Why Static Code Analysis Is Not Enough?
Developers are often under immense pressure to deliver high quality, compliant web applications within unreasonable timelines and with minimal inaccuracies and gaps. That is why most development teams use static code analysis to test and debug the source code during SDLC. However, Static Code Analysis does have a number of limitations, and cannot, by itself, ensure robust and comprehensive web application security. With cybercrime globally becoming a more lucrative crime and the cost and sophistication of cybercrimes soaring exponentially, weak web application security is not something organizations or developers can afford.
In this article, we will take a closer look at Static Code Analysis, why this application security testing method is not enough to secure applications and ways to fortify app security.
How does Static Code Analysis Work?
Static Code Analysis, a white box testing method, is an application security testing solution that scans/ reviews source code in the non-run environment to identify errors, gaps, and vulnerabilities, and ensures compliance with code standards.
- Static code analysis is a method of debugging used during SDLC, as well as, after the app launch based on pre-defined rules/ policies.
- It looks for programming, designing and coding errors, vulnerable constructs, un-sanitized inputs, compliance with pre-set rules, etc.
- Static code analysis that is security-oriented is known as Static Application Security Testing (SAST). In SAST, tools are used to build a model of the application to map control and data flows. The data flow analysis is often used to flag areas where un-sanitized inputs may be processed by tracking the potential flow of user inputs through program code.
- The main benefits of using this method of application security testing are agility and ease.
- The other biggest advantage of automated code analysis is that it enables developers to identify bugs as early as possible and fix them.
4 Reasons Why Static Code Analysis is Not Enough
1. Prone to reporting innumerable false positives in results
One of the biggest problems with code analysis is a large number of false positives in results permeating from its reliance on abstract models and presentations of program data flow and logic. Managing false positives is a more arduous process than fixing real issues as developers need to expend scarce resources, time, and efforts in double-checking code to ensure it is secure and without vulnerabilities or bugs. When there are large numbers of false positives, developers may choose to ignore commonly reported false alarms, thus, putting the application at risk of real errors in the code. Or, they may erode the quality of code by making minor changes to it to make the false alarms go away.
2. Not comprehensive in nature
If this form of application security testing does not find issues, it does not mean that your application is free of vulnerabilities or misconfigurations. Static code analysis and SAST tools are not comprehensive in nature. While many known vulnerabilities may be caught by the automated tools in the pre-production stage, there are still more known vulnerabilities, logical vulnerabilities, and security misconfigurations that these tools are not equipped to detect.
3. Runtime errors and misconfigurations are not identified
Static code analysis is not equipped to catch run-time errors and misconfigurations, which brings down the security posture of the application. For instance, weak cryptography, authentication problems, access code control issues, etc. are either not automatically identified in the pre-production stage or their absence is identified but not whether they are running properly.
4. Incomplete coverage
Due to the time and cost constraints facing developers and organizations, 100% coverage of the application’s code and functionality in SAST is not possible, increasing the risks facing the application. For instance, static code analysis deals with source code, which is written with different programming languages, each of which requires a separate tool. Using multiple tools to meet the growing requirements is expensive. In the rule-based analysis, it is a big challenge in terms of time and resources to keep all the rules always updated. Often, testers cannot compile the code because they don’t have the right libraries, compilations instructions, etc.
Conclusion: Application Security Beyond Static Code Analysis
From the aforementioned reasons, it must be clear that static code analysis is not enough to ensure robust application security and that you need to look beyond it. There is no silver bullet or one magical solution to fortify your app’s security posture and you need to build a comprehensive solution with a combination of security tools and testing methods. Using an intelligent and comprehensive vulnerability scanner in combination with manual penetration testing and security audits and leveraging the expertise of security professionals like Indusface will offer you greater coverage and effectively fortify web application security right from the development stage.