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Source Code Analysis Tools

Revision as of 10:56, 27 February 2017 by Jmanico (talk | contribs) (Commercial Tools Of This Type)

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Source code analysis tools, also referred to as Static Application Security Testing (SAST) Tools, are designed to analyze source code and/or compiled versions of code to help find security flaws. Ideally, such tools would automatically find security flaws with such a high degree of confidence that what's found is indeed a flaw. However, this is beyond the state of the art for many types of application security flaws. Thus, such tools frequently serve as aids for an analyst to help them zero in on security relevant portions of code so they can find flaws more efficiently, rather than a tool that just automatically finds flaws. If you are interested in the effectiveness of SAST tools, check out the OWASP Benchmark project, which is scientifically measuring the effectiveness of all types of vulnerability detection tools, including SAST.

Some tools are starting to move into the IDE. For the types of problems that can be detected during the software development phase itself, this is a powerful phase within the development life cycle to employ such tools, as it provides immediate feedback to the developer on issues they might be introducing into the code during code development itself. This immediate feedback is very useful, especially when compared to finding vulnerabilities much later in the development cycle.

Strengths and Weaknesses


  • Scales well -- can be run on lots of software, and can be repeatedly (as with nightly builds)
  • Useful for things that such tools can automatically find with high confidence, such as buffer overflows, SQL Injection Flaws, and so forth
  • Output is good for developers -- highlights the precise source files, line numbers, and even subsections of lines that are affected


  • Many types of security vulnerabilities are very difficult to find automatically, such as authentication problems, access control issues, insecure use of cryptography, etc. The current state of the art only allows such tools to automatically find a relatively small percentage of application security flaws. Tools of this type are getting better, however.
  • High numbers of false positives.
  • Frequently can't find configuration issues, since they are not represented in the code.
  • Difficult to 'prove' that an identified security issue is an actual vulnerability.
  • Many of these tools have difficulty analyzing code that can't be compiled. Analysts frequently can't compile code because they don't have the right libraries, all the compilation instructions, all the code, etc.

Important Selection Criteria

  • Requirement: Must support your programming language, but not usually a key factor once it does.
  • Types of vulnerabilities it can detect (out of the OWASP Top Ten?) (plus more?)
  • How accurate is it? False Positive/False Negative rates?
    • Does the tool have an OWASP Benchmark score?
  • Does it understand the libraries/frameworks you use?
  • Does it require a fully buildable set of source?
  • Can it run against binaries instead of source?
  • Can it be integrated into the developer's IDE?
  • How hard is it to setup/use?
  • Can it be run continuously and automatically?
  • License cost for the tool. (Some are sold per user, per org, per app, per line of code analyzed. Consulting licenses are frequently different than end user licenses.)

OWASP Tools Of This Type


Disclaimer: The tools listed in the tables below are presented in alphabetical order. OWASP does not endorse any of the vendors or tools by listing them in the table below. We have made every effort to provide this information as accurately as possible. If you are the vendor of a tool below and think that this information is incomplete or incorrect, please send an e-mail to our mailing list and we will make every effort to correct this information.

Open Source or Free Tools Of This Type

  • Brakeman - Brakeman is an open source vulnerability scanner specifically designed for Ruby on Rails applications
  • Codesake Dawn - Codesake Dawn is an open source security source code analyzer designed for Sinatra, Padrino for Ruby on Rails applications. It also works on non-web applications written in Ruby
  • FindBugs - Find Bugs (including a few security flaws) in Java programs
  • FindSecBugs - A security specific plugin for FingBugs that significantly improves FindBug's ability to find security vulnerabilities in Java programs
  • Flawfinder Flawfinder - Scans C and C++
  • Google CodeSearchDiggity - Uses Google Code Search to identifies vulnerabilities in open source code projects hosted by Google Code, MS CodePlex, SourceForge, Github, and more. The tool comes with over 130 default searches that identify SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), insecure remote and local file includes, hard-coded passwords, and much more. Essentially, Google CodeSearchDiggity provides a source code security analysis of nearly every single open source code project in existence – simultaneously.
  • PMD - PMD scans Java source code and looks for potential code problems (this is a code quality tool that does not focus on security issues)
  • PreFast (Microsoft) - PREfast is a static analysis tool that identifies defects in C/C++ programs. Last update 2006.
  • RIPS - RIPS is a static source code analyzer for vulnerabilities in PHP web applications. Please see notes on the site also.
  • SonarQube - Scans source code for more than 20 languages for Bugs, Vulnerabilities, and Code Smells. SonarQube IDE plugins for Eclipse, Visual Studio, and IntelliJ provided by SonarLint.
  • VisualCodeGrepper (VCG) - Scans C/C++, C#, VB, PHP, Java, and PL/SQL for security issues and for comments which may indicate defective code. The config files can be used to carry out additional checks for banned functions or functions which commonly cause security issues.
  • Xanitizer - Scans Java for security vulnerabilities, mainly via taint analysis. The tool comes with a number of predefined vulnerability detectors which can additionally be extended by the user.

Commercial Tools Of This Type

  • AppScan Source (IBM)
  • BlueClosure BC Detect (BlueClosure)
  • bugScout (Buguroo Offensive Security) Latest generation source code analysis tool bugScout detects source code vulnerabilities and makes possible an accurate management of the life cycles due to its easy use.
  • Codacy is free for open source projects, and integrates with tools such as Brakeman, Bandit, FindBugs, and a number of others. It offers security patterns for languages such as Python, Ruby, Scala, Java, Javascript and more.
  • Contrast from Contrast Security Contrast performs code security without actually doing static analysis. Contrast does Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST), correlating runtime code & data analysis. It provides code level results without actually relying on static analysis.
  • Coverity Code Advisor (Synopsys)
  • CxSAST (Checkmarx)
  • Fortify (HP)
  • Julia - SaaS Java static analysis (JuliaSoft)
  • KlocWork (KlocWork)
  • Kiuwan - SaaS Software Quality & Security Analysis (an Optimyth company)
  • Parasoft Test (Parasoft)
  • PVS-Studio (PVS-Studio) For C/C++, C#
  • Seeker (Synopsys) Seeker performs code security without actually doing static analysis. Seeker does Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST), correlating runtime code & data analysis with simulated attacks. It provides code level results without actually relying on static analysis.
  • Source Patrol (Pentest)
  • Veracode Static Analysis (Veracode)
  • Sentinel Source (Whitehat)

More info