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The Value of Low Priority Issues

The big news at the beginning of this week, just as we were all heading to the RSA conference, was a bug in the Apple implementation of SSL/TLS. I’ve been asked a few times whether HP Fortify SCA finds this issue – and it does. The interesting thing is how we identify it.


We flag the lines following the second “goto fail” statement as Dead Code. Static analysis can’t interpret the intention of the code writer, but we can find places where developers fail to follow good practices. People dismiss these issues as noise – how can dead code hurt them? Most of the time, it’s just code that is purposely no longer reachable. However, sometimes it’s an indication of bigger problems and shouldn’t be dismissed, especially in a sensitive area of a program.


After all the publicity around this issue, I was surprised to hear at least one RSA talk refer to low priority automated tool results as noise and advocate for dismissing them wholesale. This Apple bug proves that is not a good policy for any organization. Instead, the default priority of the results should be combined with knowledge of the purpose and sensitivity of the application being analyzed.

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