One of the most important aspects to consider when developing software is code quality. This can be measured using various tools and techniques, one of which is Static Code Analysis (SCA). Static Code Analysis refers to the process of inspecting source code without running it. This can be done manually or by using specialized tools.
In this article we will look at what Static Code Analysis is, how you can use it to improve code quality, and some of the best tools available for the job.
What is Static Code Analysis?
Static Code Analysis consists of analyzing source code to find potential bugs or security vulnerabilities. It can be done manually by inspecting the code, or automatically, using automated tools that analyze the code for specific patterns.
Static Code Analysis can detect a variety of potential problems, including:
- Security vulnerabilities
- Performance bottlenecks
- Coding style issues
- Compliance violations
Using Static Code Analysis can help developers find and fix these issues before they cause problems in production.
There are two main types of Static Code Analysis:
- Syntax checking - Checks for errors in the structure of the code (e.g., missing braces)
- Semantic analysis - Looks for issues with the meaning of the code (e.g., using a variable before it is initialized)
Static Code Analysis is basically running SCA tools in an attempt to find issues with the code. In an ideal world, such technologies would detect security defects automatically, with a reasonable level of certainty that what was discovered is truly a flaw.
Unfortunately, this is beyond the state-of-the-art for many sorts of application security issues. As a result, rather than being a tool that identifies holes automatically, such tools are commonly used to aid analysts and help them focus on security-sensitive areas of code, so they can uncover faults more effectively.
What are the benefits of static code analysis?
Manual code reviews take time for engineers to complete. In contrast, automated tools are far more efficient. Static code inspection identifies issues early in the process and pinpoints the specific location of the issue in the code. As a result, you'll be able to correct them faster.
It can be easy to miss issues in code reviews when done manually. Automated tools are less likely to err or overlook potential problems. For example, Static Code analyzers use pre-configured or custom-made rules (or a combination of both) to examine source code for potential bugs.
3. Improved security
Static code analysis can improve the security of your software applications. By identifying and correcting vulnerabilities early in the development process, you can reduce the risk of attackers exploiting them.
4. Improved quality
Static Code Analysis can also help improve the overall quality of your software applications. Early detection and correction of coding errors can prevent them from turning up later in the development process, saving you time and money.
If you're required to comply with specific standards (e.g., PCI DSS, HIPAA, etc.), Static Code analysis can help you verify that your software applications meet these requirements.
How to perform static code analysis
1. Write the code
To perform Static Code Analysis, you need to have some code to analyze. Ask your dev team to write clean, well-organized, and easy-to-read code. This will make it easier to find potential issues.
2. Check for potential code bugs and vulnerabilities
Check the code for potential issues using a Static Code Analysis tool. Make sure to check for any areas that may be vulnerable to attack.
3. Assess the analysis report
The report might contain several issues, including warnings (which need not be fixed) and errors (which must be fixed). Pay special attention to these, as they represent potential security risks.
4. Interpret and prioritize the analysis report
Assign professionals to interpret and prioritize the report. This step will help you determine which issues are more critical and need to be fixed immediately. They can flag areas of code that they think may be vulnerable to attack and recommend fixes for these issues.
5. Pick out critical issues that need a mandatory fix
You must focus on critical issues first because they may be easily exploitable by attackers. As such, it's crucial to have these areas fixed as soon as possible.
6. Fix the code
Make sure to fix any critical issues first, then work your way down the list. Once you're done, re-run the Static Code analysis tool to check if the issues have been properly fixed.
7. Handoff to the QA team
After the code has been fixed, it's time to hand off the code to the Quality Assurance (QA) team. They will test the code to ensure that it meets all the required standards and criteria.
Tools for Static Code Analysis
There are many different Static Code Analysis tools available, both open-source and commercial. Here are some of the best:
SonarQube is a popular open-source tool for Static Code Analysis. It supports over 20 different programming languages and integrates with multiple build tools (e.g., Maven, Ant, Gradle). Developers have been using it to find bugs, security vulnerabilities, and code smells for years.
Its key features include code coverage, unit test success rate, duplicated code, and security hotspots. This tool is great for teams that want to improve the quality of their code.
2. Checkmarx SAST
Checkmarx is a provider of Static Code Analysis tools. Their SAST product is designed to help organizations identify and fix security vulnerabilities.
Checkmarx also offers a product called CxSAST, which is designed to identify compliance issues in source code. It can detect violations of various coding standards, such as the OWASP Top 10 and the PCI Data Security Standard.
3. Synopsys Coverity
Synopsys is a provider of Static Code Analysis tools. Their Coverity product is designed to help organizations identify and fix defects in their source code.
Synopsys Coverity can identify common coding issues, such as insecure passwords and SQL injection vulnerabilities. It also calculates a variety of code metrics, such as cyclomatic complexity and lines of code count.
Synopsys also offers a product called Code Advisor, which is designed to help developers write more secure code. It can identify potential security vulnerabilities in source code and suggest ways to fix them.
4. Micro Focus Fortify Static Code Analyzer
The Fortify Static Code Analyzer examines files and credentials across the Microsoft network and Office 365 cloud storage environment to identify access hazards.
With this tool, you can view all the data on your hosts and NAS devices, as well as files in Microsoft 365 cloud services. Additionally, it works with Microsoft Active Directory and Azure Active Directory to determine and report on access rights.
5. Veracode Static Analysis
Veracode is a service, not a tool that you install on your own computer. It can be used to scan code for security vulnerabilities in various languages, including Java, C++, and .NET.
Veracode also provides a library of known vulnerabilities, which you can search to see if any of your code is vulnerable to any of them.
6. Snyk Code
Snyk is a relative newcomer to the static analysis scene, but it is quickly gaining a following. It bills itself as “the world’s first open-source security company” and offers both a free and paid version of its product.
Snyk is unique in that it scans for known vulnerabilities and searches for new vulnerabilities that have not yet been disclosed. This makes it an essential tool for keeping your code safe from the latest threats. Like Veracode, Snyk can be used to scan code in various languages, including Java, Node.js, Ruby, and Python.
7. Reshift Security
Reshift Security is a static analysis tool specifically designed for iOS and Android development. It scans your code for potential security vulnerabilities and provides detailed reports on the findings.
One of the advantages of Reshift Security is that it can be used as part of your continuous integration process. This means that you can scan your code for vulnerabilities every time you build and deploy it.
Reshift Security is available as a standalone tool or as part of the Reshift Security Suite. The Suite includes several other tools, including a mobile app scanner and an API security scanner.
Using SCA tools is an integral part of developing secure code. These tools can help you find and fix potential security vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them.
Combine it with a retrospective tool, like GoRetro, and you can get feedback on your code review process too! GoRetro is a powerful and free software that helps you facilitate Sprint retrospectives. Using your SCA tools with GoRetro lets you improve collaboration between your devs and QA teams. Try it out today and see the difference!