Something to Consider as Java Tops the Programming Charts
By Dennis Chu, Senior Product Manager, Coverity
For development teams, it may be obvious: Java is one of the top programming languages today. Approximately 9 million developers are currently working in Java; it’s said to be running on three billion devices and the language continues to evolve almost as quickly as the changing technology landscape. But, as the story goes, the rise to the top isn’t always easy.
While Java continues to grow in popularity, it has also been linked to a number of vulnerabilities over the years – due in large part to hackers capitalizing on its widespread use. So much so that Apple moved to pull Java entirely from its Mac OS X and its products at the end of 2012.
Further, during the summer of 2013, flaws in Java were linked to growing security threats for some Android device users who owned the much-hyped digital currency Bitcoin. The vulnerability enabled hackers to tap into the digital wallets of these Bitcoin owners, exposing a serious risk for both the new monetary system and the Android operating system.
One of the most recent blows for Java came from its link to HealthCare.gov, the website that continues to make headlines as developers work to fix the programming errors that caused the site to come to a crawl – only about 5 percent of the expected 500,000 health insurance plan enrollments were able to occur in the first month of the site’s launch. HealthCare.gov was developed with Java on top of Tomcat, and while the causes of its errors are many and complex, coding and architecture design flaws were no doubt part of the problem.
Despite the shortcomings exposed over the years, Java has a large number of effective testing and development tools. But even so, given the persistence of issues, it’s become clear that these tools are not being leveraged properly. This is presumably due to poor development testing discipline or weak processes in place within organizations.
After reviewing a number of open source Java projects via our Coverity Scan service – which helps the open source development community evaluate and improve the quality and security of their software – we found similar levels of quality and security issues for Java relative to other languages, such as C and C++. So it turns out that just because Java is one of the most widely used computer languages, it doesn’t guarantee higher quality software.
Some advice for developers coding in Java, or any other computer programming language for that matter: be vigilant. Make an emphasis to select the right tools that will provide the right framework and process to allow your organization to test early and often. This will enable your organization to avoid potential nightmares down the road – for example after it’s been released to customers, when it’s too late.
Using the right technologies and best practices are still the best safeguards to ensure high-quality software. Fixing a flaw during the development process will cost only a small fraction of what it will cost to fix a defect after the product has been released – and that’s not including the damage to your brand and reputation.
On the road ahead, no matter what language tops the charts, it’s important to view testing as a critical investment rather than an unintended expense.
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