What Is Software Integrity? And How to Achieve It
When it comes to software, there are several interpretations of what integrity can mean. For some, integrity is synonymous with security — resilience to hacks and privacy violations. For others high integrity means that no unauthorized changes have been made to the delivered software.
In this blog post, we will be referring to software integrity as the quality of the software’s source code.
Code quality measures are selected according to the needs of each project. Assessing the quality of code requires you to measure the number and severity of potential safety and security-related defects. You also need to measure the maintainability and testability of your code. Achieving high code integrity can be a complex and difficult task.
Why Software Integrity Matters
Software integrity is important as it demonstrates the safety, security, and maintainability of your code. What’s more, ensuring that code has high integrity is especially important for software that needs to comply with coding standards and industry regulations.
High Software Integrity vs. Low Software Integrity
It is important to consider what integrity measures and standards will be applied at the start of any development project. These can vary depending on the final application.
Simply put, high integrity means that the code:
- Does what it should.
- Can be tested.
- Has security features.
- Lacks security vulnerabilities.
- Is easy to understand and follow logically.
- Is easy to edit and upgrade without introducing new errors.
The Benefits of Software Integrity
Even though it can be a challenge to achieve, the benefits of high software integrity for your code are profound. Because software integrity ensures that:
- Coding defects are identified and addressed sooner.
- Code remains agile, modular, and maintainable.
- Cyber-threats are mitigated.
- Code development is well documented and organized.
- Code regulations and industry standards are met.
- Analytics are clear, detailed, and accessible.
Software Integrity Is Everyone’s Responsibility
Ensuring the safety, security, and quality of code is everyone’s responsibility. Throughout the development process, it should be the goal for the developers, testers, and managers to achieve high software integrity.
How to Improve Software Integrity
Achieving high software integrity can seem like a daunting task. However, with the right practices for achieving safety, security and maintainability, the challenge is far more manageable.
Software Integrity Best Practices: Use a Coding Standard
Coding standards are collections of coding rules, guidelines, and best practices. By incorporating standards into your development process, it can ensure that your software is:
- Safe to use.
- Secure from cyber-threats.
- Reliable and can operate as it should — every time.
- Testable to ensure that defects are identified.
- Maintainable, even as the codebase grows.
- Portable to enable it to work the same in every environment.
How to Do It
To effectively implement the use of a coding standard into your development process you should provide your team with training on what the coding standards are and how best to follow them. You can also use a static code analyzer, which examines the source code before a program is run, to help enforce coding standards.
Software Integrity Best Practices: Test
Testing is essential to ensure that your software is safe, secure, and reliable. While there are hundreds of different types of software tests that you can run, in general there are two main categories: functional testing — which verifies what the software does — and nonfunctional testing — which verifies the software’s performance.
How to Do It
To adequately test your software, you will need to follow software testing methods, which ensures that the test is thorough and can identify all potential defects and errors. In addition, you can use a test management tool — such as Helix ALM — to provide you with better visibility and traceability across all your testing efforts.
Software Integrity Best Practices: Analyze Code
Code analysis helps to ensure that the code is effective, operates how it should, and free of errors as it is being written. This practice should be done during the create phase, as it will make it faster, easier, and cheaper to resolve errors.
How to Do It
The most effective way to implement and enforce code analysis is to use a static analyzer to monitor key quality metrics.
Software Integrity Best Practices: Follow Code Review Best Practices
Manual code reviews — if done well — help to improve code quality, help to stabilize the codebase, and help your team to work more effectively.
How to Do It
To ensure that your team conducts effective code reviews, provide them with training on best practices. In addition, as there is the possibility that an error or defect may be missed, you should also use automated tools to ensure that there are no gaps in your review process.
Software Integrity Best Practices: Refactor Legacy Code (When Necessary)
Legacy code can either refer to managing code by someone who didn’t write it, or code that is hard to understand and change. Either way, refracting can help change the structure of the code without changing its functionality. This practice helps to clean up the codebase and lower its complexity.
How to Do It
Refactoring should be done gradually to ensure that your software won’t be comprised. The most effective method is to follow the best practices for working with legacy code.
Achieve Software Integrity With the Right Tools
Ensuring that your code has high software integrity can be a complex and time consuming process, as there are multiple factors to consider. But, there are beneficial practices and tools to help you effectively manage each of those factors to help you achieve high software integrity.
Using the right code quality tools is essential to achieving high software integrity. High software integrity may take more time to achieve, but ensuring that your code is safe, secure, and high quality early on can help lower the cost of maintenance and reduce your technical debt.
Choosing the Right Tools: Static Analyzer
Helix QAC, a C/C++ static analyzer, makes it easy to ensure that your code is safe, secure, and high quality. You’ll be able to achieve high software integrity by:
- Applying coding standards, such as MISRA, AUTOSAR, and CERT.
- Following coding best practices.
- Identifying coding errors, including undefined or unspecified use of C/C++.
- Eliminating security vulnerabilities.
- Managing code quality over time by measuring, tracking, and reporting on quality metrics, such as cyclomatic complexity.