More than sloppy programming: how “spaghetti code” increases cyber risk
When writing source code, one habit programmers should avoid is spaghetti coding. Left unchecked, it could cause multiple problems for your organization’s infrastructure later on. Here we discuss what spaghetti code is and why getting rid of it is a major factor in your cyber security risk management practices.
What is spaghetti code exactly?
Spaghetti code is the general term used for any source code that’s hard to understand because it has no defined structure. While an end user might not see anything wrong with a program, a programmer might find it virtually illegible if the code base’s flow is too convoluted—like a bowl of twisted, tangled spaghetti.
Spaghetti code can happen due to several factors, such as:
- A project may have new programmers who prefer writing code in their own style, disrupting the current code base’s structure.
- The developers did not plan out the structure first before writing code.
- An inexperienced programmer uses basic methods such as GOTO excessively instead of advanced, cleaner code.
- The developer may have copy-pasted code libraries without actually checking their contents.
How spaghetti code increases cyber security risks
So what happens if you get spaghetti code in your infrastructure? First, let’s look at the main problems of spaghetti code buildup in a codebase.
Harder to find and fix vulnerabilities
The more illegible code gets mixed up in the code base, the higher the chances of vulnerabilities hiding in your structure. And since the illegible code is harder to understand, it might take the IT team much longer to determine which parts are behind the system’s security risks.
Too much spaghetti code in the infrastructure can make it difficult for your programmers to make changes. Though the code might work well, it would take longer to update the system. The programmers would still have to decipher the code to avoid accidentally introducing bugs.
How to avoid spaghetti code
Here’s how the programming team can avoid dealing with spaghetti code in the code base:
1. Stick to one coding style
Before a new programmer starts writing code for a project, they should first learn the program's coding style. This helps prevent instances where they use their own coding style, making the code base more confusing for the other programmers to read.
2. Implement layering
Layering is when you organize the code into sections based on its functions. However, it’s also crucial not to use too many layers until it becomes lasagna code. This is a different pasta code wherein the layers are too dependent on each other, so one broken layer could disrupt the entire structure.
3. Writing comments
The programming team can also make it a habit to leave comments if other developers work on the codebase. The comments can explain a particular code’s function, saving the other programmer time trying to understand it.
4. Find lighter frameworks
Many code libraries and frameworks exist today that don’t use that many lines to do a lot of functions. For example, Bottle is a small framework you can use to build web apps while using a codebase that fits in one file. Using a lighter, streamlined framework, you won’t have to sift through too many lines of code to find a problem or make some changes.
5. Conduct routine unit testing
Unit testing involves isolating the source code and testing to determine which units work correctly. It would help you find spaghetti code that functions but could still be changed to a more understandable code. And if the code doesn’t work, you can get rid of it.
Minimize your security risks with Vulcan Cyber
Spaghetti code is just one of the many issues that lead to vulnerabilities in your software and overall infrastructure. But with the right tools, your IT team can mitigate your systems’ risks more effectively. That’s why we’ve developed the Vulcan Cyber risk management platform. It can integrate with your other security tools to provide features such as detailed vulnerability reports, risk-based prioritization, and automated mitigation processes.
You can try out Vulcan Cyber today or request a demo.