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POPL 2021
Sun 17 - Fri 22 January 2021 Online

Today’s computer systems are insecure. The semantics of mainstream low-level languages like C provide no security against devastating vulnerabilities like buffer overflows and control-flow hijacking. Even for safer languages, establishing security with respect to the language’s semantics does not prevent low-level attacks. All the abstraction and security guarantees of the source language may be lost when interacting with low-level code, e.g., when using libraries.

Secure compilation is an emerging field that puts together advances in programming languages, security, verification, systems, compilers, and hardware architectures in order to devise secure compiler chains that eliminate many of today’s low-level vulnerabilities. Secure compilation aims to protect high-level language abstractions in compiled code, even against adversarial low-level contexts, and to allow sound reasoning about security in the source language. The emerging secure compilation community aims to achieve this by:

  1. identifying and formalizing properties that secure compilers must possess;
  2. devising efficient enforcement mechanisms; and
  3. developing effective formal verification techniques.

The goal of this workshop is to identify interesting research directions and open challenges and to bring together researchers interested in working on building secure compilation chains, on developing proof techniques and verification tools, and on designing software or hardware enforcement mechanisms for secure compilation.


This will be an informal workshop without any proceedings. Anyone interested in presenting at the workshop will submit an extended abstract (up to 2 pages), and the PC will decide which talks to accept based on a lightweight review process. We expect the acceptance rate to be high in the initial editions, so another important role of the PC is to spur interesting submissions. We will also run a short talks session, where participants get 5 minutes to present intriguing ideas and advertise ongoing work.


The idea for this workshop emerged in a small informal meeting at INRIA Paris in August 2016 with in-depth talks and long, synergistic discussions. The first edition of the workshop was held at POPL 2017 under the name of “Secure Compilation Meeting” and had 31 registered participants. The second, third, and fourth editions were organized at POPL 2018–2020, under the new name of “Workshop on Principles of Secure Compilation” reaching between 40 and 54 registered participants. This growing interest from the community has encouraged us to continue the workshop and starting with the fourth edition, we made PriSC a regular feature with a standing steering committee.


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Sun 17 Jan
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15:30 - 16:00: SocialWorkshops and Co-located Events at Break
15:30 - 16:00
Social Event
Sunday Breakfast Tables
Workshops and Co-located Events
16:00 - 17:30: Secure compilers & cryptographyPriSC at PriSC
Chair(s): Fraser BrownStanford University, USA, Aastha MehtaMPI-SWS, Germany and University of British Columbia, Canada
16:00 - 16:18
High-level high-speed high-assurance crypto
Jonathan CoganStanford, Fraser BrownStanford University, USA, Alex OzdemirStanford, Riad S. WahbyStanford University, USA
Media Attached
16:18 - 16:36
Cross-Architecture Testing for Compiler-Introduced Security Bugs
Jianhao XuNanjing University, Kangjie LuUniversity of Minnesota, Bing MaoNanjing University
Media Attached
16:36 - 16:54
High-Assurance Cryptography in the Spectre Era
Gilles BartheMPI-SP, Germany / IMDEA Software Institute, Spain, Sunjay CauligiUniversity of California at San Diego, USA, Benjamin GregoireINRIA, Adrien KoutsosINRIA Paris, Kevin LiaoMax Planck Institute for Security and Privacy, Tiago OliveiraUniversity of Porto (FCUP) and INESC TEC, Swarn PriyaPurdue University, Tamara RezkInria, France, Peter SchwabeMax Planck Institute for Security and Privacy
Media Attached
16:54 - 17:12
Compilation as Multi-Language Semantics
William J. BowmanUniversity of British Columbia
Pre-print Media Attached
17:12 - 17:30
Viaduct: An Optimizing, Extensible Compiler for Secure Distributed Programs
Coşku AcayCornell University, Rolph Recto, Joshua GancherCornell University, Andrew C. MyersCornell University, Elaine ShiCornell University
Media Attached
17:30 - 18:00: SocialWorkshops and Co-located Events at Break
17:30 - 18:00
Sunday Coffee Break
Workshops and Co-located Events
18:00 - 19:00: Invited talkPriSC at PriSC
Chair(s): Deian StefanUniversity of California at San Diego, USA
18:00 - 19:00
Frontiers in Secure Compilation – an Industrial Perspective (invited talk)
Hugo VincentArm Research
19:00 - 20:30: Formal analysis & proof techniquesPriSC at PriSC
Chair(s): Marco PatrignaniStanford University, USA / CISPA, Germany, Jonathan ProtzenkoMicrosoft Research, Redmond
19:00 - 19:18
Nanopass Back-Translation of Multiple Traces for Secure Compilation Proofs
Pre-print Media Attached
19:18 - 19:36
Explicit Leakage: Handling Side-Channel Behavior in Program Rewriting and Analysis
Marc GourjonHamburg University of Technology and NXP Semiconductors Germany GmbH
Media Attached
19:36 - 19:54
Secure Optimization Through Opaque Observations
Son Tuan VuSorbonne Université, CNRS, Laboratoire d'Informatique de Paris 6, LIP6, Albert CohenGoogle, Karine HeydemannSorbonne Université, CNRS, Laboratoire d'Informatique de Paris 6, LIP6, Arnaud de GrandmaisonARM, Christophe GuillonSTMicroelectronics
Media Attached File Attached
19:54 - 20:12
The Fox and the Hound: Comparing Fully Abstract and Robust Compilation
Carmine AbateMax Planck Institute for Security and Privacy, Bochum, Germany, Matteo BusiUniversità di Pisa - Dipartimento di Informatica
Pre-print Media Attached File Attached
20:12 - 20:30
Toward Complete Stack Safety for Capability Machines
Aina Linn GeorgesAarhus University, Armaël GuéneauAarhus University, Alix TrieuAarhus University, Lars BirkedalAarhus University
Media Attached File Attached
19:30 - 20:00: SocialWorkshops and Co-located Events at Break
19:30 - 20:00
Social Event
Sunday Hallway Time
Workshops and Co-located Events
21:00 - 21:30: Short talksPriSC at PriSC
Chair(s): Deian StefanUniversity of California at San Diego, USA
21:00 - 21:15
A Categorical Approach to Secure Compilation (and others things) (short talk)
Stylianos Tsampas, Andreas NuytsKU Leuven, Belgium, Dominique DevrieseVrije Universiteit Brussel, Frank PiessensKU Leuven
21:15 - 21:30
Contract-aware Secure Compilation (short talk)
Marco GuarnieriETH Zurich, Switzerland, Marco PatrignaniStanford University, USA / CISPA, Germany

