Python Security Vulnerabilities and Language Overview

Python Security Vulnerabilities

What is Python?

Created in the late 1980s by Dutch programmer Guido van Rossum as a side project during his Christmas vacation, Python is a popular interpreted, dynamic programming language. Python’s syntax allows programmers to express concepts in fewer lines of code than in Java, C++ and other languages. Programming paradigms supported by Python include object-oriented, imperative and functional programming or procedural styles and it has a large standard library as well as a dynamic type system and automatic memory management.

 

Python code can run on a wide variety of operating systems since its interpreters are available for a wide array of operating systems. Python can also be used on most common operating systems with no need to install a Python interpreter since it is able to be packaged into stand-alone executable programs.

 

While Python programs are known to run slower than Java programs, they take much less time to develop and are usually significantly smaller than similar Java programs. Unlike Java, Python is best used as a “glue” language as opposed to a low-level interpretation language like Java. Despite this, Java and Python work well together as Java components can be used in Python applications. Similar to JavaScript, Python contains an object oriented subset and can support functions simple functions and variables without having to engage in class definitions.

Guido van Rossum, the creator of Python

Guido van Rossum, the creator of Python

Despite sharing a similar background with Perl, Python has a different philosophy which emphasizes support for “common programming methodologies such as data structure design and object-oriented programming, and encourages programmers to write readable (and thus maintainable) code by providing an elegant but not overly cryptic notation.”

 

 

Why Was Python Initially Created?

Drawing its name from creator, and benevolent dictator for life (BDFL), Guido van Rossum’s love of Monty Python, this programming language was designed to be a “descendant of ABC that would appeal to Unix/C hackers.” Python was essentially designed to emphasize both code readability and productivity on the side of the developer. These two traits shine in terms of its simple syntax which is quite easy to learn and read, as well as the fact that its lack of a compilation step results in a rapid edit-test-debug cycle.

 

In a brief summary written by van Rossum, he notes that other influences for creating Python include his gripes about many features of the ABC language, such as its lack of extensibility, which he remedied in Python. Additionally, the error handling in the Amoeba language also made van Rossum work to include exceptions as a feature in Python.

 

While Python implementation began in December 1989, it was in February 1991 that the first code was published to alt.sources. Python 1.0 was released in January 1994 and included functional programming tools such as lambda, map, filter and reduce. Python 2.0 was released in October 2000 as the core development team moved to BeOpen.com where the PythonLabs team was formed. Included in Python 2.0 were list comprehensions as well as a garbage collection system for reference cycles. Version 3.0 (also known as “Python 3000” or “Py3K”) was released in December 2008 and broke backward compatibility. Major features included changing print from a statement to a built-in function, changing integer functionality and more.

 

Core Python concepts taken from the Zen of Python written in 1999

  • Beautiful is better than ugly
  • Explicit is better than implicit
  • Simple is better than complex
  • Complex is better than complicated
  • Readability counts

 

Python Frameworks:

Django

What is Django?

Django is a free and open-sourced web framework written in Python. As a web framework that follows the model–view–controller (MVC) pattern, Django allows for an easier creation of complex, database driven websites such as Pinterest, Instagram, The Washington Times, Bitbucket and others. Written in 2003, Django is named after the musician Django Reinhardt and was released under the permissive BSD software license in 2005 and since 2008 it has been maintained by the Django Software Foundation (DSF).

 

Django developers meet annually in Europe at the DjangoCon every summer since 2008 with a parallel gathering held annually in September in the United States. Jango provides numerous ports to other languages including JavaScript (Swig), Ruby (Liquid), Perl (Twig), Python (Jinja) and others.

 

Who uses Python?

Python powers some of the largest sites on the internet with its clean code, reliability and satisfaction amongst the developers using it that comes from the fact that it both powerful and fun to work with. Some of the most notable websites using Python are:

 

  • Youtube
  • Dropbox
  • Survey Monkey
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Bitly

 

Python Security Vulnerabilities

As with any coding language, security should be at the forefront for all Python and Django developers, especially those who are dealing with giant databases of sensitive personal information that could lead to terrible consequences if exploited or breached.

 

High-Risk Python Security Vulnerabilities:

Alongside SQL Injections (SQLi), XSS (Cross Site Scripting) and Cross Site Request Forgery, which affect most contemporary programming languages, Python applications also face threats from:

 

Securing your Python Code

 

Checkmarx’s CxSAST, a static code analysis solution, stands out amongst Python testing solutions as not only the solution which will keep your Python code free from security and compliance issues, but also as the tool which will contribute to your organization’s advancement when it comes to application security maturity.

 

CxSAST works with the tools your developers are already using as it seamlessly integrates with most of the common development programs available at every stage of the SDLC. CxSAST’s features such as incremental code scanning and the best fix location made it ideal for any continuous integration continuous development (CICD) environment.

 

When vulnerabilities are detected in the Python code, CxSAST will not only identify the best fix location, but will also offer resources to the developer to understand how the attack vector work as well as remediation advice which will help them ensure similar mistakes are avoided in the future.

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If you’re interested in reading about how Python compares to Ruby and PHP, be sure to check out PHP vs. Python vs. Ruby- All you ever wanted to know

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