#Tech | 18 min read | Updated: 5/19/2023

Software Code Audit: Why Do You Need It and How To Make It Effective

Updated: 5/19/2023
, VP of Client Engagement
18 min read

The impact of even a single error or bug slipping after the product release can be catastrophic. Sure, companies invest heavily in quality assurance and testing. But what else can you do to release your product faster and reduce vulnerabilities? The answer is software code audit.

One of Sloboda Studio’s startup clients had significant issues with the code structure and architecture. Our team analyzed their code. During the software code audit, it appeared that the issues were so significant that the project could barely live for 3 months. In addition, the functionality proved to be not ready for planned release.

Code audit services did help. We detected the product issues and fixed them in time. At the end of the day, the product lived and developed into an MVP. And it was successfully represented to the customers and investors. 

However, if a code audit had been performed earlier, the whole product development process would have gone more smoothly, quickly, and cost-efficiently.

What Is a Source Code Audit?

A source code audit thoroughly examines a software application’s source code to assess its quality, security, and compliance with coding standards. It involves analyzing the code for vulnerabilities, potential bugs, and adherence to best practices, identifying and addressing potential risks, and improving overall code quality.

When Should You Use a Source Code Audit?

Being a part of the defensive programming approach, it aims at eliminating errors before releasing the software.

A good code audit service helps to:

  • find out-of-date tools;
  • determine the security risks;
  • discover inappropriate development practices.

A code review can help avoid deeper problems in the future. It allows companies to upgrade a product’s quality, security, maturity, and maintainability.

How do you know whether your code needs an audit? And when is the best time to perform one?

It is recommended to conduct a code audit if you have:

  • an old product that is likely to be outdated or obsolete;
  • noticed some performance issues;
  • see that something affects your product’s work, but you don’t understand what;
  • haven’t conducted a code audit for over 6 months.

As a rule, a code audit service may include: 

  • Current technology stack and architecture examination;
  • Security vulnerabilities analysis;
  • Code quality check;
  • Performance and scalability check;
  • Potential maintenance issues detection.

At Sloboda Studio, we think a software code audit is important for any product development. It ensures the code is clear and the project is ready to be delivered.

Software Code Audit includes security vulnerabilities analysis, source code quality check, etc.

5 Types of Software Code Review

Types of software code audits can be differentiated by their goals. Very often, it’s not necessary to check the full product. It takes too much time and effort. Sometimes, all that is needed is to check separate parts of the product.

The main types of software code review are: 

  • Manual;
  • Front-end;
  • Back-end;
  • Security audit;
  • Infrastructure review.
Source code review service: 5 types: from manual to security analysis

Manual Code Review

A manual code audit gives the first and preliminary expressions of the code structure. It helps understand whether the code is written according to the common coding standards.

Source code review service: manual review for vulnerabilities

The manual review gives code auditing benefits for both MVP and a full-featured product:

  • For MVPs. A manual code audit allows us to check whether the chosen technologies and tools are suitable for further growth and scalability. The issues are detected, and their severity is assessed. Now, it becomes easier to distribute the workflow more effectively. Often, after an audit, everything appears to be in order. Then, confidence in high-quality code allows startuppers to be more persuasive. It can be important when pitching the product to investors.
  • For mature projects. A manual code audit detects some outdated tools, technologies, or approaches. All of these may slow down product performance.

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Front-end Code Review

Front-end code audit helps detect the issues connected with the parts of the code, responsible for a friendly user experience. 

During this type of code review, the experts pay particular attention to things such as general performance and responsive design.

