Integrating Security Into Your SDLC Using RSpec After Hooks

Reading time ~2 minutes

There are 2 concepts I’d like to share that can really help to eliminate the low-hanging fruit of security vulnerabilities. Those are, static code analysis and dependency checking.

Static code analysis scans all of your code and looks for known vulnerable patterns. It won’t find complex flaws in business logic, but it’ll raise red flags if a developer ever adds something like Widget.where("name = #{name}") into the code. (For those who may not know, this opens a SQL injection vulnerability.)

Dependency checking looks at what 3rd party libraries are being used and their versions, and checks this data against a database of known vulnerabilities. For example, did you know the Administrate gem below version 0.1.5 has a CSRF vulnerability? How about any other gems in your Gemfile?

There are 2 great tools that can help us out in Ruby: Brakeman and Bundler-Audit.

Brakeman is an excellent open-source static code analysis tool with a number of options for tweaking its reports. Bundler-Audit will scan the Gemfile.lock and compare against the Ruby advisory db. These tools are great on their own, and each comes with an executable that can be run on the command line. However, manually running them every time you write new code or change gems adds extra work and is very easy to forget. Don’t worry, there’s a great, simple way to add them to our testing cycle, so that every time we run our tests, our code is analyzed as well.

First, you’ll need to add them to your Gemfile:

group :development, :test do
  gem 'brakeman', '~> 3.5'
  gem 'bundler-audit'

Next, create an after(:suite) hook in your spec_helper.rb:

config.after(:suite) do
    examples =
    after_hooks = ["brakeman -w2 -z --no-summary", "bundle-audit --update"]
    if examples.none?(&:exception)
      after_hooks.each do |hook_command|
        system("echo ' ' && #{hook_command}")
        exitstatus = $?.exitstatus
        exit exitstatus if exitstatus.nonzero?

That one is a little less obvious, so let me break it down a bit.

The first thing we do is grab all the examples that run. If any of our tests failed, we don’t run the hooks. If all the tests are green, then we’ll run brakeman. If it reports any vulnerabilities, it’ll exit with a nonzero status, per the -z flag. If all is good, we’ll move onto bundler-audit, which will update the advisory database and scan the Gemfile.lock.

Again, if vulnerabilities are reported, it’ll exit with a non-zero status code, which will cause the build to go red in your continuous integration service.

So that’s it, with very little code, and not much work, we’ve fully integrated static code analysis and dependency checking into our development lifecycle in a way that can’t be overlooked.