AppSec Bugs: A Case of Déjà Vu for JIT Compilers
September 30, 2019

John Matthew Holt

Just-in-time (JIT) compilers have had their fair share of bug-fighting experience. Before movies like Wargames and Hackers inspired the first generation of breakers, most users were concerned with the speed, or lack thereof, of their programs. The compiler community responded with JIT compilers to accelerate application performance.

Then in the mid 90s, memory management bugs were the plague of the programming industry. Again, the runtime/compiler community realized they could solve this problem with automatic memory management inside the JIT compiler.

Security Bugs: An Evolving Threat

Today, performance bugs and memory bugs are the least of the worries facing the developer community. Instead, a new crisis has surfaced: security bugs. Security bugs are so much more concerning than the other bugs because security bugs will get you "pwned!"

To tackle this, there has been a deluge of scanning and filtering tools developed for programmers to find code flaws. DevOps tools like static, dynamic and interactive application security testing (SAST, DAST, IAST), and runtime application self-protection (RASP), or network tools like intrusion detection or prevention systems (IDS, IPS), and unified threat management (UTM), all find or filter vulnerabilities but do nothing to fix the underlying vulnerable code. For that, there are only two ways that buggy code can be modified and fixed: with a human programmer or a JIT compiler.

New Roles for JIT Compilers

State-of-the-art JIT compilers today are constantly looking for ways to optimize executing code by learning and analyzing everything about an application's code. This deep application code intelligence, which was so effectively applied to performance bugs and memory management bugs in the past, is now being applied to discover and remediate security bugs.

In this security context, the JIT compiler leverages existing analysis of application code to additionally analyze for security vulnerabilities. When it finds one, it's a seamless step to fix it: The JIT compiler simply rewrites the vulnerable code with the necessary security controls to fix the underlying vulnerability.

Benefits of JIT Compilers

Since this analysis and change is done in the runtime, the JIT compiler also adds a layer of security without having to modify any source code.

The benefits of this can be liberating for DevOps teams that face disruption to existing projects every time a new vulnerability is exposed. Given that more than 22,000 vulnerabilities were discovered in 2018, this ability to protect applications without requiring programmer resources allows development teams to apply fixes during periods where they will have the least impact on the business.

Further, for many organizations that have legacy code, they may no longer be able to access the source code for fear that any modifications could prove catastrophic to the application. For security remediation, the JIT compiler can be used to remediate vulnerabilities in the byte code — not the source code — reducing or eliminating the risks that often lead to broken applications.

The threat that security bugs pose to businesses keeps many a DevOps team up at night. But to JIT compilers, this isn't their first rodeo. In fact, it's just another case of déjà vu.

John Matthew Holt is Founder and CTO of Waratek
Share this

Industry News

January 13, 2022

Infragistics announced the release of Infragistics Ultimate 21.2.

January 13, 2022

Jitterbit acquired PrimeApps, a Turkey-based innovator in low-code application development.

January 13, 2022

Mirantis announced the release of Mirantis Secure Registry (MSR) 3.0, which supports usage across any Kubernetes distribution.

January 12, 2022

DevOps Institute announced its lineup for 2022 events and webinars and plans for two new DevOps certifications.

January 12, 2022

Oxeye unveiled an open-source initiative with the introduction of Ox4Shell.

January 12, 2022

Quali Torque platform is now available to Microsoft Azure users on the Azure Marketplace.

January 11, 2022

CircleCI announced a free tier for CI/CD.

January 11, 2022

GlobalLogic, a Hitachi Group Company, announced availability of OpeNgine version 2.1.

January 11, 2022

The Application Security Division of NTT introduced the next phase of The WhiteHat Vantage Platform, Vantage Prevent, a patented solution that enables enterprises to conduct dynamic application security testing (DAST) at each phase of the development cycle and prevent exploitable vulnerabilities from reaching production.

January 10, 2022

BrowserStack announced the acquisition of Nightwatch.js, the open-source test automation framework.

January 06, 2022

BMC announced new capabilities and integrations across its BMC AMI (Automated Mainframe Intelligence) and BMC Compuware portfolios.

January 06, 2022

ShiftLeft announced that its Intelligent-SCA product added scanning and attackability analysis for JavaScript (JS) and the TypeScript (TS) language to the ShiftLeft CORE platform.

January 06, 2022

Progress announced the latest release of Progress Fiddler Everywhere, its popular web debugging proxy tool.

January 05, 2022 announced a new open-source project, BumbleBee, that simplifies the developer experience for building, packaging, and distributing eBPF tools.

January 05, 2022

Forty8Fifty Labs and Old Street Solutions announced that they are partnering in the development and delivery of solutions that simplify the collaboration and use of Atlassian Jira and Confluence.