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Today’s computer systems are insecure. The semantics of mainstream low-level languages like C provide no security against devastating vulnerabilities like buffer overflows and control-flow hijacking. Even for safer languages, establishing security with respect to the language’s semantics does not prevent low-level attacks. All the abstraction and security guarantees of the source language may be lost when interacting with low-level code, e.g., when using libraries.

Secure compilation is an emerging field that puts together advances in programming languages, security, verification, systems, compilers, and hardware architectures in order to devise secure compiler chains that eliminate many of today’s low-level vulnerabilities. Secure compilation aims to protect high-level language abstractions in compiled code, even against adversarial low-level contexts, and to allow sound reasoning about security in the source language. The emerging secure compilation community aims to achieve this by: (1) identifying and formalizing properties that secure compilers must possess; (2) devising efficient enforcement mechanisms; and (3) developing effective formal verification techniques.


This will be an informal 1-day workshop without any proceedings (in cooperation with SIGPLAN). Anyone interested in presenting at the workshop will submit an extended abstract (up to 2 pages), and the PC will decide which talks to accept based on a lightweight review process. We will also run a short talks session, where participants get 5 minutes to present intriguing ideas and advertise ongoing work.


The idea for this workshop emerged in a small informal meeting at INRIA Paris in August 2016 with in-depth talks and long, synergistic discussions. The first edition of the workshop was held at POPL 2017 under the name of “Secure Compilation Meeting”. The second and third edition were organized at POPL 2018 and 2019, under the new name of “Workshop on Principles of Secure Compilation”. This increasing interest from the community has encouraged us to continue the workshop and starting with the upcoming edition, we are making PriSC a regular feature with a standing steering committee.

Call for Presentations

The emerging field of secure compilation aims to preserve security properties of programs when they have been compiled to low-level languages such as assembly, where high-level abstractions don’t exist, and unsafe, unexpected interactions with libraries, other programs, the operating system and even the hardware are possible. For unsafe source languages like C, secure compilation requires careful handling of undefined source-language behavior (like buffer overflows and double frees). Formally, secure compilation aims to protect high-level language abstractions in compiled code, even against adversarial low-level contexts, thus enabling sound reasoning about security in the source language. A complementary goal is to keep the compiled code efficient, often leveraging new hardware security features and advances in compiler design. Other necessary components are identifying and formalizing properties that secure compilers must possess, devising efficient security mechanisms (both software and hardware), and developing effective verification and proof techniques. Research in the field thus puts together advances in compiler design, programming languages, systems security, verification, and computer architecture.

4th Workshop on Principles of Secure Compilation (PriSC 2020)

The Workshop on Principles of Secure Compilation (PriSC) is a relatively new, informal 1-day workshop without any proceedings. The goal is to bring together researchers interested in secure compilation and to identify interesting research directions and open challenges.

The 4th edition of PriSC will be held on January 25 in New Orleans, Louisiana USA together with the ACM SIGPLAN Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages (POPL), 2020.

Presentation Proposals and Attending the Workshop

Anyone interested in presenting at the workshop should submit an extended abstract (up to 2 pages, details below) covering past, ongoing, or future work. Any topic that could be of interest to secure compilation is in scope. Secure compilation should be interpreted very broadly to include any work in security, programming languages, architecture, systems or their combination that can be leveraged to preserve security properties of programs when they are compiled or to eliminate low-level vulnerabilities. Presentations that provide a useful outside view or challenge the community are also welcome. This includes presentations on new attack vectors such as microarchitectural side-channels, whose defenses could benefit from compiler techniques.

Specific topics of interest include but are not limited to:

  • Attacker models for secure compiler chains.
  • Secure compiler properties: fully abstract compilation and similar properties, memory safety, control-flow integrity, preservation of safety, information flow and other (hyper-)properties against adversarial contexts, secure multi-language interoperability.
  • Secure interaction between different programming languages: foreign function interfaces, gradual types, securely combining different memory management strategies.
  • Enforcement mechanisms and low-level security primitives: static checking, program verification, typed assembly languages, reference monitoring, program rewriting, software-based isolation/hiding techniques (SFI, crypto-based, randomization-based, OS/hypervisor-based), security-oriented architectural features such as Intel’s SGX, MPX and MPK, capability machines, side-channel defenses, object capabilities.
  • Experimental evaluation and applications of secure compilers.
  • Proof methods relevant to compilation: (bi)simulation, logical relations, game semantics, trace semantics, multi-language semantics, embedded interpreters.
  • Formal verification of secure compilation chains (protection mechanisms, compilers, linkers, loaders), machine-checked proofs, translation validation, property-based testing.

Guidelines for Submitting Extended Abstracts

Extended abstracts should be submitted in PDF format and not exceed 2 pages (references not including). They should be formatted in two-column layout, 10pt font, and be printable on A4 and US Letter sized paper. We recommend using the new acmart LaTeX style in sigplan mode.

Submissions are not anonymous and should provide sufficient detail to be assessed by the program committee. Presentation at the workshop does not preclude publication elsewhere.

Contact and More Information

For questions please contact the workshop chairs, Dominique Devriese and Deian Stefan.

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