Less is More: Supporting Developers in Vulnerability Detection during Code Review

Braz, L., Aeberhard, C., Çalikli, G. and Bacchelli, A. (2022) Less is More: Supporting Developers in Vulnerability Detection during Code Review. In: 44th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE 2022), Pittsburgh, PA, USA, 22-27 May 2022, pp. 1317-1329. ISBN 9781450392211 (doi: 10.1145/3510003.3511560)

[img] Text
273444.pdf - Accepted Version



Reviewing source code from a security perspective has proven to be a difficult task. Indeed, previous research has shown that developers often miss even popular and easy-to-detect vulnerabilities during code review. Initial evidence suggests that a significant cause may lie in the reviewers' mental attitude and common practices. In this study, we investigate whether and how explicitly asking developers to focus on security during a code review affects the detection of vulnerabilities. Furthermore, we evaluate the effect of providing a security checklist to guide the security review. To this aim, we conduct an online experiment with 150 participants, of which 71% report to have three or more years of professional development experience. Our results show that simply asking reviewers to focus on security during the code review increases eight times the probability of vulnerability detection. The presence of a security checklist does not significantly improve the outcome further, even when the checklist is tailored to the change under review and the existing vulnerabilities in the change. These results provide evidence supporting the mental attitude hypothesis and call for further work on security checklists' effectiveness and design. Preprint: https://arxiv.org/abs/2202.04586 Data and materials: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6026291

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Calikli, Dr Handan Gul
Authors: Braz, L., Aeberhard, C., Çalikli, G., and Bacchelli, A.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher
Related URLs:

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record