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Static Code Analysis: Techniques, Top 5 Benefits & 3 Challenges

Altay Ataman
Updated on Jan 3
3 min read
Static Code Analysis Benefits

Recent technological advancements have produced tools and methodologies that perform more thorough assessments, find more flaws, and generate fewer false alarms.1 Static code analysis is one of these technological advancements, as it examines the program code and considers all conceivable run-time behaviors. 

Current static analysis tools provide benefits such as cost reduction, faster code reviews, and seamless automation. However, they also face challenges such as requiring human intervention and lack of flexibility. 

This article provides a description of static code analysis, its benefits, and its challenges.

What is static code analysis? 

Static code analysis is a white-box testing method of analyzing an application’s code to find errors. Static code analysis differs from other dynamic analyses by analyzing the code without running the application, hence the name “static.”2

Static analysis allows the QA team to conduct application tests without creating run-time environments or compromising the production systems. 

When is static code analysis carried out?

Static code analysis is often carried out in the early stages of development before the software testing begins (See figure 1). 

Figure 1: The Usage of static code analysis in a development cycle.

Source: Bardas, A.3


CAST is a test automation tool provided by Testifi. It aims to accompany businesses through the journey of delivering high-quality software and increasing the speed of releases by adopting a test-first approach.

Test automation tools offer static code analysis to reduce the workload and assist programmers and developers in static analysis. CAST provides static code analysis as a feature which offers faster code reviews, better accuracy, cost reduction, and seamless automation.

What are the techniques of static code analysis?

There are 4 techniques of static code analysis stemming from compiler technology:

  1. Data Flow Analysis: When software is in a static state, data flow analysis is used to gather run-time information about the data in that software.
  2. Abstract interpretation: It models an abstract interpretation of the software based on the mathematical characteristics of each statement and declaration.
  3. Taint Analysis: At specific locations in the code, it constructs mathematical equations representing the value of modified or ‘tainted’ variables. Such variables are traced to find if there are possible vulnerabilities.  
  4. Lexical Analysis: To abstract source code and make it simpler to modify, lexical analysis breaks source code syntax down into informational tokens.

What are the benefits of static code analysis?

Static code analysis can provide the following benefits:

1. Comprehensive code evaluation 

Static code analysis can find vulnerabilities in even the most remote and unattended parts of the code, increasing the code quality. 

2. Cost reduction

Research shows that the use of static code analysis can reduce the cost of  reporting security bugs by 17%. 4

3. Better accuracy

Static code checkers detect 2.6 times more than the trouble reports, bringing depth to code debugging.5

4. Faster code reviews

Static code analysis is usually an automated process; it provides faster code reviews as compared to manual code reviews.6

5. Seamless automation 

Static code analysis tools can be automated and can detect issues (such as buffer overflows) with high confidence.

Challenges of static code analysis

Despite its benefits, the current static analysis tools and techniques can struggle with the following challenges:

1. Lack of flexibility

Static code analysis looks for a fixed set of patterns in the code. It will only detect a particular issue if a specific rule for finding it has been written.

2. The necessity of human intervention

The results of static code analysis still require human evaluation. Currently, a static analysis tool can’t prioritize which problems need human intervention more than others. 

3. Possibility of false negatives/positives

Static code analysis can result in false positives/negatives. False positives are problematic because they may take the developer some time to realize there isn’t an error. False negatives are far more hazardous because they give users a false sense of security.7

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Altay Ataman
Altay is an industry analyst at AIMultiple. He has background in international political economy, multilateral organizations, development cooperation, global politics, and data analysis. He has experience working at private and government institutions. Altay discovered his interest for emerging tech after seeing its wide use of area in several sectors and acknowledging its importance for the future. He received his bachelor's degree in Political Science and Public Administration from Bilkent University and he received his master's degree in International Politics from KU Leuven .

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