as test oracles, support reasoning within the Coq, HOL4, and Isabelle proof assistants, support SMT-based symbolic evaluation, support model-based test generation, and can be integrated with operational and axiomatic concurrency models.

For Armv8-A, we have the complete sequential semantics of the instruction-set architecture (ISA) automatically translated from the Arm-internal model to Sail, and for RISC-V, we have hand-written what is now the offically adopted model. For their concurrent semantics, the “user” semantics, partly as a result of our collaborations with Arm and within the RISC-V concurrency task group, have become simplified and well-defined, with multiple models proved equivalent, and we are currently working on the “system” semantics. Recently, we have added a symbolic execution tool for Sail specifications, Isla, which supports axiomatic concurrency models but now for tests that span the full range of the instruction-set architecture, and including instruction cache maintenance instructions and self-modifying code.

For CHERI-MIPS and CHERI-RISC-V, we have used Sail models as the golden reference during the design process, working with our systems colleagues in the CHERI team to use lightweight formal specification routinely in documentation, testing, and test generation. We have stated and proved (in Isabelle) some of the fundamental intended security properties of the full CHERI-MIPS ISA.

Morello, supported by the UKRI Digital Security by Design programme, offers a path to hardware enforcement of fine-grained memory safety and/or secure encapsulation in the production Armv8-A architecture, potentially excluding or mitigating a large fraction of today’s security vulnerabilities for existing C/C++ code with little modification. We are currently working with Arm to prove fundamental security properties for the complete Morello ISA definition, and to generate tests which are being used during hardware development.

All these tools and models are (or will soon be) available under open-source licences for others to use and build on.

This is joint work by Alasdair Armstrong, Thomas Bauereiss, Brian Campbell, Alastair Reid, Kathryn E. Gray, Robert M. Norton, Prashanth Mundkur, Mark Wassell, Jon French, Christopher Pulte, Shaked Flur, Ian Stark, Neel Krishnaswami, Luc Maranget, Susmit Sarkar, Jean Pichon-Pharabod, Sung-Hwan Lee, Ali Sezgin, Will Deacon, Ben Simner, Jeehoon Kang, Chung-Kil Hur, Ohad Kammar, Kyndylan Nienhuis, Alexandre Joannou, Anthony Fox, Michael Roe, Matthew Naylor, Simon W. Moore, Peter G. Neumann, Ian Stark, and Robert N. M. Watson, in collaboration with the rest of the CHERI team and others in Arm and in the RISC-V community.