Wang is developing a system to warn programmers about compilers


December 4, 2013

Compilers are computer programs that translate high-level instructions written in human-readable languages like Java or C into low-level instructions that machines can execute. Most compilers also streamline the code they produce, modifying algorithms specified by programmers so that they’ll run more efficiently. Sometimes that means simply discarding lines of code that appear to serve no purpose. But as it turns out, compilers can be overaggressive, dispensing not only with functional code but also with code that actually performs vital security checks.

A classic example, explains Xi Wang, a graduate student in EECS and first author on the new paper, is the assumption that if a program attempts to store too large a number at a memory location reserved for an integer, the computer will lop off the bits that don’t fit. “In machines, integers have a limit,” Wang says. “Whenever you exceed that limit, the input value basically wraps around to a smaller value.”

Read the article on MIT News.

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