#symbolic #llvm #IR #SMT


Symbolic execution of LLVM IR, written in Rust

6 releases

✓ Uses Rust 2018 edition

0.2.1 Jan 16, 2020
0.2.0 Jan 8, 2020
0.1.3 Jan 1, 2020
0.1.2 Dec 18, 2019
0.1.1 Nov 26, 2019

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MIT license


haybale: Symbolic execution of LLVM IR, written in Rust

Crates.io License

haybale is a general-purpose symbolic execution engine written in Rust. It operates on LLVM IR, which allows it to analyze programs written in C/C++, Rust, Swift, or any other language which compiles to LLVM IR. In this way, it may be compared to KLEE, as it has similar goals, except that haybale is written in Rust and makes some different design decisions. That said, haybale makes no claim of being at feature parity with KLEE.

Okay, but what is a symbolic execution engine?

A symbolic execution engine is a way of reasoning - rigorously and mathematically - about the behavior of a function or program. It can reason about all possible inputs to a function without literally brute-forcing every single one. For instance, a symbolic execution engine like haybale can answer questions like:

  • Are there any inputs to (some function) that cause it to return 0? What are they?
  • Is it possible for this loop to execute exactly 17 times?
  • Can this pointer ever be NULL?

Symbolic execution engines answer these questions by converting each variable in the program or function into a mathematical expression which depends on the function or program inputs. Then they use an SMT solver to answer questions about these expressions, such as the questions listed above.

Getting started

1. Install

haybale is on crates.io, so you can simply add it as a dependency in your Cargo.toml:

haybale = "0.2.1"

haybale also depends (indirectly) on the LLVM 9 and Boolector libraries, which must both be available on your system. See the llvm-sys or boolector-sys READMEs for more details and instructions.

2. Acquire bitcode to analyze

Since haybale operates on LLVM bitcode, you'll need some bitcode to get started. If the program or function you want to analyze is written in C, you can generate LLVM bitcode (*.bc files) with clang's -c and -emit-llvm flags:

clang -c -emit-llvm source.c -o source.bc

For debugging purposes, you may also want LLVM text-format (*.ll) files, which you can generate with clang's -S and -emit-llvm flags:

clang -S -emit-llvm source.c -o source.ll

If the program or function you want to analyze is written in Rust, you can likewise use rustc's --emit=llvm-bc and --emit=llvm-ir flags.

3. Create a Project

A haybale Project contains all of the code currently being analyzed, which may be one or more LLVM modules. To get started, simply create a Project from a single bitcode file:

let project = Project::from_bc_path(&Path::new("/path/to/file.bc"))?;

For more ways to create Projects, including analyzing entire libraries, see the Project documentation.

4. Use built-in analyses

haybale currently includes two simple built-in analyses: get_possible_return_values_of_func(), which describes all the possible values a function could return for any input, and find_zero_of_func(), which finds a set of inputs to a function such that it returns 0. These analyses are provided both because they may be of some use themselves, but also because they illustrate how to use haybale.

For an introductory example, let's suppose foo is the following C function:

int foo(int a, int b) {
    if (a > b) {
        return (a-1) * (b-1);
    } else {
        return (a + b) % 3 + 10;

We can use find_zero_of_func() to find inputs such that foo will return 0:

match find_zero_of_func("foo", &project, Config::default()) {
    None => println!("foo can never return 0"),
    Some(inputs) => println!("Inputs for which foo returns 0: {:?}", inputs),

Writing custom analyses

haybale can do much more than just describe possible function return values and find function zeroes. In this section, we'll walk through how we could find a zero of the function foo above without using the built-in find_zero_of_func(). This will illustrate how to write a custom analysis using haybale.


All analyses will use an ExecutionManager to control the progress of the symbolic execution. In the code snippet below, we call symex_function() to create an ExecutionManager which will analyze the function foo - it will start at the top of the function, and end when the function returns. In between, it will also analyze any functions called by foo, as necessary and depending on the Config settings.

let mut em = symex_function("foo", &project, Config::<BtorBackend>::default());

Here it was necessary to not only specify the default haybale configuration, as we did when calling find_zero_of_func(), but also what "backend" we want to use. The default BtorBackend should be fine for most purposes.


The ExecutionManager acts like an Iterator over paths through the function foo. Each path is one possible sequence of control-flow decisions (e.g., which direction do we take at each if statement) leading to the function returning some value. The function foo in this example has two paths, one following the "true" branch and one following the "false" branch of the if.

Let's examine the first path through the function:

let retval = em.next().expect("Expected at least one path")?;

We're given the function return value, retval, as a Boolector BV (bitvector) wrapped in the ReturnValue enum. Since we know that foo isn't a void-typed function (and won't throw an exception or abort), we can simply unwrap the ReturnValue to get the BV:

let retval = match retval {
    ReturnValue::Return(r) => r,
    ReturnValue::ReturnVoid => panic!("Function shouldn't return void"),
    ReturnValue::Throw(_) => panic!("Function shouldn't throw an exception"),
    ReturnValue::Abort => panic!("Function shouldn't panic or exit()"),


Importantly, the ExecutionManager provides not only the final return value of the path as a BV, but also the final program State at the end of that path, either immutably with state() or mutably with mut_state(). (See the ExecutionManager documentation for more.)

let state = em.mut_state();  // the final program state along this path

To test whether retval can be equal to 0 in this State, we can use state.bvs_can_be_equal():

let zero = state.zero(32);  // The 32-bit constant 0
if state.bvs_can_be_equal(&retval, &zero)? {
    println!("retval can be 0!");

