KEVM: A Complete Semantics of the Ethereum Virtual Machine

Everett Hildenbrandt and Manasvi Saxena and Xiaoran Zhu and Nishant Rodrigues and Philip Daian and Dwight Guth and Brandon Moore and Yi Zhang and Daejun Park and Andrei Stefanescu and Grigore Rosu
CSF'18 IEEE, pp 204-217, 2018

Abstract. A developing field of interest for the distributed systems and applied cryptography communities is that of smart contracts: self-executing financial instruments that synchronize their state, often through a blockchain. One such smart contract system that has seen widespread practical adoption is Ethereum, which has grown to a market capacity of 100 billion USD and clears an excess of 500,000 daily transactions. Unfortunately, the rise of these technologies has been marred by a series of costly bugs and exploits. Increasingly, the Ethereum community has turned to formal methods and rigorous program analysis tools. This trend holds great promise due to the relative simplicity of smart contracts and bounded-time deterministic execution inherent to the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). Here we present KEVM, an executable formal specification of the EVM's bytecode stack-based language built with the \K{} Framework, designed to serve as a solid foundation for further formal analyses. We empirically evaluate the correctness and performance of KEVM using the official Ethereum test suite~\cite{ethereum-tests-url}. To demonstrate the usability, several extensions of the semantics are presented and two different-language implementations of the ERC20 Standard Token are verified against the ERC20 specification. These results are encouraging for the executable semantics approach to language prototyping and specification.