CodeGym /Java Blog /Random /Safety First. Is Java Called a Secure Language For a Good...
Level 41

Safety First. Is Java Called a Secure Language For a Good Reason?

Published in the Random group
There are many good things about Java as a programming language. It is elegant yet powerful, cross-functional, and platform-independent. With being object-oriented and portable as it’s most widely mentioned strengths, another major advantage of Java tends to stay overshadowed, so newcomers often have limited understanding of all the benefits of studying Java instead of another programming language, to make the right choice. Have you ever heard Java being called a secure programming language? It is, and rightfully so. Safety First. Is Java Called a Secure Language For a Good Reason? - 1 So we thought it may be the time to shed some light on this, and explain why Java is called a secure language and in what way it is secure exactly.

What makes Java a secure language?

Is Java safe? There is a number of reasons to call Java a secure programming language, although saying Java is more secure compared to a number of other languages would be the proper way to put it since these features don’t actually make Java absolutely secure, they just mainly improve the safeness of Java code execution.
  • Bytecode verification.
Bytecode verification is one of the core features ensuring the safety of Java code. A bytecode verification means that Java uses a compiler, which reads Java code and translates it into a machine-independent bytecode representation. This allows to make sure that only legitimate bytecodes are executed, and no malicious code can enter the system. The compiler checks that the bytecodes conform to the Java Language Specification and do not violate Java language rules or namespace restrictions. The code is also checked for a number of other ‘red flags,’ like illegal data typecasts, stack underflows and overflows, or memory management violations. To explain it in a simpler way, Java programs are compiled as bite code, which then runs inside a virtual machine, and cannot access the computer it runs on. It makes this code much safer to use, protecting users from all kinds of malware.
  • Automated memory management.
Another important feature of Java as a safe language is automatic memory management and garbage collection, which is also what makes Java a much easier language for a coder since Java automatically takes care of all the internal memory issues and data management systems. This allows the programmer not to be concerned about memory issues at all when creating a program, focusing on other important things instead. Garbage collection, for example, automatically frees the memory when this is required. By the way, another major perk of all this management automation in Java is the fact that it reduces the overall development costs (since a number of important functions and processes are automated). Lower development costs is one of the main reasons why Java is so popular in enterprise development all around the world — it is more beneficial for businesses to use Java instead of other languages.
  • No pointers.
Unlike many other programming languages, C and C+ for example, that use pointer values to manage application memory, there is no concept of pointers in Java. Although originally designed as a security measure (to protect private data from thieves), pointers also can be a major vulnerability in the case when some kind of malefactors manage to get access to them since pointers don’t have a way to verify authorization in them, basically allowing anyone to access the application’s memory. Java, as we said, doesn’t use pointers, relying on its data management systems and internal memory instead, as a way to protect the data from any unauthorized access. This makes it pretty much impossible for hackers to infiltrate Java application’s memory. Understandably, this is another reason why Java is popular in enterprise development, among large businesses looking to design their applications to be as safe as possible while keeping their private data secure from cybercriminals.
  • Java compiler automatically checks, detects, and fixes errors in code.
Automatic checking of code for errors is another important feature of Java that makes it more secure. The compiler checks the code, detects errors, warns the programmer about these arrows, and suggests ways to fix them. This, again, simplifies the programmer’s work, makes Java applications a lot more stable, and, ultimately, reduces the development costs (reason number 1 for pretty much any company). As for the security part of it, this also minimizes the chances of external malicious code entering into your program making unauthorized modifications to it.
  • Java does automatic data type checking.
Besides checking code for errors, Java Compiler also automatically examines variables in the code, to make sure there are no security concerns that can arise from data entry mistakes in variables. This is another way to protect the system from infiltration and data from being stolen.

What Java components actually make it secure?

As for the specific Java components that play the most important role in its security, here’s a quick list just to give you a clearer understanding, on a basic level, of how it works and what exactly makes Java secure.
  • Java Virtual Machine (JVM).
JVM, being a virtual machine that runs bytecode representation of a Java program, obviously plays a very important role in the overall security of Java. Using JVM allows you to block any potentially unsafe operations of a program.
  • Java Cryptography Architecture (JCA).
Java Cryptography Architecture is a framework that allows you add cryptographic functionality for the Java platform. Using Java Cryptography Architecture guarantees that your data will be encrypted and stay secure.
  • Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).
Public Key Infrastructure is another framework, which allows you to apply public-key achieve a secure exchange of data. Using PKI, you can tie identities to digital certificates, and verify the authenticity of certificates when needed.
  • Security Manager.
The security manager in Java is basically a class, which allows applications to implement a security policy, defines the security policy for them, and allows a programmer to set a security level for an app.
  • Java Sandbox.
Java sandbox is a program area to run Java applets, which restricts what an applet can do to make sure it won’t compromise the security and can’t get to system resources without the safety check.


Do professional Java developers with years of experience believe this language is secure? Here’s a couple of quotes. “I would say Java isn’t secure as such (no programming language is), but the JVM offers features that provide security. So while Java will not protect you from everything, it’ll protect you from a whole class of problems which are caused by buffer overruns,” said Garry Taylor, an experienced programmer and CTO of Black Spark Media company. “Java improves security by confining an applet to the Java execution environment and not allowing it to access other parts of the computer. The ability to download applets with confidence that no harm will be done and that no security will be breached is considered by many to be the single most innovative aspect of Java,” noted Smit Prakash, a software engineer at IBM.


So, is Java secure? Summing it up, Java definitely has a number of great features and built-in tools that make it more secure. Many of these features play an important role in the overall popularity of Java, especially in the enterprise market, since they allow companies to effectively protect their data from unauthorized access, while also automating a number of development processes that are not automated by other languages. But, as much as we love to brag about Java and how great it is, Java is still far from being completely secure. In fact, none of the programming languages is fully secure, with each having its own strengths and weaknesses (vulnerabilities). Generally speaking, C is considered to be the most vulnerable programming language out there. Java, despite having a number of great security features described above, is still vulnerable on the server-side, and can suffer from exploits, experts say.