June 23, 2021


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Dealing with Variability in API Misuse Specification. (arXiv:2105.04950v1 [cs.CR])

APIs are the primary mechanism for developers to gain access to externally
defined services and tools. However, previous research has revealed API misuses
that violate the contract of APIs to be prevalent. Such misuses can have
harmful consequences, especially in the context of cryptographic libraries.
Various API misuse detectors have been proposed to address this issue including
CogniCrypt, one of the most versatile of such detectors and that uses a
language CrySL to specify cryptographic API usage contracts. Nonetheless,
existing approaches to detect API misuse had not been designed for systematic
reuse, ignoring the fact that different versions of a library, different
versions of a platform, and different recommendations or guidelines might
introduce variability in the correct usage of an API. Yet, little is known
about how such variability impacts the specification of the correct API usage.
This paper investigates this question by analyzing the impact of various
sources of variability on widely used Java cryptographic libraries including
JCA, Bouncy Castle, and Google Tink. The results of our investigation show that
sources of variability like new versions of the API and security standards
significantly impact the specifications. We then use the insights gained from
our investigation to motivate an extension to the CrySL language named
MetaCrySL, which builds on meta programming concepts. We evaluate MetaCrySL by
specifying usage rules for a family of Android versions and illustrate that
MetaCrySL can model all forms of variability we identified and drastically
reduce the size of a family of specifications for the correct usage of
cryptographic APIs