Many companies that are working on the quality of their product, and are looking to engage with a third party, struggle to find differences in the terminology of designation and often confuse two fundamentally different actions for program code – code audit and code review.
Code Audit VS. Code Review: What’s the Difference?
The difference between these two concepts is described in detail below.
What is a code audit?
Many software development and consulting companies around the world often offer code audit services, which consist of a comprehensive inspection of the original software code to achieve the following goals:
- Analysis of errors and inaccuracies in the existing program code.
- Audit of infrastructure, architecture, backend, and frontend.
- Checking system vulnerabilities and violations of security requirements.
- Inspection of errors in case of non-compliance with the rules for writing program code.
- Reducing risks in the further operation of the system and software by eliminating all identified errors.
Most often, consulting companies focus audits on programming languages and frameworks and specific industries to provide the best-case solutions.
Usually, audits are requested by the companies that develop their products in-house or those that just moved from the outsourcing provider they were not very happy about.
How is code audited?
- Checking all clusters that are suspicious of a specialist.
- Analysis of the expected performance of the program code together with all software.
- Identification of each vulnerability of the system, classification according to the criterion of the level of risk, from the most to the least dangerous moments.
- Analysis of the regular operation of all applications tied to the program code.
- Systematization of each identified vulnerability.
- Compilation of a report to correct the identified problems, focusing on the highest risk.
What is a high-risk vulnerability?
As a rule, the causes of vulnerabilities with the highest risks are the following direct and indirect factors that are identified during the audit of the program code:
- Operation of the system without restrictions, with the loading of new applications or data, when the buffer overflows and the software starts to work with the loss of most of the functionality.
- Incorrect specification of buffers when initially writing the program code, leading to verification failures.
- Incorrect filling and saving of spreadsheets and execution pipelines.
- Incorrect data entry on the command line entails a SQL vulnerability.
- The vulnerability also occurs when files are remotely included violating security regulations and the absence of checks for possible external cyber-attacks.
It should be noted that, in the absence of a code audit, each vulnerability that exists in the system but was not detected on time can become a potential threat to all software and the easiest way for malware and virus programs to penetrate the system.
What are low-risk vulnerabilities?
In addition to the most dangerous vulnerabilities for the system, code audit also involves the analysis of moments with fewer risk factors, such as:
- Identification of errors and inaccuracies in interstice data exchange.
- Identify vulnerabilities that do not affect the operation of server hardware and data storage.
- Frequent indication of the username and other data that can be copied or deleted during a cyber-attack.
- For various applications running on the network, finding places where the data being transformed does not appear in the public directory and remains unregistered in the system is essential.
Even though these vulnerabilities do not pose a significant danger to the regular and correct operation of the software, they should be identified and fixed, as crashes and slowdowns in the program response to user requests are often observed.
What are the code audit tools?
- Automation tools – used by programmers in a thorough sequential audit of program code. They are characterized by low accuracy, require a lot of time, and do not always guarantee to achieve the expected result.
- More expensive but more compelling are modern automated code audit programs introduced into the system during testing and automatically detect low-risk vulnerabilities.
Code audit requirements
- It should be noted that the audit will be more productive if the system has never been tested during the entire period of operation after development and implementation. At the same time, repeated or periodic audits reveal much fewer errors.
- It is crucial to audit the code only after analyzing the application’s usage pattern under test.
- If the data warehouse has identified high-risk vulnerabilities, it will be necessary to duplicate the recorded information to clean up the clusters, if necessary, without destroying essential files.
- Any audit of software associated with server equipment that has Internet access to external information processing centers is always carried out after an attempt to exploit it from third-party resources since such dangers are excluded for users verified in the system.
What is code review?
Code review, unlike an audit, does not set the task of finding vulnerabilities and assessing their risk. During this operation, a simple check of the entire system is carried out to identify violations made during the initial writing of the program code.
Code review is a systematic procedure after which the data flow rate and software response to external or internal requests are significantly improved. Code review is carried out through informal algorithms or formal inspections.
Goals and objectives of code review
- Identify and eliminate risks, depending on their danger, after classification.
- Search for broken program code fragments during the check.
- Identify damaged clusters due to incorrect operation of which memory is lost from the storage or server.
- Checking the availability of free space in the clipboard, eliminating the risk of its overflow with unnecessary information, which slows down the speed of data processing after the request is executed.
- Checking the correctness of the software security system.
- Use special automated tools to inspect and review program code to identify errors.
- The use of online repositories for comprehensive viewing and analysis of program code via remote access.
Types of code review
In practice, two main types of code review are used today – formal and simplified, each of which has its characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages, which are described in detail below:
1. A formal code review consists of several mandatory analytical procedures that provide complete information about errors and possible risks, such as:
- Consistent execution of all necessary verification stages according to a pre-compiled flow chart.
- Cross-analysis of program code by several experts to ensure thorough verification and reduce the risk of errors.
- During a deep check, each line and cluster of program code is analyzed. A group of specialists periodically meets and brainstorms to identify all possible errors for their subsequent complete elimination.
- As a result, any formal review of the program code allows you to achieve maximum efficiency, and upon completion of work with the system, the program code returns to the original settings.
2. A simplified code review, despite the lower cost of work and the lack of in-depth analysis, also implies the implementation of slow analytical operations with the involvement of professionals, such as:
- An automated error identification tool is launched.
- One specialist acts as the operator, checking the system and collecting information about all detected errors.
- Efficiency is achieved when the simplified code review is correctly performed.
The main difference between the standard and simplified types of program code reviews is the frequency of these procedures.
A formal check is carried out at most 1 – 2 times after the user notices an apparent violation in the regular operation of the software. A simplified review is a preventive measure that should be carried out periodically.
What are the benefits of using automated tools to perform code reviews?
According to a survey among IT professionals, statistics show that today more than half of them use only automated tools when performing both audit and code review, as this software provides many of the following benefits:
- The program code inspection algorithm is greatly simplified since automatic tools contain in advance a technological map for each cluster’s operational and sequential analysis, depending on the degree of risks and vulnerabilities.
- Time costs are significantly reduced when checking large data storages and servers.
- Errors and the human factor during the program code analysis are entirely excluded.
- The person operating the tested software or application gets the opportunity to identify all existing errors and correct them in time, which affects the performance and, as a result, contributes to business development.
- Automated algorithms allow you to check at a speed of 200 to 400 lines per hour, which is impossible to achieve in manual mode.
It should be taken into account that any violations of the application work more not on its performance but on the possibility of scaling and development.
In this regard, potential dangers and risks often lie in the impossibility of identifying damaged areas since the user does not feel a change in the system’s operation.
On the other hand, in the case of a periodic audit or review of the program code, any modern application will scale, leading to an increase in the profit from the user’s business, despite the initial material and time costs for performing the analytical operations described above.