There are several automatic tools available for the symbolic analysis of security protocols. The models underlying these tools differ in many aspects. Some of the differences have already been formally related to each other in the literature, such as difference in protocol execution models or definitions of security properties. However, there is an important difference between analysis tools that has not been investigated in depth before: the explored state space. Some tools explore all possible behaviors, whereas others explore strict subsets, often by using so-called scenarios.
We identify several types of state space explored by protocol analysis tools, and relate them to each other. We find previously unreported differences between the various approaches. Using combinatorial results, we determine the requirements for emulating one type of state space by combinations of another type.
We apply our study of state space relations in a performance comparison of several well-known automatic tools for security protocol analysis. We model a set of protocols and their properties as homogeneously as possible for each tool. We analyze the performance of the tools over comparable state spaces. This work enables us to effectively compare these automatic tools, i.e., using the same protocol description and exploring the same state space. We also propose some explanations for our experimental results, leading to a better understanding of the tools.