  • Website performance audit. Nowadays, users are not inclined to wait. If a website is too slow, visitors will just leave. Plus, website speed is one of search engines‘ most important ranking factors. It’s worth checking image and font sizes, unneeded files, or messy code structure. All of this and more can affect the website speed. The performance audit mainly helps find the reasons for the speed issues and ways how to fix them.
  • Responsiveness. Over 50% of traffic comes from various non-web devices. Lots of websites are designed mostly for web users. And even websites with responsive design may have a number of issues. The second point is SEO. It’s been a few years now since Google started working on mobile-first indexing. That means Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. Therefore, the better your mobile responsiveness is, the higher Google will rank your website in search results. 
Software and Application Code Audit: front-end review

Back-end Code Audit

A back-end code audit estimates the general code complexity. It helps to check whether it’s stable enough and capable of handling any potential security risks. The auditors pay particular attention to issues like outdated tools, technologies, and code structure.

  • Out-of-date tools. It’s required to check whether the code has any outdated tool or technology under the hood. For example, an outdated Ruby on Rails gem may cause difficulties with any further upgrades.
  • Code structure. Apart from tools and technologies, it is worth checking the code structures themselves. A perfect code should be written in accordance with common standards and patterns. Otherwise, you’ll never know what issues you may face and when. Such an inspection shows which aspects should be fixed to enhance product reliability.
Software and Application Source Code Audit: back-end analysis

Infrastructure Code Review

An infrastructure audit focuses on how the servers perform. At Sloboda Studio, we ensure the setup is architected securely and servers are running up-to-date. So there aren’t any potential security risks. 

An infrastructure audit is also an opportunity to see whether the systems are running efficiently. The infrastructure audit improves site speed. It ensures those servers can deliver as quickly as possible.

An infrastructure code audit helps to optimize the servers and secure space in the cloud. It checks if a product uses more cloud space or servers than are actually needed. Then, such a code audit would find ways to reduce some of these expenses.

Software and Application Code Audit: infrastructure

Security Audit

The security code audit helps to discover whether there are any security flaws or database permissions. It also helps to detect security breaches that may lead to data leakage.

Generally, a security code audit helps to:

  • find weaknesses or vulnerabilities in the code;
  • avoid additional costs for bug fixing;
  • develop a code audit checklist of recommendations of potential security issues to be aware of.
Software Code Audit: security analysis for vulnerabilities

To avoid costly vulnerabilities, companies use two main techniques for security code auditing: static and dynamic:

Static Auditing

A static analysis, or static and source code analysis, checks the security and functionality of the product when the program is not running. It is usually done at the first steps of the development lifecycle.

While performing the static analysis, a source code is evaluated automatically using different tools and techniques. They are as follows:

  • Data flow analysis to collect dynamic information about data in software while it is in a static state.
  • Taint analysis to identify variables tainted with user-controllable input and traces them to possible vulnerable functions.

Applying static audit analysis allows companies to scan the entire code base fast and detect vulnerabilities at the exact location.

However, it may take a longer time if done manually. Plus, not all automated tools support multi-programming languages.

Dynamic Auditing

A dynamic analysis, or Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST), is based on the behavioral model. Engineers analyze the product from the view of a hacker who uses it and searches for vulnerabilities.

It helps discover whether the results of static code analysis are valid. Also, the analysis allows companies to detect vulnerabilities in a runtime environment.

Yet, the dynamic audit is rather tedious to trace vulnerabilities back to a specific area or location in the code. Automated tools in dynamic code analysis may sometimes provide false positives and false negatives.

4 Reasons to Perform a Source Code Audit for Your Business

So what is the reason for doing code audits? A good code audit can bring great insight into how to create a better product. It also allows upgrading an existing version. Let’s look at the top five perks of performing a code audit.

Software and Application Code Audit: reasons to perform to achieve security and avoid vulnerabilities

Finding Weak Points

Whether you run a startup or an older project, it is possible to find weak points everywhere. No matter how long your product has existed.

Auditing the codebase makes it possible to:

  • discover existing and potential bugs;
  • determine outdated technologies that are no longer supported;
  • get recommendations about the technology stack to switch to a more suitable software solution.

Defining Scalability Estimations

When a company is planning to scale its product for the future, it should prepare and ensure there are no potential problems on the way.

At this point, a code audit may be helpful to:

  • determine whether your software system can scale up successfully;
  • handle greater workloads;
  • handle updates and have the capability for future expansion.

