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3 Key Benefits of Automating Your Source Code Review

Mar 18, 2014 By Sarah Vonnegut

Automation has taken the business world by storm. We automate everything, from marketing to manufacturing and everything in between, and it often pays off: greater ROIs, higher productivity, less overworked employees. In application security, the same can be true. As web applications have become the essence of business in almost every industry, the risks have increased. While we will always need code reviewers, pen testers and security teams for areas requiring human intelligence, for the business side or otherwise, automating your source code analysis is a step towards higher security. Let’s look at the top 3 reasons why you should be automating your code review process.

1. Easier Scalability

One of the biggest reasons why automation is more and more necessary for truly securing software is that the more lines of code you have, the less precise your code reviewer(s) can be in searching for code flaws line by line. With individual programs and applications comprising hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of lines of code, it’s impossible to expect a code reviewer to execute a fully comprehensive analysis in any reasonable amount of time anymore – especially when it comes to agile environments.

As this study by Forrester highlights, “IT without extreme automation is a myth. The pressures are just too excessive to believe such an illusion is possible.” Having an automation process in place for code review will allow your product or program quicker growth while still being able to ensure security. Scaling happens fast, and it’s vital that security testing is integrated as early as possible in the software development lifecycle to ensure that your programs can support the growing users and database as securely as possible.

2. Better Accuracy & Productivity

With automation, the process is streamlined; human intervention is decreased an the capacity we have to make human errors is also reduced. “The human brain is suited more for filtering, interrupting and reporting the outputs of automated source code analysis tools available commercially versus trying to trace every possible path through a compiled code base to find the root cause level vulnerabilities,” Wikipedia tells us.  

If you’re using a tool that enables you to customize according to your codes needs, automation will allow for less false positives. Harness your manpower by focusing where it’s best suited – to review and analyze the vulnerabilities discovered by the tool – and you can expect much higher accuracy. And by allowing tests to run in the background or at night, development can be more productive during the day.

3. Better Security Team-Developer Relationship

As developers are learning the importance of embedding security within their code, they’ve dealt with more and more pressure that asks them to learn important software security techniques. With an automated tool, they still need to know secure practices and how to fix security vulnerabilities, but they aren’t tasked with finding them themselves or waiting until the code gets to the security team. With IDE-integration, it can be even easier.

“It turns out that developers don’t just want their bugs identified after the fact by security weenies,” writes Gary McGraw. “Rather, they want both to fix bugs as early as possible in the development process and to avoid creating bugs in future code.” McGraw writes that the attitude has changed from “you do your job and I’ll do mine” to a better understanding from both sides. If your developers can learn to run security tests during production – made easy through automated tools – they’re much more likely to do so.

As software evolves, the code review process must grow with it, and automation is the answer.

Want to learn more about automating your code review process? Read more here.

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Sarah is in charge of social media and an editor and writer for the content team at Checkmarx. Her team sheds light on lesser-known AppSec issues and strives to launch content that will inspire, excite and teach security professionals about staying ahead of the hackers in an increasingly insecure world.

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