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What is Code Audit? Do You Need It for Your Project? — QIT

Aug 21, 2023 7 min read
"What is Code Audit? Do You Need It for Your Project? — QIT"

Even a single error or flaw that surfaced after the product was released could have disastrous results. Yes, businesses make significant investments in testing and quality assurance. But what more can you do to hasten the launching of your product and lessen security flaws? The answer is software code audit.

This article emphasizes the value of how to audit code and the need to keep the software’s source code at a high standard. We will explain the steps involved and go over the advantages, resources, and outcomes of the software code audit.

What Is a Code Audit?

Code audit, also known as code review or code inspection, is a systematic and thorough examination of the source code of a software application to identify and address issues related to code quality, security vulnerabilities, adherence to coding standards, performance bottlenecks, and overall maintainability. The primary goal of a code audit is to ensure that the codebase is robust, secure, and follows best practices, thereby reducing the risk of bugs, security breaches, and long-term maintenance challenges.

During a source code audit, experienced developers or external experts examine the codebase line by line, looking for potential problems and providing recommendations for improvements. This process can involve manual inspection as well as the use of automated tools to identify issues. Code audits can be conducted at different stages of the software development lifecycle, such as before a major release, after significant changes, or as a part of ongoing maintenance.

code auditing

How Can You Determine If an Audit of Your Code Is Necessary?

Some of the most vulnerable types of code and emerging situations are the reason for doing an audit. There are just a few circumstances where performing a code audit is advised:

  • if your product is old and out-of-date;
  • you’ve seen some performance problems;
  • you’ve noticed something is interfering with its functionality but don’t know what;
  • or it’s been more than six months since your last code review, then you should do so.

A code audit, in our opinion, is crucial for the development of any product. It guarantees that the code is accurate and that the project is prepared for delivery:

Code audits consist of:

  • examining the architecture and tech stack;
  • analysis of security vulnerabilities;
  • check for code quality;
  • check for performance and scalability;
  • detection of potential maintenance problems.

Does Your Project Need a Code Audit?

Determining whether your project needs a code audit depends on various factors, including the nature of the project, its complexity, its criticality to your business, and the potential risks associated with code quality and security. Here are some considerations to help you decide if a code audit is necessary for your project:

1. Project Scope and ComplexityIs your project a small script, a standalone application, or a complex software system?The larger and more intricate the project, the greater the potential for code issues to arise.
2. Business CriticalityHow crucial is the software to your business operations or goals?Critical applications that handle sensitive data or play a pivotal role in your business may require a higher level of scrutiny.
3. Security ConcernsDoes your project handle user data, financial information, or other sensitive data?If security is a concern, a code audit can help identify vulnerabilities that could lead to breaches.
4. Performance OptimizationIs your application experiencing performance issues or slow response times?A code audit can uncover performance bottlenecks and suggest optimization strategies.
5. Regulatory ComplianceDoes your project need to adhere to specific industry regulations or standards?Code audits can help ensure that your software meets compliance requirements.
6. Project HandoverAre you taking over a project from another development team or an individual?A code audit can provide insights into the existing codebase’s quality and challenges.
7. Prior Code Quality IssuesHave you encountered recurring bugs, stability problems, or maintainability challenges?A code audit can help address underlying issues contributing to these problems.
8. Upcoming Releases or ChangesAre you planning a major release or significant changes to your application?A code audit before such milestones can ensure the software is stable and secure.
9. Resource AvailabilityDo you have the internal expertise and resources to conduct a thorough code review?If not, external auditors can provide an unbiased assessment.
10. Long-Term MaintenanceIs your project intended to be maintained and evolved over an extended period?A code audit can help ensure that the codebase is maintainable and adaptable.
11. Budget and Time ConstraintsDo you have the budget and time to invest in a code audit?While audits have upfront costs, they can save time and resources by preventing future issues.
12. Team CollaborationAre your development team members open to the idea of a code audit?Collaboration and willingness to address findings are essential for a successful audit.

In general, a code audit can provide substantial benefits in terms of code quality, security, and overall project health. If your project meets several of the criteria mentioned above, it’s worth considering a code audit. It’s often better to address potential issues proactively rather than waiting for them to escalate into more significant problems down the line. Ultimately, the decision should align with your project’s goals, risks, and resources.

Key Benefits of Code Audit Conducting

Key benefits of conducting a code audit include:

benefits of code audit

How Is a Code Audit Carried Out?

A code audit is typically carried out through a systematic process that involves manual review, automated analysis, and collaboration among developers and auditors. Here’s a step-by-step overview of how a code audit is generally conducted:

1. Planning and Scoping

Define the scope of the code audit: Identify which parts of the codebase will be audited, including specific modules, components, or functionalities.

Determine the objectives: Clarify the goals of the code audit, whether it’s to identify security vulnerabilities, improve code quality, enhance performance, or ensure compliance with coding standards.

