Black Hat

SOOS @ Black Hat USA 2022
August 9-11 | Booth #IC58

Is Python More Secure Than Java?

Computer science involves the learning and understanding of complex and intricate programming languages to develop sophisticated and secure applications, allowing for automatic and integrated functions. Python and Java are among the most popular languages because of their extensive libraries and evolving operations.  

While both languages are effective tools for any gifted programmer, choosing the right one for a project comes down to security and functionality. For many developers, Python comes out of the gate with an advantage: Its simplicity of design. Still, it is unwise to undervalue Java, a robust and capable option.  

As you weigh the pros and cons to determine which language is best for your application, it is vital to ask the question, “is Python more secure than Java?” With the commitment to open-source components and applications, security must be the primary concern, even if it comes at the expense of time or ease of use. To determine which programming language is superior, programmers must delve into the specifics of each: Their fundamental differences and their approach to security.  

What Is Java? 

Java is both a programming language — object-oriented— and a software platform. Developed in the mid-1990s, it is an integral component of many applications across the digital and software landscape. Programmers will recognize the syntax and rules of Java as being based on C and C++ languages. 

The primary reason for developing with Java is its portability and reach. Programs designed within the Java Virtual Machine are compatible with multiple devices — including laptops, desktops, mobile phones, and tablets — and operating systems — including Windows, macOS, and Linux. 

While there are many advantages to the Java programming language and its environment — the JVM, JRE, and API — it is crucial to acknowledge the differences between Java and JavaScript. Java code requires compiling, whereas JavaScript does not. However, Java can be run from anywhere while JavaScript cannot. 

The most impressive aspect of Java is its staying power. Despite the development of other popular programming languages in the decades since its inception, Java remains among the most popular languages for software development, primarily because of its versatility and scalability. 

Is Java Good for Cyber Security? 

As one of the first programming languages used in constructing and designing major operating systems, Java is a useful cyber security tool. While cyber adversaries can manipulate the language to reverse-engineer proprietary applications and discover vulnerabilities or exploits, experienced, ethical hackers often create robust and sophisticated defenses against such malicious attacks. 

Companies interested in using Java to perform cyber security tasks will find it helpful across many applications. Some of the preferred uses of Java include: 

  • Organizing high-scaling servers used by penetration testers for payload deliveries 
  • Pen testing tasks 
  • Developing vulnerability testing programs 

Java, like many other languages, holds its own when it comes to cyber security. The language and environment provide tools for advanced access control functionality and authentication. The language is also termed a secure language and is preferred among many cyber security experts. Still, the pervading question is whether it is superior in the Python vs. Java security battle. 

What Is Python? 

The Python programming language is an attractive option for rapid application development because it uses simple syntax, making it easy to learn. Despite being a high-level, interpreted, object-oriented language with dynamic semantics and high-level built-in data structures, Python’s dynamic binding and typing capabilities create a readable and cost-effective solution for program development and maintenance. 

Supporting packages and modules, Python encourages code reuse and program modularity, allowing for greater time efficiency and productivity throughout the development process. The extensive standard library and interpreter — available in source or binary form — are accessible across all major platforms, permitting a free distribution channel. 

Programmers prefer Python because of increased productivity and its lack of a compilation step. With the interpreter’s edit-test-debug cycle, developers can quickly scan their code and project for errors without fearing a segmentation failure. The source-level debugger provides several advantages, including: 

  • Inspection of global and local variables 
  • Evaluation of arbitrary expressions 
  • Line-by-line inspections 
  • Setting breakpoints 

Python is a simple and effective programming language that allows for rapid development and introspective testing. Aside from being a functional programming language, it also provides several cyber security advantages. 

Is Python Good for Cyber Security? 

With its growing popularity among developers, Python is a dominant language in cyber security. Because the language is a server-side scripting language and is relatively easy to learn, it is often used in cyber security situations.  

While Python’s simplicity is a vulnerability, it is also a strength for security experts because it allows for the quick automation of tasks, like malware analysis. The available third-party script library is also helpful in resolving or patching specific security issues.  

Cyber security experts can use the programming language to create or deploy tools and applications to secure a project. Some of the most common uses of Python in cyber security include: 

  • Penetration testing 
  • Malware detection 
  • Scanning for security threats 
  • Analyzing threats 

While the expansive libraries, code readability, and clear syntax make Python a popular language, it does not prove that it is more secure than Java. Only by examining the key differences between each language in terms of security can a real winner be determined in the Python vs. Java security debate. 

Java vs. Python Security: Key Differences 

Java is a robust and dependable programming language, but it is a bit cumbersome and challenging to learn for some, which is why Python is growing in popularity. When it comes to security, a cyber security expert can write or develop secure applications using either language. However, because Java includes advanced authentication, access control, and access to features like cryptography, it can deliver a more secure end-product. 

That said, the programming language preferred might depend on the industry and specific business needs. Traditional financial institutions prefer Java because of its longevity and dependability; the language’s over two-decade history makes it instrumental across many institutions. However, FinTech startups require several features of a programming language, including: 

  • Ease of use 
  • High performance 
  • Ready-made libraries 
  • Scalability 
  • Rapid deployment 

For FinTech, Python is the undeniable winner despite a few security shortcomings. Despite its victory in one industry, Python is likely a fad compared to Java’s staying power, but that depends on how future enterprises develop and how each language can evolve to meet the needs and demands of the landscape. 

Is Python as Secure as Java? 

Both Python and Java are termed secure languages, but Java is superior because of the number of security options and integrations. Python’s primary advantage is its simplicity and minimal code design, allowing for rapid development and streamlined programming. However, while Python provides an easy-to-debug and simple language, it falls short compared to the grand-daddy of programming languages. 

Java is more secure than Python, which is why traditional financial institutions use it. The ability to integrate advanced authentication functions and control access helps to keep web applications safe. The language also uses bytecode, and every time code is compiled, it produces a class file with its corresponding bytecode. The JVM then tests the code for viruses and malware.  

While Python is not as secure as Java, a trained programmer is more than capable of securing an application with either language. Most projects will probably fare better using Java to ensure security, but if speed is more important than robust authentication and access control, Python is acceptable. 

Can Python Replace Java? 

Every so often, new programmers will spark the debate about the continued efficacy of Java, claiming it is a dead language or that it is irrelevant with the countless other programming languages available. Despite the common conversation and arguments, Java isn’t going anywhere. 

Python is a popular language; it is easy to use, and it allows for quick development. Unfortunately, Python is not as secure as Java. Industries and institutions that require robust authentication and restrictive access protocols will likely never switch to Python. 

Another area where Java succeeds over Python is the principle of write once, read anywhere. Java has cross-platform capability, but Python does not, requiring a Python compiler to write and run code. 

Java might be an old language compared to other languages, but it has not yet reached its end. Java is still an integral part of several industries and products, and most programmers still prefer the language over newer rivals like Python. 

While Java is a superior language, that does not mean applications are free of threats. Anytime programmers use OSS within a project, they open themselves up to possible vulnerabilities regardless of the programming language. Security risks are just a part of doing business because all developers must use open-source components to meet the demand of existing and evolving markets.  While using Java is a good starting point, programmers and companies should look to OSS vulnerability scanning tools, like those provided through SOOS, to ensure their code is free of issues before publication. For a low monthly fee of $99, you can protect your projects. Sign up and use the language you prefer. 

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