# π Start

In this part of the website, we will learn about applying modern formal verification to build software without bugsΒ π.

Formal verification is proving that a program is correct for any possible parameters and initial state, even if there are infinite possibilities. The trick for this seemingly impossible challenge is to use mathematical logic to reason about the code.

With formal verification, we will see how to build software for which users can never complain about a bug and attackers, even with state-level capabilities, can never exploit a vulnerability. Formal verification has been used successfully for critical systems such as rockets going to spaceΒ π§βπ, trains, airplanes, and more recently to securing cryptocurrenciesΒ π°.

For the learning, we will follow the adventures of JejuΒ π»ββοΈ, a small bear lost on an island who is very keen on never making mistakes.

## Formal verificationβ

There are rules to follow to reason about the code in a logical way. These rules apply to each primitive instruction in a programming language, such as if, while, for, return, etc. There is also a way to specify the expected behavior of a program, to distinguish between a bug and a feature. Distinguishing between a bug and a feature might be one of the hardest things to do, as there is not a single answer fitting every situation. Stating what a program should do is called a specification.

Jeju the bear π»ββοΈ knows the ancient art of formal verification. He is fortunate to use the CoqΒ π proof software that helps write down all the reasoning without making mistakes. The Coq system has now been existing for 40 years and continues to evolve. It uses a special kind of logic based on dependent types, in which we can express any mathematical statement or property about a program and verify it. Many other systems are also based on these ideas, such as Lean or Agda.

## Quick exampleβ

We now look at a small example to see the difference between testing and formal verification. You do not need to understand all the details for now.

To find bugs in a program the traditional method is to test many parameters until we can see the program working fine enough times. However there can always be a missing bug on a case that we have not tested. Here we take a small example to show the difference between testing and formal verification.

### Rust programβ

This is a Rust program returning the opposite of an integer:

fn opposite_i8(n: i8) -> i8 {    return -n;}

The type i8 represents signed integers in 8 bits. If we test this function, it will work for most cases:

fn main() {    println!("{}", opposite_i8(0)); // prints 0    println!("{}", opposite_i8(40)); // prints -40    println!("{}", opposite_i8(-28)); // prints 28}

But there is one case in which the function fails:

// You need to run this code in release mode as in debug mode// the overflows are checked and the program instead panicsfn main() {    println!("{}", opposite_i8(-128)); // prints -128 instead of 128}

The reason is that the bounds of 8 bits integers are from -128 to 127 so we cannot represent 128 and thus we get a wrong result, in this case -128.

### Coq versionβ

To be extra safe, Jeju uses formal verification and even sometimes avoids writing any tests!

Here is how he would represent the above program in Coq. We do not have an i8 type but we have the Z type of integers without bounds. We simulate i8 numbers by a function that takes an arbitrary integer and puts it back into the -128 and +127 bounds using the modulo operator:

Definition normalize_i8 (n : Z) : Z :=  ((n + 128) mod 256) - 128.

We then define the opposite function:

Definition opposite_i8 (n : Z) : Z :=  normalize_i8 (-n).

that returns the same results as in Rust:

Compute opposite_i8 0. (* 0 *)Compute opposite_i8 40. (* -40 *)Compute opposite_i8 (-28). (* 28 *)Compute opposite_i8 (-128). (* -128 *)

### Formal verificationβ

We can now state that the opposite_i8 function should work for all i8 values except -128:

Lemma normalize_i8_eq (n : Z) :  - 127 <= n <= 127 ->  opposite_i8 n = - n.

It says that for all integers between -127 and 127 the opposite function returns the same value as what we would have in Z. We need to write an argument to say that this property is always true as the Coq system cannot check everything by itself. The argument is called a proof and is the following:

Proof.  unfold opposite_i8, normalize_i8.  lia.Qed.

It says that we unfold all the definitions and then run the linear arithmetic solver lia to conclude the proof automatically. Once someone knows about the Coq proof system this is a very natural proof to write. For the proof above to work, you need to activate the division mode for lia with:

Ltac Zify.zify_post_hook ::= Z.to_euclidean_division_equations.

If we use an interval starting at -128 instead, the same proof fails as expected:

Lemma normalize_i8_eq (n : Z) :  - 128 <= n <= 127 ->  opposite_i8 n = - n.Proof.  unfold opposite_i8, normalize_i8.  lia.Qed.

returns the error:

Error: Tactic failure:  Cannot find witness.

### Conclusionβ

We have seen how to both test and formally verify a small program opposite_i8. As there are only 256 possible values between -128 and 127, we could have also tested it exhaustively. But if we were working with the i64 type instead, for signed integers with 64 bits, there would be too many possible values to test. That does not make Jeju afraid as the proof for 64-bits integers takes about the same time to run, a fraction of a second, and confirms that opposite_i64 is valid for all i64 values except the minimal one! π

## Nextβ

The rest of the learning section is under construction. We will learn:

• The basics of the Coq system.
• How to write a specification for a program in Coq and verify it?
• How to use Coq to verify smart contracts in Solidity?
• How to use Coq to verify Rust programs?

J. πΎ