“Jumping Through Hoops”: Why do Java Developers Struggle With Cryptography APIs?
ISSN der Zeitschrift
Software Engineering 2017
Empirical Software Engineering 1
Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V.
To protect sensitive data processed by current applications, developers, whether security experts or not, have to rely on cryptography. While cryptography algorithms have become increasingly advanced, many data breaches occur because developers do not correctly use the corresponding APIs. To guide future research into practical solutions to this problem, we perform an empirical investigation into the obstacles developers face while using the Java cryptography APIs, the tasks they use the APIs for, and the kind of (tool) support they desire. We triangulate data from four separate studies that include the analysis of 100 StackOverflow posts, 100 GitHub repositories, and survey input from 48 developers. We find that while developers find it difficult to use certain crypto- graphic algorithms correctly, they feel surprisingly confident in selecting the relevant cryptography concepts (e.g., encryption vs. signatures). We also find that the APIs are generally perceived to be too low-level and that developers prefer more task-based solutions.