Language-Based Techniques and Stochastic Models for Automated Testing

Agustín Mista
Chalmers University of Technology (2023)
Ph.D. thesis


As software systems become bigger and scarier, automating their testing is crucial to ensure that our confidence in them can keep up with their growth. In this setting, Generational Fuzzing and Random Property-Based Testing are two sides of the same testing technique that can help us find bugs effectively without having to spend countless hours writing unit tests by hand. They both rely on generating large amounts of random (possibly broken) test cases to be used as inputs to the system. Test cases that trigger issues such as crashes, memory leaks, or failed assertions are reported back to the developer for further investigation. Despite being fairly automatable, the Achilles heel of this technique lies in the quality of the randomly generated test cases, often requiring substantial manual work to tune the random generation process when the system under test expects inputs satisfying complex invariants.

This thesis tackles this problem from the Programming Languages perspective, taking advantage of the richness of functional, statically-typed languages like Haskell to develop automated techniques for generating good-quality random test cases, as well as for automatically tuning the testing process in our favor. To this purpose, we rely on well-established ideas such as coverage-guided fuzzing, meta-programming, type-level programming, as well as novel interpretations of centuries-old statistical tools designed to study the evolution of populations such as branching processes. All these ideas are empirically validated using an extensive array of case studies and supported by a substantial number of real-world bugs discovered along the way.