Who guards the guards? Formal Validation of the ARM v8-M Architecture Specification

Alastair Reid
ARM Ltd
[pdf] [slides] [doi]

PACMPL 1(OOPSLA)
Vancouver, BC, Canada
October 2017

Abstract

Software and hardware are increasingly being formally verified against specifications, but how can we verify the specifications themselves? This talk explores what it means to formally verify a specification. We solve three challenges: (1) How to create a secondary, higher-level specification that can be effectively reviewed by processor designers who are not experts in formal verification; (2) How to avoid common-mode failures between the specifications; and (3) How to automatically verify the two specifications against each other.

One of the most important specifications for software verification is the processor specification since it de nes the behaviour of machine code and of hardware protection features used by operating systems. We demonstrate our approach on ARM's v8-M Processor Specification, which is intended to improve the security of Internet of Things devices. Thus, we focus on establishing the security guarantees the architecture is intended to provide. Despite the fact that the ARM v8-M specification had previously been extensively tested, we found twelve bugs (including two security bugs) that have all been fixed by ARM.

BibTeX

@inproceedings{conf/oopsla/Reid17 , abstract = {Software and hardware are increasingly being formally verified against specifications, but how can we verify the specifications themselves? This talk explores what it means to formally verify a specification. We solve three challenges: (1) How to create a secondary, higher-level specification that can be effectively reviewed by processor designers who are not experts in formal verification; (2) How to avoid common-mode failures between the specifications; and (3) How to automatically verify the two specifications against each other.

One of the most important specifications for software verification is the processor specification since it de nes the behaviour of machine code and of hardware protection features used by operating systems. We demonstrate our approach on ARM\textquotesingle s v8-M Processor Specification, which is intended to improve the security of Internet of Things devices. Thus, we focus on establishing the security guarantees the architecture is intended to provide. Despite the fact that the ARM v8-M specification had previously been extensively tested, we found twelve bugs (including two security bugs) that have all been fixed by ARM.} , address = {New York, NY, USA} , affiliation = {ARM Ltd} , ar_file = {OOPSLA_17} , ar_shortname = {OOPSLA 17} , author = {Alastair Reid} , day = {22\textendash 27} , doi = {10.1145/3133912} , file = {oopsla2017-whoguardstheguards.pdf} , journal = {PACMPL} , location = {Vancouver, BC, Canada} , month = {October} , number = {OOPSLA} , numpages = {24} , pages = {88:1--88:24} , publisher = {ACM} , slides = {oopsla2017-whoguardstheguards-slides.pdf} , title = {{W}ho guards the guards? {F}ormal {V}alidation of the {A}RM v8-{M} Architecture {S}pecification} , volume = {1} , year = {2017} }