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A Semantic Bug Seeding: A Learning-Based Approach for Creating Realistic Bugs

Jibesh Patra, Michael Pradel. FSE 2021

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When working on techniques to address the wide-spread problem of software bugs, one often faces the need for a large number of realistic bugs in real-world programs. Such bugs can either help evaluate an approach, e.g., in form of a bug benchmark or a suite of program mutations, or even help build the technique, e.g., in learning-based bug detection. Because gathering a large number ofreal bugs is difficult, a common approach is to rely on automatically seeded bugs. Prior work seeds bugs based on syntactic transformation patterns, which often results in unrealistic bugs and typically cannot introduce new, application-specific code tokens. This paper presents SemSeed, a technique for automatically seeding bugs in a semantics-aware way. The key idea is to imitate how a given real-world bug would look like in other programs by semantically adapting the bug pattern to the local context. To reason about the semantics of pieces of code, our approach builds on learned token embeddings that encode the semantic similarities of identifiers and literals. Our evaluation with real-world JavaScript softwares hows that the approach effectively reproduces real bugs and clearly outperforms a semantics-unaware approach. The seeded bugs are useful as training data for learning-based bug detection, where they significantly improve the bug detection ability. Moreover, we show that SemSeed-created bugs complement existing mutation testing operators, and that our approach is efficient enough to seed hundreds of thousands of bugs within an hour.

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