What is Static Code Analysis?

static code analysis

Written by Ayesha

Static Code Analysis, also called Static Application Security Testing (SAST) or source code analysis, is a white box testing process of analyzing and evaluating a program’s code for vulnerabilities while it is being developed. In recent years, demand for software companies to deliver high security in software products has established a concern among developers about security-related threats connected to their products’ source code. The purpose of such an analysis is to identify all possible loopholes of the software system which can compromise a system’s security when deployed into the customer’s network. 

Static Application Security Testing can occur very early in the software development life cycle because it does not require the application to be executable. It helps developers identify vulnerabilities in the initial stages of development and solve them before the application is complete.

Static Analysis 

Static Code Analysis provides developers with an understanding of possible errors in their code, with which they can remove any loopholes before proceeding to the next stage of development. The reported representation of code errors makes navigation easier. SAST Tools can also provide in-depth guidance on the issue and how it can be fixed.

What Comprises a Static Code Analysis?

Static analysis involves a set of rules and methods used to analyze the source code of a program and establish criteria to check its correctness and reliability. It reviews the source code without executing it and reveals a wide variety of information such as the structure of the model used, performance modeling and optimization techniques, control flow, syntax accuracy, fault localization, assertion discovery, clone detection, debugging, application reliability and many more.

But given the variety of the information, this process is very extensive, requiring multiple developers and a lot of time and resources to complete the testing manually. Depending upon the type of information that the developer wants to obtain, there are multiple Static Code Analysis techniques:

Interface Analysis

This static code analysis focuses on risks associated with the factors of user interaction with the program. It includes the user interface structure and any errors associated with the user interaction model. With the help of this analysis, developers can accurately identify any risks or errors associated with how the interface and interaction are simulated to the user.  

Control Analysis

This static flow analysis works on finding errors and loopholes in the control flow of the calling structures used in the source code. The sequence of calling these processes or functions is analyzed along with their associated conditions. The control transfers are mapped through this static analysis technique, and any liabilities are identified. 

Fault Analysis

Fault analysis utilizes logic to determine faulty or inoperable parts of the source code. Such faulty code can lead to possible vulnerabilities in the system. These risks are identified and prevented through static code analysis by analyzing the applied conditions in the code.

Data Analysis

Data analysis is used to collect data related to objects such as data structures. This analysis ensures that the code has accurate operations and that it adequately utilizes the defined data. Static analysis using this technique helps maintain the accuracy, definition, and context of data. The program checks if they use these things accurately or have any vulnerabilities.

Types of Static Code Analysis

Static code analysis can be done at any stage of the software’s development cycle, but performing it at earlier stages reduces the cost, time, and risk of detecting these errors later. Static flow analysis is traditionally done manually, but the process is time and resource intensive. For more extensive programs, performing manual analysis becomes almost impossible when bound by time constraints. Such rigorous testing also requires the analyzer to know proper code security measures and techniques of static analysis. Furthermore, even if the manpower is increased to allow faster testing, it is still prone to many errors.

Modern-day developers have access to static code analysis tools that automate the process of this security analysis, making it much faster and easier. Both types are explored below:

Manual Static Analysis

Manual static code analysis is performed by human editors, and the time-consuming process requires analysis of only a limited number of liabilities at a time. Developer’s reviews and 3rd party reviews are the two main types of manual static analysis based on whether the program is being developed by an individual or an organization.  

In the personal review, the programmer manually performs the static code analysis to evaluate the code for errors and risks. While in the case of a team or organization, the analysis is performed by one or more people rather than the original developer. For a more professional manual analysis, the developer can even hire third parties to perform the analysis.

Self-analysis performed by the developer involves analyzing the code as it is written and structuring a proper review process after the code is written. A third-party analysis is a formal approach that provides:

  • Documentation of all the defects found.
  • An estimate of rework effort.
  • Any suggestions to improve the control or data flow of the code. 

Automated Static Analysis

Automated static code analysis is performed with the help of tools. They consistently check the code for errors in real-time. This type of analysis does not require the developer to know the static code analysis techniques. It follows a set of rules predefined to the tools to find any errors, risks, and loopholes in the code. These tools drastically reduce the human labor and time required to perform static analysis. 

These tools analyze the code and provide report feedback highlighting major flaws, errors, and security issues found in the code. By automating the analysis process, the developer now only has to check the identity errors for false positives and negatives and correct the accurate errors manually. 

Conclusion

Static Code Analysis analyzes and evaluates a code during development to check for security risks. It’s an increasingly significant process, due to rising client concern for high security products. That’s why we’ve discussed what happens in it, what its types are, and how they function. We’ve also written a number of articles on other essential analysis tools such as lexical and data flow analysis, so to secure your systems further, be sure to check those out.

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