Software composition analysis is an essential piece of web development and application security. The growing dependency on such tools has created a crowded and competitive market niche, making it challenging for companies to select the right tool for their business. As an organization weighs the different features and capabilities of available tools, it must determine the characteristics that are most beneficial to its operation. SCA tool selection, then, comes down to understanding the purpose and possibilities of particular software and weighing that against the company’s needs.
The Importance of Having an SCA Software Composition Analysis Tool
Modern web development uses numerous OSS components to streamline and accelerate application and project schedules. The use of open source components creates greater efficiency, but it also results in greater exposure to risks. Software composition analysis helps pinpoint vulnerabilities and dependencies within OSS, alerting development teams and allowing them to resolve conflicts and problems in the early stages of production. Early detection eliminates significant security threats and removes some of the pressure and setbacks common among overloaded security teams.
Governance and SCA Solutions
One significant benefit of SCA tools is the ability to control governance and policy settings. With the appropriate settings, a program can provide visibility of OSS across an entire portfolio while offering automated and manual control. The tool typically features automated policy enforcement with simultaneous access to reports and real-time threats. Additionally, the right software should include specific options for developers, integrating into their environment and providing alerts and remediation suggestions.
Developers and SCA Tools
When selecting an SCA option for developers, it is critical to choose a program that assists with locating license compliance issues and vulnerability remediation. It should integrate seamlessly with native environments and be capable of early notification of OSS components and usage issues. All SCA insights should include actionable information allowing for rapid mitigation of existing threats and problems.
How Does SCA Support DevSecOps in Your Organization?
DevSecOps, DevOps Security, or rugged DevOps is a methodology designed around the idea of full security integration: from design and planning to development, production, deployment, maintenance, and testing. The primary purpose of an SCA scanner tool is to allow the sharing of security responsibilities across legal, security, IT, and development teams.
Traditional open-source management practices created disengaged cultures. Management might block specific components while initiating open-source security standards without alerting or acknowledging development teams. In other instances, developers used personal tools to avoid and detect OSS vulnerabilities without providing visibility to external auditors or other team members. The adoption of an all-inclusive SCA tool means universal visibility and compliance throughout the company.
SCA Open-Source Technology Features
There is no single evaluation standard when comparing various SCA tools. The primary focus of selection is how the tool fits into development and corporate operations and what capabilities are most beneficial to maintaining minimal risk throughout the development and production process. While every business has different expectations, there are at least four essential features every SCA tool should possess:
- Vulnerability detection
- Vulnerability remediation suggestions
- Open-source license compliance vetting
- Inventory management
Evaluating the SCA Tool
With the absence of standard evaluation metrics, comparing SCA tools can feel like a laborious task. Ibrahim Haddad, PhD., of the Linux Foundation, sympathized with the consumer experience of tool selection and decided to develop an updated and shapeable framework for evaluating SCA programs against corporate and development needs. The proposed evaluation criteria include nine distinct tool characteristics to focus on, making the selection of a program much easier and less intimidating.
1. Vulnerability Detection
Early detection of vulnerabilities is paramount to reducing future application or website risks. Once an exploit is known, it is public knowledge, and it is only a matter of time before hackers can breach and compromise the code and business.
When evaluating different SCA tools investigate source libraries, updating schedules, automation alerts, and their level of accuracy. Many programs will have some false positives, but the rate of false positives should not hinder security protocols or lead to the sidelining of legitimate threats and issues.
2. Vulnerability Remediation
Mitigating open source risks requires early vulnerability detection. However, it is not enough to detect an issue; development teams also need to remediate the problem by updating the code or swapping out the OSS. Unfortunately, without accurate details and prioritization, a team can struggle to make all necessary changes to ensure the stability and security of an application or project.
An SCA tool must locate all vulnerabilities, apply a priority ranking, and provide remediation options. The right tool can provide these insights during the development stage with the onboarding of each new open-source component.
3. Ease of Use & Reporting
A good SCA tool is beneficial for the entire engineering and security team, providing insight into compliance and security issues as they arise. The software should be intuitive, requiring little training or need for support. The easier the user experience, the more likely the development team is to use it.
