cuCatch: A Debugging Tool for Efficiently Catching Memory Safety Violations in CUDA Applications

CUDA, OpenCL, and OpenACC are the primary means of writing general-purpose software for NVIDIA GPUs, all of which are subject to the same well-documented memory safety vulnerabilities currently plaguing software written in C and C++. One can argue that the GPU execution environment makes software development more error prone. Unlike C and C++, CUDA features multiple, distinct memory spaces to map to the GPU’s unique memory hierarchy, and a typical CUDA program has thousands of concurrently executing threads. Furthermore, the CUDA platform has fewer guardrails than CPU platforms that have been forced to incrementally adjust to a barrage of security attacks. Unfortunately, the peculiarities of the GPU make it difficult to directly port memory safety solutions from the CPU space.

This paper presents cuCatch, a new memory safety error detection tool designed specifically for the CUDA programming model. cuCatch combines optimized compiler instrumentation with driver support to implement a novel algorithm for catching spatial and temporal memory safety errors with low performance overheads. Our experimental results on a wide set of GPU applications show that cuCatch incurs a 19% runtime slowdown on average, which is orders of magnitude faster than state-of-the-art debugging tools on GPUs. Moreover, our quantitative evaluation demonstrates cuCatch’s higher error detection coverage compared to prior memory safety tools. The combination of high error detection coverage and low runtime overheads makes cuCatch an ideal candidate for accelerating memory safety debugging for GPU applications.

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