Curry On
July 18-19th, 2016

Are We Ready for Secure Languages?
Cristina Cifuentes
Oracle Labs


Language designers and developers want better ways to write good code — languages designed with simpler, more powerful abstractions accessible to a larger community of developers. However, language design does not seem to take into account security, leaving developers with the onerous task of writing attack-proof code. In 20 years, we have gone from 25 reported vulnerabilities to 6,883 vulnerabilities. We see some of the most common vulnerabilities happening in commonly used software — cross-site scripting, SQL injections, and buffer overflows. Attacks are becoming sophisticated, often exploitation three or four weaknesses; making it harder for developers to reason about the source of the problem.

I’ll overview some recent attacks and argue our languages must take security seriously. Languages need security-oriented constructs, and compiler must let developers know when there is a problem with their code. We need to empower developers with the concept of “security for the masses” by making available languages that do not necessarily require an expert in order to determine whether the code being written is vulnerable to attack or not.


Cristina is the Director of Oracle Labs Australia and an Architect at Oracle. Headquartered in Brisbane, the focus of the Lab is Program Analysis as it applies to finding vulnerabilities in software and enhancing the productivity of developers worldwide.

Prior to founding Oracle Labs Australia, Cristina was the Principal Investigator of the Parfait bug tracking project at Sun Microsystems, then Oracle. Today, Oracle Parfait has become the defacto tool used by thousands of Oracle developers for bug and vulnerability detection in real-world, commercially sized C/C++/Java applications. The success of the Parfait tool is founded on the pioneering work in advancing static program analysis techniques carried out by Cristina’s team of Researchers and Engineers at Oracle Labs Australia.

Cristina’s passion for tackling the big issues in the field of Program Analysis began with her doctoral work in binary decompilation at Queensland’s University of Technology. In an interview with Richard Morris for Geek of the Week, Cristina talks about Parfait, Walkabout and her career journey in this field.

Prior to her work at Oracle and Sun Microsystems, Cristina held teaching posts at major Australian Universities, co-edited Going Digital, a landmark book on cybersecurity, and served on the executive committees of ACM SIGPLAN and IEEE Reverse Engineering.

Cristina continues to play an active role in the international programming language, compiler construction and software security communities. On the weekends, she channels her interests into mentoring young programmers through the CoderDojo network.