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Cut Out C and C++ Code Says Coker

Wait, what?
Emory Odom
Contributing Writer

The Biden administration, through it’s Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD), has proposed a transition in software development practices, suggesting a move from traditional programming languages like C and C++, known for their memory management issues, to memory-safe languages such as Rust, Python, and Java.

National Cyber Director Harry Coker emphasized the need for this shift, stating, “To reduce the attack surface in cyberspace, we must eliminate entire classes of vulnerabilities at scale.”

While the initiative aims to bolster cybersecurity, it also introduces a set of practical challenges for the industry to consider.

Examining the Proposed Languages

The administration’s recommendation for Rust, Python, and Java is rooted in their capabilities to enhance memory safety in software development. Rust, in particular, is noted for its balance between safety and performance, making it a compelling option for system-level applications.

However, the transition to these languages necessitates a thorough evaluation of their fit for various development contexts, especially where legacy systems and performance criteria are concerned.

Navigating the Transition for Legacy Systems

Acknowledging the complexity of moving away from deeply embedded languages like C and C++, a senior administration official remarked, “Migrating to memory-safe code…could become a multi-decade effort depending on the size of a company.”

This seemingly acknowledges the scale of such a change but also illustrates the government’s increasing readiness to engage with complex, long-term issues in the tech domain.

Corporate Leadership and the Government’s Expanding Role

The initiative reflects a broader expectation for corporate leadership to prioritize cybersecurity at a strategic level. The administration’s hope for memory safety to become a boardroom topic indicates a desire for a top-down approach to tech security. However, this push also brings to light the intricate dance between government directives and the need for companies to maintain agility and innovation.

The government’s role in dictating specific technological directions prompts a broader discussion on the implications of such influence for the sector’s future growth and diversity.



“To reduce the attack surface in cyberspace, we must eliminate entire classes of vulnerabilities at-scale, by securing the building blocks of cyberspace.”

Harry Coker, National Cyber Director

The Wrap

The government’s recommendation for a shift towards memory-safe programming languages is indicative of a broader trend of increased governmental involvement in technological and cybersecurity domains. While the aim of reducing vulnerabilities is clear and shared across the board, the initiative also brings into focus the potential implications of such a directive.

It raises pertinent questions about the extent of government influence in technology development and the balance that needs to be struck to ensure both secure and innovative digital ecosystems.

As the industry grapples with these changes, the dialogue between government, industry leaders, and the wider tech community will be crucial in navigating the complexities of adopting new practices in a way that supports continued technological advancement while meeting national security needs.

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