Call for Presentations

The emerging field of secure compilation aims to preserve security properties of programs when they have been compiled to low-level languages such as assembly, where high-level abstractions don’t exist, and unsafe, unexpected interactions with libraries, other programs, the operating system and even the hardware are possible. For unsafe source languages like C, secure compilation requires careful handling of undefined source-language behavior (like buffer overflows and double frees). Formally, secure compilation aims to protect high-level language abstractions in compiled code, even against adversarial low-level contexts, thus enabling sound reasoning about security in the source language. A complementary goal is to keep the compiled code efficient, often leveraging new hardware security features and advances in compiler design. Other necessary components are identifying and formalizing properties that secure compilers must possess, devising efficient security mechanisms (both software and hardware), and developing effective verification and proof techniques. Research in the field thus puts together advances in compiler design, programming languages, systems security, verification, and computer architecture.

5th Workshop on Principles of Secure Compilation (PriSC 2021)

The Workshop on Principles of Secure Compilation (PriSC) is a relatively new, informal 1-day workshop without any proceedings. The goal is to bring together researchers interested in secure compilation and to identify interesting research directions and open challenges.

The 5th edition of PriSC will be held on January 17 in Copenhagen, Denmark together with the ACM SIGPLAN Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages (POPL), 2021.

Presentation Proposals and Attending the Workshop

Anyone interested in presenting at the workshop should submit an extended abstract (up to 2 pages, details below) covering past, ongoing, or future work. Any topic that could be of interest to secure compilation is in scope. Secure compilation should be interpreted very broadly to include any work in security, programming languages, architecture, systems or their combination that can be leveraged to preserve security properties of programs when they are compiled or to eliminate low-level vulnerabilities. Presentations that provide a useful outside view or challenge the community are also welcome. This includes presentations on new attack vectors such as microarchitectural side-channels, whose defenses could benefit from compiler techniques.

Specific topics of interest include but are not limited to:

  • Attacker models for secure compiler chains.
  • Secure compiler properties: fully abstract compilation and similar properties, memory safety, control-flow integrity, preservation of safety, information flow and other (hyper-)properties against adversarial contexts, secure multi-language interoperability.
  • Secure interaction between different programming languages: foreign function interfaces, gradual types, securely combining different memory management strategies.
  • Enforcement mechanisms and low-level security primitives: static checking, program verification, typed assembly languages, reference monitoring, program rewriting, software-based isolation/hiding techniques (SFI, crypto-based, randomization-based, OS/hypervisor-based), security-oriented architectural features such as Intel’s SGX, MPX and MPK, capability machines, side-channel defenses, object capabilities.
  • Experimental evaluation and applications of secure compilers.
  • Proof methods relevant to compilation: (bi)simulation, logical relations, game semantics, trace semantics, multi-language semantics, embedded interpreters.
  • Formal verification of secure compilation chains (protection mechanisms, compilers, linkers, loaders), machine-checked proofs, translation validation, property-based testing.

Guidelines for Submitting Extended Abstracts

Extended abstracts should be submitted in PDF format and not exceed 2 pages (references not including). They should be formatted in two-column layout, 10pt font, and be printable on A4 and US Letter sized paper. We recommend using the new acmart LaTeX style in sigplan mode.

Submissions are not anonymous and should provide sufficient detail to be assessed by the program committee. Presentation at the workshop does not preclude publication elsewhere.

Contact and More Information

For questions please contact the workshop chairs, Jonathan Protzenko and Deian Stefan.

To make sure you receive such announcements in the future please subscribe to the low-traffic mailing list.

Questions? Use the PriSC contact form.