IDE support for cloud-based static analyses
Integrating static analyses into continuous integration (CI) or continuous delivery (CD) has become the best practice for assuring code quality and security. Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools fit well into CI/CD, because CI/CD allows time for deep static analyses on large code bases and prevents vulnerabilities in the early stages of the development lifecycle. In CI/CD, the SAST tools usually run in the cloud and provide findings via a web interface. Recent studies show that developers prefer seeing the findings of these tools directly in their IDEs. Most tools with IDE integration run lightweight static analyses and can give feedback at coding time, but SAST tools used in CI/CD take longer to run and usually are not able to do so. Can developers interact directly with a cloudbased SAST tool that is typically used in CI/CD through their IDE? We investigated if such a mechanism can integrate cloud-based SAST tools better into a developers’ workflow than web-based solutions. We interviewed developers to understand their expectations from an IDE solution. Guided by these interviews, we implemented an IDE prototype for an existing cloud-based SAST tool. With a usability test using this prototype, we found that the IDE solution promoted more frequent tool interactions. In particular, developers performed code scans three times more often. This indicates better integration of the cloud-based SAST tool into developers’ workflow. Furthermore, while our study did not show statistically significant improvement on developers’ code-fixing performance, it did show a promising reduction in time for fixing vulnerable code.