2. Team Formation

Assemble a team of experienced developers or auditors who are familiar with the programming languages, frameworks, and best practices relevant to the project.

3. Gather Necessary Resources

Access to the codebase: Obtain the source code and any related documentation, including design specifications and architectural diagrams.

Tools: Determine whether you’ll be using any automated analysis tools to assist in identifying potential issues.

4. Manual Code Review

Developers review the codebase line by line, looking for issues such as:

  • Code complexity and maintainability.
  • Adherence to coding standards and best practices.
  • Security vulnerabilities, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and authentication flaws.
  • Performance bottlenecks and inefficient algorithms.
  • Proper error handling and exception management.
  • Documentation and comments explaining the code’s functionality.
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5. Automated Analysis

Utilize automated code analysis tools to identify potential issues that might be missed during manual review. These tools can catch common coding mistakes, security vulnerabilities, and other patterns that could be problematic.

6. Documentation

Create a detailed report that documents the findings of the code review. This report should include a summary of issues found, severity levels, recommendations for fixes, and explanations of why certain issues are problematic.

7. Prioritization

Rank the identified issues based on their severity and potential impact on the application. This helps developers focus on addressing the most critical issues first.

8. Collaboration and Feedback

Share the audit findings and report with the development team. Engage in discussions to ensure a shared understanding of the issues and the proposed solutions.

9. Fixing Issues

Developers work on addressing the identified issues, following the recommendations provided in the audit report. This may involve rewriting code, adding security measures, optimizing performance, and improving documentation.

10. Reassessment and Validation

Once the issues have been addressed, conduct a follow-up review to ensure that the fixes were implemented correctly and that new issues haven’t been introduced.

11. Final Report

Provide a final report that outlines the changes made in response to the audit findings. This report can serve as a record of the improvements made and the overall impact of the code audit on the project.

12. Continuous Improvement

Incorporate the lessons learned from the code audit into the development process to prevent similar issues from arising in the future. Consider establishing regular code reviews and audits as part of your development workflow.

Explanation in testing:

code review submitter and reviewer

Remember that a successful code audit involves collaboration, clear communication, and a commitment to improving the quality, security, and overall health of your software application.

Code Audit Tools

There are various code audit tools available that can help you analyze your codebase for security vulnerabilities, code quality issues, and other concerns. Here are some popular code audit tools:

1. Static Analysis Tools

SonarQube: A widely used open-source platform for continuous inspection of code quality. It can detect vulnerabilities, bugs, and code smells.

Checkmarx: Provides static application security testing (SAST) capabilities to identify and remediate security vulnerabilities in your code.

Fortify: A comprehensive application security testing tool that offers static code analysis, dynamic analysis, and other testing methodologies.

2. Dynamic Analysis Tools

Burp Suite: Primarily used for web application security testing, it helps identify security vulnerabilities like injection attacks, cross-site scripting (XSS), and more.

OWASP ZAP: An open-source web application security scanner that identifies security vulnerabilities during runtime.

3. Dependency Scanning Tools

WhiteSource: Offers continuous open-source security and license compliance management to identify vulnerabilities and licensing issues in your project’s dependencies.

Snyk: Helps you find and fix known vulnerabilities in open-source dependencies in your codebase.

4. Code Review and Collaboration Platforms

GitHub: Offers code review and collaboration features that enable team members to review each other’s code and provide feedback.

GitLab: Provides code review, continuous integration, and security scanning features within a single platform.

5. IDE Integrations

IntelliJ IDEA: Offers code analysis and inspection features that can identify issues in your code while you’re developing.

Visual Studio: Provides integrated static code analysis and debugging tools for identifying potential issues during development.

6. Automated Code Quality Tools

PMD: A source code analyzer that finds common programming flaws like unused variables, empty catch blocks, and more.

ESLint: A JavaScript linting tool that identifies and fixes problems in your JavaScript code.

7. Manual Code Review Tools

Code Collaborator: A collaborative tool that helps teams conduct manual code reviews, allowing multiple developers to review and discuss code changes.

8. Container Security Tools

Clair: An open-source container security tool that scans container images for vulnerabilities.

Anchore: Provides detailed analysis and security scanning of container images.

When selecting code audit tools, consider the specific needs of your project, such as the programming languages you’re using, the type of vulnerabilities you want to identify, and whether you’re looking for automated or manual review capabilities.

source code audit

Additionally, keep in mind that no tool is a substitute for skilled human review, so a combination of automated tools and manual code reviews is often the most effective approach.

To conclude

The time and cost of the subsequent step are projected using the results of the code audit. We can create a strategy for the future of your company after a code audit, starting with a solid and secure codebase.

A code audit produces a report that pinpoints your weaknesses, predicts the time it will take to update your code, and offers clients the best potential remedies.

Code auditing can be challenging, but if you have a dedicated person doing it, you’ll avoid costly mistakes, avoid additional expenses, and successfully resolve security and maintenance problems.