How to Perform an Effective Code Audit | The Basics
Even if you have performed various unit and acceptance tests during the development of your app, there are always caveats and last minute glitches that arise. A code audit is, therefore, both a “regular checkup” and a “last look” that ensures the application and its components are free of security breaches and other possible issues.
What is a Code Audit?
A software code audit is a comprehensive analysis of source code in a software solution or product. It is regarded as one of the most critical stages of the security process as it serves to validate the code maturity and maintainability, also ensuring that the product is ready for a seamless handover.
Why Should I Perform a Code Audit?
Normally, a software code audit has the following basic goals – while additional ones could be incorporated per request, such as conformity with the adopted code style:
1. Get acquainted with the present project structure and functionality
2. Discover existing and potential bugs
3. Discover security breaches and vulnerabilities
4. Validate the current performance and scalability
5. Assess the code maintainability level and associated risks and costs
6. Verify conformance with relevant software development standards, guidelines and best practices
In addition to these goals, and from a business perspective, reviewing code allows a company to save money and avoid loosing potential customers, as a result of launching or offering a substandard product.
What’s the Most Effective Way to Perform a Code Review?
Reviews can be done via both manual and automated methods. At Exaud, whenever we have to make a code audit, we utilize a balanced software audit strategy, that employs both automatic analysis tools, to perform search for common issues and vulnerabilities, and input from our senior software engineers, to detect more complex and subtle problems.
Manual analysis should be performed per major solution component and then the whole solution, starting with high-risk checklist issues and working all the way down to low-risk ones.
How to Structure a Code Audit?
If you’re performing a code audit, we recommend breaking down the process into the following stages:
1. Basic code study by software engineers to get familiar with the project on the generic level
2. Automatic code analysis for common issues, vulnerabilities and guidelines violations
3. Manual code analysis by software engineers in order to detect bugs, performance bottlenecks, security vulnerabilities and maintainability risks
4. Joining the results from the automatic and manual analysis into a comprehensive report, providing a summary and listing the found issues and recommendations
5 Quick Tips for an Effective Code Audit
#1 Define the scope and create a code review checklist to ensure consistency across all team members and guarantee key issues are addressed and solved.
#2 Make sure you utilize both automated and manual code review to enable the most effective code analysis.
#3 Avoid playing the “blame game” with developers every time you find a mistake. Instead, build a strong and positive security culture and use this opportunity for your team to grow and learn.
#4 Consider bringing a third-party code auditor, a new set of eyes will always reveal more things which are often considered common knowledge “no-issues” by your current development team.
#5 Perform regular code audits to save time. Leaving it to the last minute means that the app will be reviewed all at once, thus taking more time and delaying all the deployment process, plus potentially revealing a large number of logical issues and security vulnerabilities.
Overall, regular code audit should make part of any mature software development process, whether it’s Agile or Waterfall-based one. Performing it regularly allows you to control the product quality, maintainability and security. And on top of that, to enjoy a possibility of easy project handover, in case the need arises.
If you’re curious about this topic or if you’re planning to perform a code audit and have any questions along the way, feel free to reach me at georg[at]exaud[dot]com.