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Is Now the Right Moment for a Code Scan? Business / IT Trends

Mar 26, 2024 JIN

Is Now the Right Moment for a Code Scan?

Authors can now rely on automatic grammatical checking tools when it comes to writing. These tools help check spelling and grammar, eliminating the need for someone to proofread their work for mundane errors tediously. Thanks to these tools’ outstanding performance, writers can pixel-focus on generating content. When a work is reviewed, the tools have already identified and resolved the general errors.

Similarly, modern developers have tools at their disposal to address common issues in code. Static analysis tools, often called code scanners, rapidly examine code to find common errors that may lead to security vulnerabilities. These tools are adept at identifying recurring problem patterns, alerting developers to potential issues, and offering suggestions on rectifying them. While they may not tackle underlying design flaws, these tools play a crucial role in helping developers preemptively address numerous security bugs in code long before it undergoes testing or is deployed into production.

What is Code Scanning?

Code scanning serves as a valuable tool for pinpointing potential security issues within an application. These tools scrutinize the code in the current iteration of your application, analyzing it for bugs and vulnerabilities. The findings are then summarized, often presented on a dashboard.

Code scanning allows developers to identify and promptly address potential issues early in the application development process, thereby enhancing the application’s overall security. Detecting vulnerabilities before the production phase can substantially decrease the risk of security errors and mitigate the associated costs and challenges of fixing them.

The Importance of Software Code Scans

Software code scans are a technical necessity and strategic imperative in today’s digital world. These scans reinforce software, shielding it from evolving threats, enhancing performance, and ensuring adherence to the highest quality standards.

Such scans safeguard businesses against financial and reputational risks. End-users benefit from a secure, efficient, and reliable digital experience. Additionally, investors gain insight into the state of a potential software company acquisition.

In an era where software powers virtually everything, maintaining its integrity is of utmost importance.

Do you need Code Scanning?

It’s a tricky question, as one wonders whether or not they need a mirror in their lives. One might argue that a mirror isn’t as crucial as other amenities, but that is far from the truth. We might not need a body-length mirror hanging on the wall, but we constantly abuse our phone cameras.
Code scanning is crucial for an organization’s application security program and for meeting regulatory compliance standards.

According to GDPR, organizations are now required to assess whether their applications handle personal data and implement both organizational and technical measures to safeguard this information.

For instance, merely identifying central databases accessed by various applications is insufficient; a thorough code scan at the application level becomes necessary. Personal data processing is not exclusive to databases; a piece of source code, for example, can read, process, and share data, which might include personal information. Even if individual data elements are not considered personal, their combination with other data could render them as such.

Best practices for scanning code

Effective code scanning necessitates strategic collaboration between security and development teams. To embark on a successful code-scanning journey, consider the following best practices:

Establish a Regular Schedule: Plan code scans consistently, whether at a set frequency (e.g., every X number of days) or by providing developers with on-the-fly scanning options as they code.

Integration into CI/CD: Seamlessly integrate security code scans into your Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline. Some teams run Static Analysis Security Testing (SAST) scans concurrently with unit tests during the continuous integration phase.

Developer Training on Secure Coding: Empower development teams by providing training on secure coding practices. Educating developers about coding errors as they occur helps instill secure coding habits for future projects.

Combine Automated Scans and Manual Review: Utilize both automated code scanning and manual code reviews in tandem. Manual reviews enable developers to identify visible errors before running automated scans, potentially catching issues that automated tools might overlook.

Addressing and Prioritizing Detected Issues: Merely identifying code issues is a starting point. Develop a plan to prioritize and address the detected issues. A code scanner offering actionable remediation steps can be particularly beneficial.

Supplement Code Scanning with Other Security Measures: Enhance your security posture by incorporating additional application security practices. This includes leveraging software composition analysis (SCA) to identify vulnerabilities and licensing issues in third-party components and dynamic application security testing (DAST) to simulate front-end attacks and assess applications in a production environment.

Identifying The Right Time for a Code Scan

While routinely planned scans are essential, certain fundamental moments in the business and development lifecycle matter, and they easily influence and enhance the significance of this evaluation process.

M&A and Private Equity Scenarios

The proactive benefits of code scans become particularly evident in mergers and acquisitions (M&As) and private equity (PE) investments. For software companies on the cusp of these substantial transitions, initiating a code scan might serve as a catalyst, highlighting the robustness and reliability of their software.

Commencing a code scan before entering investment discussions or M&A negotiations extends beyond technical diligence. It’d rather be a strategic move. Companies can shape the narrative by thoroughly assessing the software’s health and integrity, emphasizing strengths, and proactively addressing vulnerabilities.

Similarly, code scans provide valuable insights into the state of a software product that may join a private equity or venture capital firm’s portfolio or that of any acquiring organization. Understanding the risks and limitations of the codebase enhances the firm’s negotiation position and ensures that investments are made with a solid understanding of the software’s condition.

New Leadership Onboarding

Welcoming new technology leadership, especially at the CTO level, represents another opportune juncture. A code scan provides an in-depth understanding of the software’s current state, establishing a foundation for informed strategic planning and innovation roadmapping.

