Static analysis tools (SATs) have the potential to assist developers in finding and fixing vulnerabilities in the early stages of software development requiring them to be able to understand and act on tools’ notifications. To understand how helpful such SAT guidance is to developers, we ran an online experiment (N=132) where participants were shown four vulnerable code samples (SQL injection, hard-coded credentials, encryption, and logging sensitive data) along with SAT guidance, and asked to indicate the appropriate fix.
Participants had a positive attitude towards both SAT notifications and particularly liked the example solutions and vulnerable code. Seeing SAT notifications also led to more detailed open-ended answers and slightly improved code correction answers. Still, most SAT (SpotBugs 67%, SonarQube 86%) and Control (96%) participants answered at least one code-correction question incorrectly. Prior software development experience, perceived vulnerability severity, and answer confidence all positively impacted answer accuracy.