Learning the Language of Failure

Andreas Zeller

Event Details
Thursday, September 24, 2020
12-1 p.m., Zoom

N/A, N/A

Andreas Zeller

Professor, CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security


When diagnosing why a program fails, one of the first steps is to precisely understand the circumstances of the failure – that is, when the failure occurs and when it does not. Such circumstances are necessary for three reasons. First, one needs them to precisely predict when the failure takes place; this is important to devise the severity of the failure. Second, one needs them to design a precise fix: A fix that addresses only a subset of circumstances is incomplete, while a fix that addresses a superset may alter behavior in non-failing scenarios. Third, one can use them to create test cases that reproduce the failure and eventually validate the fix.

In this talk, I present and introduce tools and techniques that automatically learn circumstances of a given failure, expressed over features of input elements. I show how to automatically infer input languages as readable grammars, how to use these grammars for massive fuzzing, and how to systematically and precisely characterize the set of inputs that causes a given failure – the "language of failure".

Speaker Bio

Andreas Zeller is faculty at the CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security and professor for Software Engineering at Saarland University, both in Saarbrücken, Germany. His research on automated debugging, mining software archives, specification mining, and security testing has won several awards for its impact in academia and industry. Zeller is an ACM Fellow, an IFIP Fellow,  an ERC Advanced Grant Awardee, and holds an ACM SIGSOFT Outstanding Research Award.