Precise and scalable points-to analysis via data-driven context tunneling

Minseok Jeon, Sehun Jeong, Hakjoo Oh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


We present context tunneling, a new approach for making k-limited context-sensitive points-to analysis precise and scalable. As context-sensitivity holds the key to the development of precise and scalable points-to analysis, a variety of techniques for context-sensitivity have been proposed. However, existing approaches such as k-call-site-sensitivity or k-object-sensitivity have a significant weakness that they unconditionally update the context of a method at every call-site, allowing important context elements to be overwritten by more recent, but not necessarily more important, context elements. In this paper, we show that this is a key limiting factor of existing context-sensitive analyses, and demonstrate that remarkable increase in both precision and scalability can be gained by maintaining important context elements only. Our approach, called context tunneling, updates contexts selectively and decides when to propagate the same context without modification. We attain context tunneling via a data-driven approach. The effectiveness of context tunneling is very sensitive to the choice of important context elements. Even worse, precision is not monotonically increasing with respect to the ordering of the choices. As a result, manually coming up with a good heuristic rule for context tunneling is extremely challenging and likely fails to maximize its potential. We address this challenge by developing a specialized data-driven algorithm, which is able to automatically search for high-quality heuristics over the non-monotonic space of context tunneling. We implemented our approach in the Doop framework and applied it to four major flavors of context-sensitivity: call-site-sensitivity, object-sensitivity, type-sensitivity, and hybrid context-sensitivity. In all cases, 1-context-sensitive analysis with context tunneling far outperformed deeper context-sensitivity with k = 2 in both precision and scalability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages
Issue numberOOPSLA
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Nov

Bibliographical note

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© 2018 Copyright held by the owner/author(s).


  • Context-sensitive analysis
  • Data-driven program analysis
  • Points-to analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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