When selecting an SCA program, it is vital to understand who will use it. In most companies, management, engineering, security, and development teams will need access to the program. Therefore, the software must allow for various levels of computer and tech literacy.
Management will require in-depth reporting capabilities, but the design of the dashboard and interface should also have developers in mind. For instance, the SCA tool must support fully integrated and UI-less solutions, complying with developer workflows.
4. Inventory Management
Inventory management is crucial to the software development life cycle because it provides visibility of all open-source components. With adequate inventories, developers and managers can inspect security, licensing, and compliance needs across the OSS portfolio, including direct and indirect dependencies.
A powerful SCA tool allows for automated inventory management, removing considerable time constraints from development teams. The program should also support various languages and frameworks, primarily those of the company’s projects and environments, and it should be capable of detecting transitive dependencies for complete transparency.
5. Operational Capabilities
According to the Linux Foundation, the operational capabilities of an SCA program should include the support of CI/CD systems, numerous programming languages, and varying auditing models and M&A activities. While handling these complex tasks is necessary, the software must also manage these tasks at an acceptable speed.
Every business must be cautious of integrating a program that threatens to slow down operations, especially when it is meant to boost efficiency. An SCA tool should complete a scan in only a few minutes; any longer, and there is a risk of it interfering with productivity.
6. Integration Capabilities
While integrating an SCA tool into an existing project is an admirable goal, full corporate integration is the best way to utilize the program. The software should include compatibility with existing and future compliance policies, offer support for current CI/CD systems, have a rich API for more demanding use cases, and combine effectively with existing developer workflows.
7. Updated Database
A tool’s vulnerability database is only as effective as the resources used to establish it and the frequency it is updated. While single sources such as the NVD serve a purpose, they do not provide enough insight into current threats or issues. An SCA tool should collect vulnerability information from multiple sources and should update often.
Aside from the true positive rate and recall, an SCA program must be precise. When evaluating various SCA tools for accuracy and precision, there are several factors to consider:
- False positives/noise ratio
- Dependency identification
- Vulnerability scanning and run-time accuracy
- Exploit probabilities
8. Support for Deployment Models
Many SCA tools allow for hosting variety. A company can opt for on-site, cloud-based, or hybrid hosting models. On-site deployment options provide the most control over proprietary information, but cloud-based and hybrid options reduce the expense at the backend, allowing customers to save money. Every company differs on the proper variance for its operations. For help selecting a suitable deployment model, consider contacting a security expert for more information.
9. The Associated Costs
When evaluating different SCA tools, a business must consider the expense. There are several costs to consider, including:
- Initial integration
Businesses can further break the price down into direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include the tool’s price and its associated fees, as well as integration or pilot costs resulting from installation and infrastructure expenses. Depending on the hosting selection of the company, infrastructure upgrades might be substantial.
When discussing indirect costs, a company is primarily looking into the expense of labor. A quality SCA tool can identify hundreds or possibly thousands of vulnerabilities within a system’s code, amounting to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars annually if developers find solutions for all or most issues.
Understand the Key Metrics When Evaluating SCA Tools
The tech industry undergoes continuous dynamic changes from year to year and month to month. While every developer and industry professional understands the need for software composition analysis, the lack of consensus over benchmarks for source code scanning makes evaluation difficult. However, some characteristics and capabilities can help managers, operators, and development teams choose the right program for their needs:
- Low noise rate
- Thorough vulnerability database
- Ease of integration
Is There an Easy Way for Selecting the Right SCA Tool?
Using the Linux Foundation’s benchmark repositories, it is possible to test different providers, but this is only available for static analysis. Customers, developers, and enterprises need to push for industry standards, allowing for the direct comparison of various SCA products to make it easy to differentiate between tools and make a quick analysis of essential features. SOOS’ founder, Josh Jennings, experienced these same frustrations himself with so much confusion around features, pricing, and user seats when trying to assess the available OSS vulnerability scanning tools. SOOS was born out of Josh’s motivation to build a tool that would suit all of his needs while keeping it affordable and accessible to everyone! SOOS provides unlimited scans to unlimited users for one low monthly fee. Sign up and start scanning your projects today!