July 29, 2021


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Verification of a Merkle Patricia Tree Library Using F*. (arXiv:2106.04826v1 [cs.PL])

A Merkle tree is a data structure for representing a key-value store as a
tree. Each node of a Merkle tree is equipped with a hash value computed from
those of their descendants. A Merkle tree is often used for representing a
state of a blockchain system since it can be used for efficiently auditing the
state in a trustless manner. Due to the safety-critical nature of blockchains,
ensuring the correctness of their implementation is paramount.

We show our formally verified implementation of the core part of Plebeia
using F*. Plebeia is a library to manipulate an extension of Merkle trees
(called Plebeia trees). It is being implemented as a part of the storage system
of the Tezos blockchain system. To this end, we gradually ported Plebeia to F*;
the OCaml code extracted from the modules ported to F* is linked with the
unverified part of Plebeia. By this gradual porting process, we can obtain a
working code from our partially verified implementation of Plebeia; we
confirmed that the binary passes all the unit tests of Plebeia.

More specifically, we verified the following properties on the implementation
of Plebeia: (1) Each tree-manipulating function preserves the invariants on the
data structure of a Plebeia tree and satisfies the functional requirements as a
nested key-value store; (2) Each function for serializing/deserializing a
Plebeia tree to/from the low-level storage is implemented correctly; and (3)
The hash function for a Plebeia tree is relatively collision-resistant with
respect to the cryptographic safety of the blake2b hash function. During
porting Plebeia to F*, we found a bug in an old version of Plebeia, which was
overlooked by the tests bundled with the original implementation. To the best
of our knowledge, this is the first work that verifies a production-level
implementation of a Merkle-tree library by F*.