Handling EI_EXPOSE_REP & EI_EXPOSE_REP2

Sudaraka Jayathilaka
2 min readApr 30, 2024

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SpotBugs is a great tool for static code analysis. Recently I got two similar warnings in one of the codebases I work on and I had to fix it.

EI_EXPOSE_REP & EI_EXPOSE_REP2 Warning definitions

You can find the official documentation for these two warnings in the SpotBugs documentation.

EI_EXPOSE_REP

This warning is mainly about exposing a mutable object from a class. Let’s take a class which has a mutable object such as a List.

public class MyClass {
private List<String> myList;

public MyClass() {
myList = new ArrayList<>();
}

public List<String> getMyList() {
return myList;
}
}

Now you can see that we are exposing the myList object via the getMyList() method. This means that anyone who has access to the MyClass object can modify the myList object. This is a clear violation of the encapsulation principle in OOP. This is where the EI_EXPOSE_REP warning comes in.

The Fix

We can mainly fix this using two approaches.

  1. Return an unmodifiable list from the getMyList() method. You can change the getMyList() method as follows.
public List<String> getMyList() {
return Collections.unmodifiableList(myList);
}

2. Return a copy of the list from the getMyList() method. You can change the getMyList() method as follows.

public List<String> getMyList() {
return List.copyOf(myList);
}

EI_EXPOSE_REP2

This warning is pretty much related to the previous warning. The only difference is that this warning is about keeping a reference to a mutable object within the class. Let’s take the same example we used in the previous warning.

public class MyClass {
private List<String> myList;

public MyClass(List<String> myList) {
this.myList = myList;
}
}

In the above example you can see how the constructor gets a reference to a mutable List from outside the class and assigns it to the myList field. This means that the caller can modify the myList object from outside of the class. This is again a clear violation of the encapsulation principle and a security risk.

The Fix

The fix for this warning is slightly different from the previous warning. You can fix this by,

  1. Creating a copy of the list when assigning it to the myList variable.
public MyClass(List<String> myList) {  
this.myList = List.copyOf(myList);
}

2. Creating an unmodifiable list when assigning it to the myList variable.

public MyClass(List<String> myList) {  
this.myList = Collections.unmodifiableList(myList);
}

Conclusion

These warnings can be really helpful given the right context. But in some cases, it might be an overkill to fix these warnings. So it’s always better to analyze the context and decide whether to fix these warnings or not. In case you want to ignore these warnings you can use the @SuppressFBWarnings annotation provided by SpotBugs.

@SuppressFBWarnings("EI_EXPOSE_REP")
public class MyClass {
private List<String> myList;

public MyClass() {
myList = new ArrayList<>();
}

public List<String> getMyList() {
return myList;
}
}

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