Static analysis is a method of debugging by examining source code before a program is run. It happens by analyzing a set of code against a set of coding rules. Static analysis and static code analysis are often used interchangeably, along with source code analysis.
Explaining Static Code Analysis
Static analysis, as a concept, seems to earn itself a particular reputation. The general population may regard programming as a technocratic, geeky pursuit. But inside the world of programmers, it has that equivalent rap. It is a geeky subject even among geeks.
This type of analysis addresses weaknesses in source code that might lead to vulnerabilities. But using automated tools is much more effective. For organizations practicing DevOps, it takes place during the “Create” phase.
It is a technique (usually automated) which does not involve the execution of code but consists of an algebraic examination of source code. There are packages available which carry out the procedures and, indeed, modern compilers frequently carry out some of its procedures such as data flow analysis.
Static Analysis Limitations
- No Understanding of Developer Intent: A static analysis tool may detect a possible overflow in this calculation. But it cannot determine that function fundamentally does not do what is expected.
- Rules That Are Not Statically Enforceable: Some coding standards depend on external documentation. Or they are open to subjective interpretations.
- Possible Defects Lead to False Positives and False Negatives: In some situations, a tool can only report that there is a potential defect.
Benefits of Static Analysis
- Provides a better understanding of the application and its code
- Detects more vulnerabilities
- Pinpoints vulnerabilities
- Provides cost benefits
Describing Static Analysis
Static Code Analysis commonly refers to the running of its tools that attempt to highlight possible vulnerabilities within ‘static’ (non-running) source code by using techniques such as Taint Analysis and Data Flow Analysis.
However, this is beyond state of the art for many types of application security flaws. Thus, such tools frequently serve as aids for an analyst to help them zero in on security-relevant portions of code so they can find flaws more efficiently, rather than a tool that finds flaws automatically.
Some tools are starting to move into the Integrated Development Environment (IDE). For the types of problems that can be detected during the software development phase itself, this is a dominant phase within the development life cycle to employ such tools. It provides immediate feedback to the developer on issues they might be introducing into the code during code development itself. This immediate feedback is beneficial as compared to finding vulnerabilities much later in the development cycle.
Static Analysis is the best approach to find flaws in your code. Using it can enable you to trace the flow of data in an application, from the source to its destination. This is useful in finding a system that is vulnerable to SQL Injection and Cross-Site Scripting attacks as you can trace the flow of tainted input and check whether it reaches the destination resulting in vulnerability.