Getting solutions for variables

If retval can be 0, let's find what values of the function parameters would cause that. First, we'll add a constraint to the State requiring that the return value must be 0:


and then we'll ask for solutions for each of the parameters, given this constraint:

// Get a possible solution for the first parameter.
// In this case, from looking at the text-format LLVM IR, we know the variable
// we're looking for is variable #0 in the function "foo".
let a = state.get_a_solution_for_irname(&String::from("foo"), Name::from(0))?
    .expect("Expected there to be a solution")
    .expect("Expected solution to fit in 64 bits");

// Likewise the second parameter, which is variable #1 in "foo"
let b = state.get_a_solution_for_irname(&String::from("foo"), Name::from(1))?
    .expect("Expected there to be a solution")
    .expect("Expected solution to fit in 64 bits");

println!("Parameter values for which foo returns 0: a = {}, b = {}", a, b);

Alternately, we could also have gotten the parameter BVs from the ExecutionManager like this:

let a_bv = em.param_bvs()[0].clone();
let b_bv = em.param_bvs()[1].clone();

let a = em.state().get_a_solution_for_bv(&a_bv)?
    .expect("Expected there to be a solution")
    .expect("Expected solution to fit in 64 bits");

let b = em.state().get_a_solution_for_bv(&b_bv)?
    .expect("Expected there to be a solution")
    .expect("Expected solution to fit in 64 bits");

println!("Parameter values for which foo returns 0: a = {}, b = {}", a, b);


Full documentation for haybale can be found here, or of course you can generate local documentation with cargo doc --open.


Currently, haybale only supports LLVM 9. A version of haybale supporting LLVM 8 is available on the llvm-8 branch of this repo, and is approximately at feature parity with haybale version 0.2.0. However, there is no promise that future haybale features will be backported to the llvm-8 branch.

haybale works on stable Rust, and requires Rust 1.36+.

Under the hood

haybale is built using the Rust llvm-ir crate and the Boolector SMT solver (via the Rust boolector crate).


Version 0.2.1 (Jan 15, 2020)

  • New HAYBALE_DUMP_PATH and HAYBALE_DUMP_VARS environment-variable options
    • HAYBALE_DUMP_PATH: if set to 1, then on error, haybale will print a description of the path to the error: every LLVM basic block touched from the top of the function until the error location, in order.
    • HAYBALE_DUMP_VARS: if set to 1, then on error, haybale will print the latest value assigned to each variable in the function containing the error.
  • New setting Config.demangling allows you to apply C++ or Rust demangling to function names in error messages and backtraces
  • Support hooking calls to inline assembly, with some limitations inherited from llvm-ir (see comments on FunctionHooks::add_inline_asm_hook())
  • Built-in support for (the most common cases of) the llvm.bswap intrinsic
  • Other tiny tweaks - e.g., downgrade one panic to a warning

Version 0.2.0 (Jan 8, 2020)

  • Support LLVM extractvalue and insertvalue instructions
  • Support LLVM invoke, resume, and landingpad instructions, and thus C++ throw/catch. Also provide built-in hooks for some related C++ ABI functions such as __cxa_throw(). This support isn't perfect, particularly surrounding the matching of catch blocks to exceptions: haybale may explore some additional paths which aren't actually valid. But all actually valid paths should be found and explored correctly.
  • Since functions can be called not only with the LLVM call instruction but also with the LLVM invoke instruction, function hooks now receive a &dyn IsCall object which may represent either a call or invoke instruction.
  • haybale now uses LLVM 9 rather than LLVM 8. See the "Compatibility" section above.
  • Improvements for Projects containing C++ and/or Rust code:
  • The ReturnValue enum now has additional options Throw, indicating an uncaught exception, and Abort, indicating a program abort (e.g. Rust panic, or call to C exit()).
  • Relatedly, haybale now has built-in hooks for the C exit() function and for Rust panics (and for a few more LLVM intrinsics).
  • haybale also now contains a built-in generic_stub_hook and abort_hook which you can supply as hooks for any functions which you want to ignore the implementation of, or which always abort, respectively. See docs on the function_hooks module.
  • Config.initial_mem_watchpoints is now a HashMap instead of a HashSet of pairs.

Version 0.1.3 (Jan 1, 2020)

  • Memory watchpoints: specify a range of memory addresses, and get a log message for any memory operation which reads or writes any data in that range. See State::add_mem_watchpoint().
  • Convenience methods on State for constructing constant-valued BVs (rather than having to use the corresponding methods on BV and pass state.solver): bv_from_i32(), bv_from_u32(), bv_from_i64(), bv_from_u64(), bv_from_bool(), zero(), one(), and ones().
  • Some internal code refactoring to prepare for 0.2.0 features

Version 0.1.2 (Dec 18, 2019)

  • New method Project::get_inner_struct_type_from_named() which handles opaque struct types by searching the entire Project for a definition of the given struct
  • Support memory reads of size 1-7 bits (in particular, reads of LLVM i1)
  • Performance optimization: during State initialization, global variables are now only allocated, and not initialized until first use (lazy initialization). This gives the SMT solver fewer memory writes to think about, and helps especially for large Projects which may contain many global variables that won't actually be used in a given analysis.
  • Minor bugfixes and improved error messages

Version 0.1.1 (Nov 26, 2019)

Changes to README text only; no functional changes.

Version 0.1.0 (Nov 25, 2019)

Initial release!


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