Making Your Product More Secure

By now, we all are aware of the importance of data security. Still, not all products can secure data from unauthorized access and data corruption.

A weak codebase can affect the security of your product. It may lead to security breaches, vulnerabilities, leaks of personal data, or even fraud. And the developers of this code are the ones that bear the security responsibility.

Having checked the code, you will be able to determine and fix all the security issues. It will make your product safer and protect your team and customers.

Providing a Better Maintainability

Low-quality code is difficult to maintain. It may have lots of bugs, security breaches, vulnerabilities, and other issues. All of them take a lot of time and money to correct. Obsolete tools, inappropriately-used technologies, messy code structure, and other code problems make it difficult to update and grow a product for the future.

When the codebase meets modern software development standards, security guidelines, and best practices, a product can be maintained with minimal additional risks and costs.

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4 Core Steps Of the Code Audit Process

A code audit process requires both time and thorough reviews of the source code lines by development and testing teams. We recommend coordinating automated and manual testing to avoid getting lost in the project. The following 4 steps will help while conducting a code audit.

Step 1: Manual Code Study

Manual testing allows us to understand how the project works. It detects what problems it might have, and how your team should deal with them.

Manual testing involves checking the website for bugs, business logic and flow, and the source code security audit.

At this stage, we can check how the code is written, how the styles are connected, and if there are any code duplications. We can also correct class inheritances and element names.

We always finish the manual testing phase by checking for internal errors. For example, to detect any vulnerabilities that may affect the product’s functionality in the future.

Step 2: Automated Code Study

Automated code review software checks source code for compliance with a predefined set of rules or best security practices. It is possible to use automation to check the business logic of the source code. It can also look at the main controllers to see whether object-oriented programming principles such as correct inheritance, polymorphisms, programming, and objectification patterns are used correctly.

Moreover, it’s worth checking issues typical of a particular programming language. For instance, Java often has security problems with garbage collection and memory leaks. These language-specific issues should also be monitored during the code audit process.

Step 3: Check the Versions

It is a common case when the codebase appears to be outdated. At Sloboda Studio, we pay particular attention to the versions of the languages, frameworks, and libraries.

In older versions, many aspects are not modernized. Those outdated versions can (and often do) have vulnerabilities and potential security breaches. For example, the absence of data transfer optimization might result in potential data leakage.

In other situations, outdated source code can make it impossible for newer libraries to work correctly. We check older versions. So they can be changed to the newest ones for better performance, security, and maintenance.

Step 4: Code Audit Report Creation

We prepare a final code audit report with all the issues discovered in the previous steps. We also add comments to our report explaining the reasons for any critical security issues or vulnerabilities, and if they are needed to be fixed urgently.

Our experts make the reports more accessible for clients by adding graphs, comparisons, and tables for a better visual description of the current situation.

Software and Application Code Audit: 4 steps for analysis and security

Code Audit Tools We Use

Applying code auditing tools help companies save time and add to a more in-depth review. Today, we see an increase in the number of companies implementing these tools as a part of their code audit process. 

According to the Code Review Trends survey, 36% of the respondents consider code audits as the best way to improve the project’s source code quality.

Code Audits to avoid vulnerabilities and increase security

Source: Code Review Trends in 2022

The same report found that 47% of companies have already used code review tools. Let’s look at code audit tools Sloboda Studio engineers use.

W3C Markup Validation Service

W3C markup validation service can be a tool for manual website testing. It’s a global standard for writing front-end code. It is possible to use this to check the code of any web page.

W3C also allows using browser plugins that show how many errors and warnings your page has.

Scripts for User Testing Emulation

We use load-testing tools that emulate multiple users’ simultaneous actions. Such scripts emulating user actions on a site allow us to perform both load and stress testing. They help to:

  • check the system for resilience and flexibility;
  • identify all the possible problems from simulated usage.

