Security scrubbing of Python code – PyChecker or nothing?

I’m hardly versed in the history or design of the Python programming language (I just started reading up on it this week), but I know this much already: Python is intended to be a very easy-to-use scripting language, minimizing the burden of silly things like strongly typing your data (not to mention skipping the arguable burden of compiling your code).

Most developers don’t have two spare seconds to rub together, and are hardly excited at the prospect of taking code that they finally stabilized and having to review/revisit it to find and fix potential security bugs.  Manually droning through code has to be about the most mind-numbing work that most of us can think of eh?

On the other hand, static analysis tools are hardly an adequate substitute for good security design, threat modelling and code reviews.

Still, static analysis tools seem to me a great way to reduce the workload of secure code reviews and let the developer/tester/reviewer focus on more interesting and challenging work.

Is it really practical to expect to be able to perform complex, comprehensive static analysis of code developed in a scripting language?  I mean, theoretically speaking anyone can build a rules engine and write rules that are meant to test how code could instruct a CPU to manipulate bits.  It’s not that this is impossible – I’m just wondering how practical it is at our current level of sophistication in terms of developing software languages, scripting runtimes and modelling environments.  Can we realistically expect to be able to get away with both easy development, ease of maintenance (since the code isn’t compiled) and robustness of software quality/security/reliability?

I’m certainly not trying to disparage the incredible work that’s gone into PyChecker already – anything but.  However, when a colleague asks me if there are any other static analysis tools in addition to PyChecker, I have to imagine that (a) he has some basis for comparison among static analysis tool and (b) that PyChecker doesn’t quite meet the needs he’s come to expect for checkers targeted at other languages.


One thought on “Security scrubbing of Python code – PyChecker or nothing?

  1. Thanks for a good post Mike. It's good to read about some straightforward tech solutions like those. You make some great points and I don't think I could have made them any better.


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