Blindspots in Python and Java APIs Result in Vulnerable Code

10 Mar 2021  ·  Yuriy Brun, Tian Lin, Jessie Elise Somerville, Elisha Myers, Natalie C. Ebner ·

Blindspots in APIs can cause software engineers to introduce vulnerabilities, but such blindspots are, unfortunately, common. We study the effect APIs with blindspots have on developers in two languages by replicating an 109-developer, 24-Java-API controlled experiment... Our replication applies to Python and involves 129 new developers and 22 new APIs. We find that using APIs with blindspots statistically significantly reduces the developers' ability to correctly reason about the APIs in both languages, but that the effect is more pronounced for Python. Interestingly, for Java, the effect increased with complexity of the code relying on the API, whereas for Python, the opposite was true. Whether the developers considered API uses to be more difficult, less clear, and less familiar did not have an effect on their ability to correctly reason about them. Developers with better long-term memory recall were more likely to correctly reason about APIs with blindspots, but short-term memory, processing speed, episodic memory, and memory span had no effect. Surprisingly, professional experience and expertice did not improve the developers' ability to reason about APIs with blindspots across both languages, with long-term professionals with many years of experience making mistakes as often as relative novices. Finally, personality traits did not significantly affect the Python developers' ability to reason about APIs with blindspots, but less extraverted and more open developers were better at reasoning about Java APIs with blindspots. Overall, our findings suggest that blindspots in APIs are a serious problem across languages, and that experience and education alone do not overcome that problem, suggesting that tools are needed to help developers recognize blindspots in APIs as they write code that uses those APIs. read more

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Software Engineering Cryptography and Security

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