Libraries for the Statistical Collection

How to avoid problems with code quality and relevance in the future? At this point, several libraries that collect statistics can be installed. For example, to check the number of errors in the code. Thus, creating a detailed picture of the project code work would be possible.

We also use tools such as New Relic, Brakeman, Bullet, and Rubycritic. It helps to check the code and detect issues in the early stages of development.

Software and Application Code Audit: tools to avoid vulnerabilities and increase security

5 Tips for Cost-Effective Code Audit

The importance of an audit is difficult to overestimate, and most entrepreneurs agree. However, some still do not perform a code audit. Some are due to a lack of reliable experts and a lack of budget. At Sloboda Studio, we are sure there’s no need to spend a fortune on a code audit. And we can tell you how.

Offshore Code Audit 

Your team may have some kind of knowledge blindness. It’s difficult to notice the mistakes in your own code.

Code auditors are open-minded and can check your code impartially. They can also bring more valuable feedback and reveal additional issues to be fixed.

The Sloboda Studio QA team has provided testing services and tested 200+ products and software for over 13 years. As a rule, we follow the Agile methodology in software testing and quality assurance.

Sloboda Studio QA experts specialize in software code audits to ensure the code works consistently and tune the process to high performance.

We are recognized as the Top Web Development Company by Clutch, GoodFirms, and other rating and review platforms.

Create a List of Scope

Clear tasks result in clear results. We recommend you get prepared before starting auditing. Create a list of the scope that needs to be checked.

Such an approach will help you to plan the auditing process more carefully. And be sure that no serious risk areas may remain neglected. Thus, you will spend less time and money reviewing the code and checking all important areas to spend resources more efficiently.

Perform Both Automated and Manual Testing

Performing a manual audit is perfect when it comes to determining the issues that are lying on the surface. However, the deeper and more detailed your research is, the better it will be for your product.

Automated testing helps to enable the most effective code analysis. It discovers the deeper issues and provides companies with more efficient code analysis.

Conducting manual and automated testing allows QA teams to detect all new or existing errors and fix them immediately. Therefore, you avoid problems and extra costs in the future.

Audit Your Code Regularly

At Sloboda Studio, we recommend performing code audits regularly. At least once or twice a year.

Review the code periodically during the regular product development process. So you’ll have more opportunities to detect significant issues and maintain security levels in the early stages.

Therefore, it would be easier (and, as a result, cheaper) to fix them before they lead you to significant logical issues and security vulnerabilities.

The fact is: the later you discover an issue, the more expensive it is to fix it.

Don’t Change Your Developers at Once

While auditing the project’s code, you are very likely to find at least some bugs or structure issues. Whatever these are, don’t be in a hurry to blame your team for the “bad code”. Usually, changing a team is an expensive process. We recommend evaluating the severity of the mistakes before making such decisions.

However, if major mistakes were discovered during the code audit, it may be efficient to hire a new development team to fix the problems and improve the quality of the future code.

Software and Application Code Audit: tips to increase security and avoid vulnerabilities

Our Experience

During the last 13+ years, Sloboda Studio has gained great expertise and helped over 200 entrepreneurs develop, test, and audit their products.

Quite often, we meet our clients when they already have products that need to be checked and enhanced with new functionality.

We believe that such projects should start with code audits to ensure the highest quality of the final product.

Lifestyle and Wellness Coaching Project

Our client, MyDailyLifestyle, is a healthcare company that provides opportunities for employees in various industries to learn how to live healthier lives.

We met with the client on the MVP stage of the project, so our team needed to make a number of upgrades and add new features to an existing product.

As we had to work with the existing codebase, it was decided to start with a code audit to discover the possible issues.

During the code audit process, Sloboda’s experts discovered that the project was using one of the oldest Ruby on Rails versions, which increased the risk of data leakage. Thus, we decided to upgrade the existing Rails code to increase security and then moved on to develop new features.

The Financial Analysis Technology Company

The second project, Origin Research, was a FinTech company that provides its users with analyzed financial data. This product mostly focuses on high-yield corporate financial data, so the customers can get a better understanding of whether and when to buy or sell shares of those companies.

