Although C++ is a high performing programming language, customers and security researchers have increasingly asked for stronger safety and correctness guarantees in their code. In this talk, we will explore how static and runtime analysis (AddressSanitizer) tooling can be used to achieve high correctness and catch memory security issues before they go into production – without compromising on the performance and memory efficiency of C++. We will demonstrate how modern analysis tools are much more powerful than tradition Lint-style checks and can be used to find deep semantic errors in code, empowering developers write performant, reliable, and safe programs. We will share our experience in developing and running some of these checks on large commercial codebases. All the checks in the demo will be available in the community edition of Visual Studio for you to try them out!
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Static code analysis refers to the technique of approximating the runtime behavior of a program. In other words, it is the process of predicting the output of a program without actually executing it.
Lately, however, the term “Static Code Analysis” is more commonly used to refer to one of the applications of this technique rather than the technique itself — program comprehension — understanding the program and detecting issues in it (anything from syntax errors to type mismatches, performance hogs likely bugs, security loopholes, etc.). This is the usage we’d be referring to throughout this post.
“The refinement of techniques for the prompt discovery of error serves as well as any other as a hallmark of what we mean by science.”
We cover a lot of ground in this post. The aim is to build an understanding of static code analysis and to equip you with the basic theory, and the right tools so that you can write analyzers on your own.
We start our journey with laying down the essential parts of the pipeline which a compiler follows to understand what a piece of code does. We learn where to tap points in this pipeline to plug in our analyzers and extract meaningful information. In the latter half, we get our feet wet, and write four such static analyzers, completely from scratch, in Python.
Note that although the ideas here are discussed in light of Python, static code analyzers across all programming languages are carved out along similar lines. We chose Python because of the availability of an easy to use
ast module, and wide adoption of the language itself.
Before a computer can finally “understand” and execute a piece of code, it goes through a series of complicated transformations:
As you can see in the diagram (go ahead, zoom it!), the static analyzers feed on the output of these stages. To be able to better understand the static analysis techniques, let’s look at each of these steps in some more detail:
The first thing that a compiler does when trying to understand a piece of code is to break it down into smaller chunks, also known as tokens. Tokens are akin to what words are in a language.
A token might consist of either a single character, like
(, or literals (like integers, strings, e.g.,
Bob, etc.), or reserved keywords of that language (e.g,
def in Python). Characters which do not contribute towards the semantics of a program, like trailing whitespace, comments, etc. are often discarded by the scanner.
Python provides the
tokenize module in its standard library to let you play around with tokens:
code = b"color = input('Enter your favourite color: ')"
for token in tokenize.tokenize(io.BytesIO(code).readline):
TokenInfo(type=62 (ENCODING), string='utf-8')
TokenInfo(type=1 (NAME), string='color')
TokenInfo(type=54 (OP), string='=')
TokenInfo(type=1 (NAME), string='input')
TokenInfo(type=54 (OP), string='(')
TokenInfo(type=3 (STRING), string="'Enter your favourite color: '")
TokenInfo(type=54 (OP), string=')')
TokenInfo(type=4 (NEWLINE), string='')
TokenInfo(type=0 (ENDMARKER), string='')
(Note that for the sake of readability, I’ve omitted a few columns from the result above — metadata like starting index, ending index, a copy of the line on which a token occurs, etc.)
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With more of us using smartphones, the popularity of mobile applications has exploded. In the digital era, the number of people looking for products and services online is growing rapidly. Smartphone owners look for mobile applications that give them quick access to companies’ products and services. As a result, mobile apps provide customers with a lot of benefits in just one device.
Likewise, companies use mobile apps to increase customer loyalty and improve their services. Mobile Developers are in high demand as companies use apps not only to create brand awareness but also to gather information. For that reason, mobile apps are used as tools to collect valuable data from customers to help companies improve their offer.
There are many types of mobile applications, each with its own advantages. For example, native apps perform better, while web apps don’t need to be customized for the platform or operating system (OS). Likewise, hybrid apps provide users with comfortable user experience. However, you may be wondering how long it takes to develop an app.
To give you an idea of how long the app development process takes, here’s a short guide.
_Average time spent: two to five weeks _
This is the initial stage and a crucial step in setting the project in the right direction. In this stage, you brainstorm ideas and select the best one. Apart from that, you’ll need to do some research to see if your idea is viable. Remember that coming up with an idea is easy; the hard part is to make it a reality.
All your ideas may seem viable, but you still have to run some tests to keep it as real as possible. For that reason, when Web Developers are building a web app, they analyze the available ideas to see which one is the best match for the targeted audience.
Targeting the right audience is crucial when you are developing an app. It saves time when shaping the app in the right direction as you have a clear set of objectives. Likewise, analyzing how the app affects the market is essential. During the research process, App Developers must gather information about potential competitors and threats. This helps the app owners develop strategies to tackle difficulties that come up after the launch.
The research process can take several weeks, but it determines how successful your app can be. For that reason, you must take your time to know all the weaknesses and strengths of the competitors, possible app strategies, and targeted audience.
The outcomes of this stage are app prototypes and the minimum feasible product.
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