What Is Clean Code and Does It Promote Security?

Apr 25, 2024

Cranking out line after line of code has become cheap and easy with generative AI. However, as with most things in life, more is not necessarily better — especially regarding code. Combined with a race-to-market mindset and accelerating feature creep, this influx of easy-to-generate code can lead to a cluttered codebase, where the sheer volume overshadows the need for clarity, efficiency, and security.

Clean code is a non-negotiable for any developer. It not only ensures code is easy to work with but also helps with security.

🧼 What Is Clean Code? 

Clean code is what you probably guess it is — code that’s clearly structured and easy to read, maintain, and modify. Much like having a clean, organized workshop, having clean code makes it simple for someone else to come in, understand what’s going on, and contribute to the project because it’s:

  • Readable — Following clear naming conventions, a logical structure, and a consistent style makes for an approachable, understandable codebase. 
  • Simple — Coding features and functions in the simplest possible manner makes it easier to understand and results in fewer bugs. 
  • Efficient — Optimizing code to prioritize performance and resource usage keeps the codebase highly functional without unnecessary bloat. 
  • Maintainable — Structuring code in a way that it can be modified to meet changing requirements, fix bugs, or install updates allows anyone to maintain it effectively. 

Sloppy code might get the job done temporarily. However, if only one developer can understand why a particular feature works the way it does because they put in three workarounds, it will be difficult for others to make changes, update the code, or secure it effectively.

📖 Principles of Clean Code

Although entire books have been written on the subject, one of the best ways to determine if code is clean is to have a developer who didn’t work on it read it. If their teeth-grinding is audible across the room, the codebase probably needs some attention. Here are some overarching principles developers can follow: 

  • Be Conventional — Conventions will vary across languages, platforms, and teams. Whatever conventions are adopted should be consistently followed throughout the codebase. There’s a place for creativity in coding, but this isn’t it. 
  • KISS It — There’s a reason the “Keep it simple, stupid” principle has been around for over 60 years — and it’s not just because no one wants to tell the US Navy they’re wrong. Eliminating unnecessary complexity makes code easier to work with. All code should be as simple as possible, but no simpler — because Einstein wasn’t wrong, either. 
  • Follow the Scout’s Rule — Robert Baden Powell, founder of the Scouts, famously said: “Try and leave this world a little better than you found it.” Developers should adopt the same principle and always leave the code they’re working with cleaner than they found it. 
  • Dig Down to the Roots — When software malfunctions, it’s tempting to create a quick patch to fix the problem. Resist. Find the root, or roots, of the problem and correct it at the source. 

🔐 Is Clean Code More Secure? 

Following clean coding best practices definitely lays the foundation for security. However, no matter how much it sparkles, clean code alone isn’t enough to keep the CISO happy. You will need to focus on code quality and security. Combining high-quality code with clean code is the sweet spot, and the right tools can facilitate both secure and clean code in the following ways. 

Reduce Code Smells

Dirty code isn’t just difficult to read — it often stinks. Code smells are often the first sign that a codebase needs refactoring. Smelly code might work, but it’ll add to technical debt, recklessly consume resources, and increase the risk of bugs and vulnerabilities. SAST tools can sniff out code smells and highlight areas that need to be cleaned up for better quality and easier maintenance. 

Highlight Vulnerabilities 

SAST and software composition analysis (SCA) tools automatically detect vulnerabilities that could leave your code open to attack. Many vulnerabilities are related to codebase maintenance issues, so detecting and fixing them provides more secure and cleaner code. 

Improve Compliance

Whether you’re following OWASP, CWE, CVE, CPE, NIST, or some other acronym, a code analysis tool can help development teams comply with the strictest security standards. The Kiuwan code analyzer detects rule violations and flags the precise line of code where it occurs, making it easy for developers to find and fix defects. 

Shield Apps

While developers strive for transparent and readable code within the DevOps team, delivering clean code to the world at large is another matter altogether. Teams who do this serve up a smorgasbord of hacking opportunities to malicious actors. Few things are more appealing to a hacker than crisp, clean code. Obfuscation tools like PreEmptive make code indecipherable to outside elements, so codebases are as secure as they are clean. 

Automate code analysis

Codebase almost always includes third-party or open-source code. One source estimates that 96% of software product includes open-source components. Manually digging through messy, open-source code is tedious, time-consuming, and inefficient. Automated code scanning with SCA detects vulnerabilities and risks in open-source code much faster and more easily.

🛡Secure Your Clean Code With Kiuwan

Clean code is about writing code that’s easy to read and maintain and lays a foundation for software security and quality, and Kiuwan can help. Kiuwan is built on the principles of the ISO 25000 standard, which means that it doesn’t just identify security vulnerabilities; it reduces technical debt and elevates the quality of your applications.

Utilizing the CQM (Checking Quality Model), Kiuwan evaluates critical software characteristics to measure key indicators in areas such as:

  • Security, ensuring protection and appropriate access to information
  • Reliability, maintaining software stability
  • Efficiency, optimizing performance with available resources
  • Maintainability, allowing for necessary modifications and updates
  • Portability, ensuring the software’s adaptability across different environments.

These indicators are helpful for stakeholders in the software development life cycle to make decisions and manage the project while enhancing the software itself and the processes to create it. Want to see how Kiuwan does it? Check out our support corner blog to see step-by-step how to improve code quality with Kiuwan.

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