Static and Dynamic Code Analysis

dynamic code analysis

Written by Ayesha

Code analysis is the testing of source code for the purpose of finding errors and vulnerabilities before a program is distributed to the customer or made open to the market. This code is a written text which is written by developers in text editors and then provided to automated tools to obtain an analysis of possible errors and loopholes in it. 

Static Code Analysis vs Dynamic Code Analysis

The output of a source code analysis consists of high-level information relating to the program, including metrics identifying program properties, function invoke rates, call graphs and other automated representations. Based on these outputs, with one focusing on code structure and code understanding and the other on the code’s performance during the program’s execution, two types of code analysis can be characterized. To summarize both types of code analysis, Static Analysis is concerned with code properties and source code metrics, and Dynamic Analysis is with execution metrics.

Static Code Analysis

Static Code Analysis is classified as a white box testing performed at the early stages of program development. It highlights vulnerabilities in the source code without executing it. Some ways to perform static analysis are Data Flow Analysis and Taint Analysis. 

Modern Static Code Analysis is performed by tools that automate the process of finding security flaws, which are reviewed by the developer to analyze the results and take the proper actions to perform corrections. These tools can be integrated into famous platforms to perform real-time analysis as the program is being developed to reduce the time of performing a code analysis separately. This real-time analysis is more practical than finding vulnerabilities at the end stages of the Software Development Life Cycle. 

Advantages

Static Code Analysis, when performed by an analyzer which has a proper understanding of the tool and its rules, offers a variety of benefits:

  • Thorough Code Analysis:

Static Code Analysis checks the complete code from start to finish, even the code that is not used by the program. This ensures that all errors, bugs and vulnerabilities are identified.

  • Test According to Manually Set Rules:

Performing Static Code Analysis according to preset rules can still provide adequate results. But it is best to personalize the rules according to your project to lower the rate of false positives and get a more accurate result. 

  • No Need for Execution:

Static Code Analysis does not require the program to be a finalized product or an executable code. This analysis assists the developer in the development process by performing real-time analysis of the code. 

  • Highlight Exact Error and its Location:

This analysis can point out the exact code causing the error or bug. Additionally, it provides a short synopsis of what that error could be, making it easy to solve. 

  • Reduced Cost and Time Consumption:

Performing this analysis at the early stages of the SDLC can help solve the risks early. Therefore, you avoid the cost and time extensive process of tackling these errors at the final stages.  

Disadvantages

  • False Positives:

Performing Static Code Analysis without proper configuration can result in false positives being reported as errors, resulting in more time consumed to get to the more critical errors.

  • Not Concerned with the Runtime Environment: 

Static code analysis is applied without running the application, focusing mainly on the structure rather than the code’s operations or the program’s performance factor. 

  • Not All Languages are Supported:

The static code analysis tool might not support the language used in your program.  

  • Can be Time Consuming:

If the analysis is not performed along the development process and is performed separately, the tools can take a lot of time to finalize an analysis of the complete code.

Dynamic Code Analysis

Dynamic code analysis is designed to test an executable application for any vulnerabilities that can compromise the application’s security or proper working. This analysis simulates an actual runtime environment to identify errors associated with compile time and runtime processes.

When performing this analysis, tools attack the executed program from multiple angles with potentially malicious inputs. All negative responses are reported as errors and vulnerabilities. Dynamic Analysis is performed at the testing phase of the SDLC as it requires an application to run for it to be tested.

Advantages

  • Simulate the actual runtime environment

Dynamic Analysis can simulate a realistic deployment environment to analyze how the program will react to real-world attacks and potential exploits. This reduces damages caused by any errors found after the application is deployed into the market.

  • Can test the application without Code

Dynamic Analysis can be performed on any executable as it is concerned with the black box testing of the application. 

  • Can help Identify False Negatives in any Other Code Analysis

This analysis can point out any errors overlooked by other code analyses that are performed without executing the application. 

  • Detect Liabilities that Other Analysis Can Not: 

Since Dynamic Analysis detects vulnerabilities in a running application, it can detect loopholes in the application that are difficult to detect in source code. Some vulnerabilities, like memory allocation issues and configuration issues, are only visible when the code is active. These tools can also detect issues within third-party dependencies and libraries.

Disadvantages

  • Only points out the problem:

Dynamic analysis is not concerned with the code, so it cannot identify any structure errors. Furthermore, even if a problem is found, its source and cause are not detected. Thus developers have to find the source of the problem manually. 

  • Time Consuming:

The process is time-consuming and can take a huge effort to perform the initial analysis. After the analysis is done, the process of finding the cause of vulnerabilities and correcting them can involve backtracking, as it can only be performed after the application is complete. 

  • False Positives:

Like any code analysis, Dynamic Analysis can also result in many false positives, which need to be manually assessed by the analyzer. 

  • Difficult to Set Up:

Setting up an analysis depending on your project can be difficult. It might require expert help to perform an accurate, custom analysis. 

The Comparison

  1. Both types detect defects. The difference is in terms of the development stage that they can be implemented.
  2. Dynamic code analysis can miss errors relating to code properties and source code metrics, while static analysis can not identify vulnerabilities relating to execution metrics. 
  3. Testing the code comprises dynamic analysis, while reviewing the code defines static analysis.
  4. Both analyses can work independently but should be used to complement each other for the best security analysis.
  5. Static code analysis works best with code review, while Dynamic code analysis is performed as automated testing to generate real-time performance data.
  6. When performing Dynamic Code Analysis after Static Analysis, it is best to focus on factors such as performance, logic, and security validation as these are not concerned with the Static Code Analysis.
  7. In a development process, once the code issues are resolved through Static Code Analysis, they can be tested by real-time execution through Dynamic Analysis to remove all factors of data vulnerabilities.

Conclusion

Code analysis tests source code to detect errors before distribution of a program. It’s divided into two types: static code analysis, which identifies vulnerabilities in a code without execution, and dynamic code analysis, which simulates an actual runtime to identify error. Here, we’ve discussed how the work, and what their advantages and disadvantages are, so that you can determine which one you need to use. Good luck!

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