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Automatic bug-fixing is the automatic repair of software bugs without the intervention of a human programmer. It is also commonly referred to as automatic patch generation, automatic bug repair, or automatic program repair. The typical goal of such techniques is to automatically generate correct patches to eliminate bugs in software programs without causing software regression.Automatic bug fixing is made according to a specification of the expected behavior which can be for instance a formal specification or a test suite.
A test-suite – the input/output pairs specify the functionality of the program, possibly captured in assertions can be used as a test oracle to drive the search. This oracle can in fact be divided between the bug oracle that exposes the faulty behavior, and the regression oracle, which encapsulates the functionality any program repair method must preserve. Note that a test suite is typically incomplete and does not cover all possible cases. Therefore, it is often possible for a validated patch to produce expected outputs for all inputs in the test suite but incorrect outputs for other inputs. The existence of such validated but incorrect patches is a major challenge for generate-and-validate techniques. Recent successful automatic bug-fixing techniques often rely on additional information other than the test suite, such as information learned from previous human patches, to further identify correct patches among validated patches.
Another way to specify the expected behavior is to use formal specifications. Verification against full specifications that specify the whole program behavior including functionalities is less common because such specifications are typically not available in practice and the computation cost of such verification is prohibitive. For specific classes of errors,however, implicit partial specifications are often available. For example, there are targeted bug-fixing techniques validating that the patched program can no longer trigger overflow errors in the same execution path.