We met this startup in its early stage when several aspects of the project required upgrading.

After we conducted a source code review, it turned out that all the information was stored in a single controller. Apart from that, there was significant user code and a general lack of OOP coding principles.

According to our estimates, such code would become impossible to maintain within 3 months from that time. So we decided to start with the code upgrade first, and only then proceed to further product development.

Code Audit Service: What to Do with the Results?

We’ve discussed how the code audit outlines the product’s issues and problems. 

But how do you understand that analysis if you do not have a tech background? And what do you do with all that information?

At Sloboda Studio, we provide our client with the results of a software code audit as follows:

  • A comprehensive report

We gather all the discovered issues, vulnerabilities, and problems into an expanded list. This code audit report contains a list of issues with descriptions and recommendations on why these issues need to be fixed. Such a report can be used to upgrade the product, fix issues, and plan tasks. Although we always offer to fix all the issues at reduced rates, our client can use this code audit checklist with any partner developers: internal teams, freelancers, or any other offshore company.

  • Detailed recommendations

We aren’t only gathering all your issues into a list – we also give you advice for fixing these issues and improving the source code quality. We do describe why issues and vulnerabilities are critical and how urgently they need to be fixed.

  •  Fixing code issues onsite

Sloboda Studio serves as a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs. After performing the code audit, we offer immediate on-site correction of all the discovered issues and code problems. We also offer lifetime product maintenance and support services to all our clients.

Final Thoughts

Launching a product without a software code audit is possible if you prefer to take chances.

However, the risks may be too high.

If you prefer to stay on the safe side and get the benefits of a code audit, your product will be checked for:

  • Front-end and back-end code quality;
  • Security vulnerabilities;
  • Performance and scalability;
  • Current architecture examination;
  • Security vulnerabilities analysis;
  • Potential maintenance issues.

As a result, such a source code audit will save you from major bugs and extra costs to fix problems, vulnerabilities, security, and maintenance issues.

At Sloboda Studio, we have been developing, testing, and auditing software products for over 13 years. We use software code auditing as a part of our product development process to ensure that our clients’ projects are stable, functional, and secure. Have more questions about code auditing? Feel free to reach out to our team for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is code audit important for your business?

For the smooth operation of your product, the code must be viable. It is important to audit the code to:

1) Detect weaknesses in the code

2) Defining scalability estimations

3) Create the best opportunities for the project security

4) Provide better maintainability

What are the most effective code audit tools?

There are many popular tools to check the code, but the most effective are:

1) W3C markup validation service

2) Scripts for user testing emulation

3) Libraries for the statistical collection (New Relic, Brakeman, Bullet)

What are the main options to code audit effectiveness?

For the audit code to increase the efficiency of your product and make it less costly, we advise you to follow the next options:

1) Create a list of work

2) Perform manual and automated testing

3) Provide code audit regularly

4) Choose offshore code audit providers

What is the purpose of a code audit?

A code audit aims to find and eliminate any errors, bugs, and areas that fail to reach a required standard set by the company. It is an essential part of the defensive programming model that aims to detect issues and prevent bugs before a software release.

How do you conduct a code audit?

Sloboda Studio implements manual and automated methods that include using automatic analysis tools. Our QA team searches for bugs, issues, and vulnerabilities as well as detects complex and subtle problems.
The achieved results are presented in the detailed report. The latter contains a summary, a listing of issues, and further recommendations.

What would you include in a software audit?

A code audit aims to find and eliminate any errors, bugs, and areas that fail to reach a required standard set by the company. It is an essential part of the defensive programming model that aims to detect issues and prevent bugs before a software release.

How long does a code audit take?

A code audit may take up to 2 hours but it depends on the project type, complexity, etc.

What are the different types of code audits?

There are 5 types of code review, namely:
– Manual code review.
– Front-end code review.
– Backend code review.
– Infrastructure code review.
– Security audit.

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