Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The power of Static Analysis to create solid code (in this case JSLint)

I just spent some time using JSLint inside WebStorm cleaning up and refactoring the TeamMentor’s GlobalVariables.js file, so that It shows the much desired green box (top right)

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I also added JavaScript Annotations for the Closure Compiler references so that other JavaScript files in this project know that these types/classes exist.

Here is an example of the changes I just pushed:

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There are a number of key reasons by JSLint in Webstorm (and this type of Static Analysis) worked:
  • I have immediate feedback as I change the code (like my real-time SAST Vulnerability feedback in VisualStudio PoC)
  • It is fast (to view/understand the problems and apply the fixes)
  • The rules are well documented, and I can change a bunch of rules-settings
  • I am able to test the changes immediately in a live TeamMentor website (and run UnitTests on it). I.e. be sure that I'm not breaking anything on the target site
  • I have positive feedback and reward (it feels really good to remove the issues, and get to that ‘green box’ state)
  • I’m creating a real deliverable (i.e. it’s not just “Hey, I’ve spent some time cleaning up the code”, but “This file now passes JSLint”)
  • It is making me a better programmer (since JSLint knows more about JavaScript than I do)
  • It is making my app better
For reference the previous version of that file (now ‘improved’ with JSLink) was created using VisualStudio 2010, which didn’t help me at all in creating better code (in fact I was fighting with it’s Javascript formatting changes all the time)

And here is where application security goes wrong: we help developers like this.

If only we could create an environment like the one I have here (with JSLint + WebStorm ) then Security Tools wouldn't be a TAX, and, would actually be much more usable/adopted in the real-world.
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