For incoming leadership, a thorough scan delves into the software’s health, performance, and potential areas for enhancement. It serves as a baseline and a foundational step in preparing for strategy formulation and future innovations.

Integrating Code Scans within the SDLC

In the Initial Development Phase, conducting preliminary static analyses is essential before incorporating newly developed modules into the primary codebase. This early-stage scanning serves to identify vulnerabilities before they become deeply embedded, ultimately reducing the effort and costs associated with remediation.

During Integration Phases, ensuring the secure integration of new components or modules with existing code is paramount. Scans at this stage help detect integration vulnerabilities and inconsistencies right off the bat.

In this post-testing phase, after the software has undergone standard testing protocols, dynamic analysis is initiated to provide insights into runtime vulnerabilities and other potential real-world threats.

Before Deployment, conducting a comprehensive scan is imperative to ensure the code is free from last-minute vulnerabilities, particularly in configurations or environment-specific aspects.

Periodic scans remain a necessity at regular intervals in production, even after Deployment. They help catch any new underlying vulnerabilities that may arise due to upcoming changes in the digital landscape, dependencies, or runtime environments.

Contextual Triggers for Code Scans

After significant code changes: Thorough scanning is a must whenever there is substantial code refactoring, the introduction of new features, or the integration of third-party libraries.

Following a security incident: In the aftermath of a security breach affecting your software or similar software in the domain, it serves as a clear signal to reevaluate your codebase for vulnerabilities.

Dependency updates: Software that relies on third-party libraries or frameworks should be scanned each time these dependencies undergo updates. Updated components may introduce new vulnerabilities or unforeseen interactions.

Regulatory changes: Industries under regulatory oversight, such as finance or healthcare, should initiate a review and scan in response to any alterations in compliance requirements to ensure continued adherence.

Common Challenges to Reviewing Software Code

Nevertheless, software code scanning presents its own complexities, like an intricate process.

Challenges of False Positives in Code Scanning

False positives often occur when the scanning process erroneously identifies a code segment as vulnerable or problematic when, in reality, it poses no threat. The consequences of these errors are multifaceted.

They can primarily result in significant time savings for developers, as each flagged issue necessitates manual review. Additionally, false positives may obscure genuine threats, relegating them to the background.

Frequently, the origins of such false positives can be attributed to generic rule sets, excessively aggressive scanning configurations, or a lack of customization in aligning the scanning criteria with the specific software architecture.

Navigating Scalability and Performance Challenges in Code Scanning

As software projects grow, the sheer amount of code to scan gets overwhelming, resulting in prolonged scanning durations.

Performance is also a consideration. Though comprehensive, intensive scans may impede the speed of development and testing environments, potentially affecting overall productivity.

Another issue involves incremental scanning. By concentrating solely on altered code segments without considering the broader application context, such scans might overlook vulnerabilities introduced by these new segments.

Complex & Evolving Code Bases

A mix of programming languages and frameworks is common in today’s applications, indicating a challenge in conducting thorough scans across these diverse components. The presence of legacy code also adds another layer of complexity. Older code, possibly written using outdated practices or lacking comprehensive documentation, can create obstacles during scanning processes.

Additionally, the perpetual evolution of digital threats poses an ongoing challenge. Therefore, scanning tools must be consistently updated to identify and address emerging vulnerabilities, staying vigilant against these constantly evolving threats.

Resource & Skill Constraints

Executing thorough code scans goes beyond tool deployment—it requires expertise. This proficiency extends to operating the scanning tool and interpreting its results.

Organizations often encounter difficulties training their teams to integrate scanning seamlessly into their workflows.

Additionally, there’s the financial aspect to consider. Premium scanning tools often come with a substantially outrageous price tag, posing a potential strain on the resources of smaller entities or startups.

Integration & Automation Difficulties

Incorporating code scans into the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) seamlessly poses a challenge. While automation offers to streamline this process, its setup can be intricate.

The integration of automated scanning demands meticulous planning and execution, especially within complex Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipelines.

Organizational Resistance

The adoption of any new process, including code scanning, is influenced by organizational culture.

In environments where scanning hasn’t been a standard practice, developers may approach it skeptically, viewing scans as an additional workload or a critique of their coding skills. Misconceptions can also act as barriers.

Some teams stay confident in their code practices as they have never experienced a breach or believe their external defenses are strong enough. They would feel offended and neglect the code-scanning process as they perceive it to be excessive. As a result, to maintain the code scan practice culture, many organizations engage third parties for code scans to ensure an unbiased evaluation.

Keeping Up With Software Tool Evolution

The digital landscape is unpredictable, and the tools employed for code scanning are constantly revolutionized. Development teams need to stay afloat with the latest features, capabilities, and best practices related to their scanning tools. A typical denial that remains untouched or taken care of regularly is tool compatibility until it’s too late. As frameworks or development environments undergo updates or changes, ensuring the continued compatibility of scanning tools becomes a top priority.

Code Scanning Services and Consultants

SHIFT ASIA offers comprehensive solutions, from detailed technical code scans to high-level consultancy for refining your review process. Our technical experts are good at identifying your process loopholes and spectacularly designing foolproof development planning/procedures, as well as multiple outsourced testing services to provide technical oversight and consultative guidance. Contact our support team for more details.


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