Coverity Review

Straightforward to install and reports few false positives, but it should be easier to specify your own validation and sanitation routines


What is our primary use case?

I am a consultant and I work to bring solutions to different companies. Static code analysis is one of the things that I assist people with, and Coverity is one of the tools that I use for doing that.

I worked with Coverity when doing a couple of different PoCs. For these, I get a few different teams of developers together and we want to decide what makes the most sense for each team as far as scanning technologies. So, part of that is what languages are supported, part of that is how extensible it is, and part of that extensibility is do the developers have time to actually create custom roles?

We also want to know things like what the professional are services like, and do people typically need many hours of professional services to get the system spun up. Other factors include whether it deployed on-premises or in the cloud, and also, which of those environments it can operate with.

One of the things is there's not really a shining star out of all of these tools. SaaS tools have been getting more mature in the past decade, particularly in how fast they run, but also in the results they get. Of course, framework and language additions that increase the capability with results are considered.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is that there were not a whole lot of false positives, at least on the codebases that I looked at.

What needs improvement?

It should be easier to specify your own validation routines and sanitation routines.

For example, if you have data coming into the application, perhaps something really simple like it's getting a parameter from a web page that is your username when you go to a website to login, and then ultimately that's being consumed by something, the data goes through some business logic and then, let's say, it enters that username into a database. 

Well, what if I say my username is JavaScript calling alert hello. Now I've just entered JavaScript code as my username and you should be able to sanitize that pretty easily with a number of different techniques to remove the actual executable code from what they entered on the login page. However, once you do that, you want the program to understand that you are doing it and then remove what looks like a true positive at first glance because, in fact, the data being consumed in the SQL exec statement is not unsanitized. It's not just coming from the web.

Likewise, let's say you log in, and then it says, "Hello" Such and such. You can inject JavaScript code there and have it be executed when it says hello. So basically the ability to say that this validates and then also above and beyond that, this validates data coming from any GET parameter on the web. You should be able to specify a particular routine validates all of that, or this particular routine validates anytime we read data from a database, maybe an untrusted database.

So, if I reach for that data eight times and I say, "Hey," this validates it once, I also get the option to say it validates it the other seven times, or I could just say it's a universal validator. Obviously, a God validator so to speak is not a good practice because you're sure to miss some edge cases, but to have one routine validate three or four different occurrences is not rare and is often not a bad practice.

Another thing that Coverity needs to implement or improve is a graphical way to display the data. If you can see an actual graphical view of the data coming in, then it would be very useful. Let's say, the first node would be GET parameter from a webpage, and then it would be an arrow to another method like validate user ID, and then another method of GET data about the user. Next, that goes into the database, and so forth. When that's graphically displayed, then it is helpful for developers because they can better grab onto it.

The speed of Coverity can be improved, although that is true for any similar product.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It never crashed so stability has not been an issue.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I have never used it for more than four relatively small to medium-sized projects at a time, so I've never needed to scale it.

How are customer service and technical support?

I have dealt with sales engineering, rather than technical support. They would sometimes provide a liaison to tech support if they didn't know the answer, but really, they guided us through the proof of concept and they knew that they were under a competitive evaluation against the other tools. They were able to resolve any issues that we came across and got us up and running fairly quickly, as far as I recall.

How was the initial setup?

Coverity is on the good side when it comes to setting it up. I think that it is pretty straightforward to get up and running.

What about the implementation team?

We implement Coverity on our own, with guidance from Coverity.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The price is competitive with other solutions.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

In addition to Coverity, I have experience with Checkmarx, Fortify, Veracode, and HCL AppScan, which was previously known as IBM AppScan.

Checkmarx is probably the most extensible and customizable of these products, and you're able to use the C# language to do so, which a lot of developers are familiar with.

HCL AppScan is another tool that has customization capabilities. They are not as powerful but they are easier to implement because you don't need to write any code.

I cannot give an endorsement for any particular one. They all have their merits and it just depends on the requirements. Generally, however, all of these tools are getting better.

What other advice do I have?

My advice for anybody who is considering this product is to first look around your organization to see if it has already been implemented in another group. If you're a big organization then Coverity or a similar tool may already be in use. In cases like this, I would say that it is best to adopt the same tool because your organization has already gone down that path and there are no huge differences in the capabilities of these tools. Some of them do it in different ways and some do things that others don't, but you won't have the initial bump of the learning curve and you can leverage their experience.

I would rate this solution a seven out of ten.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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