The integration of open-source software into websites and applications allows for rapid deployment of new functionality and delivering on high-impact projects. While the benefits of using open-source software outweigh the risks, developers and companies cannot deny that risks exist, which is the reason for SCA tools.
With OSS, the author is often unknown. As well, because the software is open-source, it can have several authors or contributors. When unknown authors are working on a program, it is challenging to know their intent.
Most OSS developers only want to help, but some have malicious motives. Moreover, it is not only the author’s intent a programmer needs to worry about. Some users of OSS will uncover flaws in the code but keep their findings hush-hush, allowing them to capitalize on the vulnerability when it is uploaded into other programs, systems, or sites.
The key to protecting software is pre-emptive screening for vulnerabilities. Developers need to implement best security practices into workflows before allowing code to go live. Several tools help developers scour a program’s code for potential weaknesses, and one of the best is a software composition analysis tool, which can provide static and dynamic screening, allowing for current and future risk assessment of assets.
What Is SCA Software Composition Analysis?
The risks associated with OSS go beyond public knowledge concerns. While unknown authors, user motives, and ingrained vulnerabilities are concerning, there are other threats or compromises to consider, including:
- Lack of support and security
- Absence of warranties
- Intellectual property concerns
- Operational insufficiencies
- Integration oversight
- Developer practices
A team of developers working against a tight deadline should not be solely responsible for investigating, patching, and defining all vulnerabilities, especially against an ever-growing list of issues, yet they often are. They need tools that provide insight and an additional set of eyes to automatically scan existing code against the plethora of problems.
Software composition analysis tools exist to help programmers manage and analyze OSS elements. While vulnerability scanners can also help to a degree, SCA tools are more robust and thorough, with feature-rich designs. These dependable tools allow developers to quickly scan code for security risks, policy and license compliance, and version updates.
SCA software composition analysis tools should integrate seamlessly into developer workflows. The automated scans should not interfere with development progress. When factored into the beginning stages of development and throughout the process, SCA can save a significant amount of time, money, and energy on the backend.
The SCA Tools’ Importance
From a security and productivity standpoint, an SCA tool is a critical component of OSS management and developer best practices. On a macro level, software composition analysis helps counter future remediation costs by highlighting vulnerabilities before launch. On a micro-level, when factored into the initial stages of development, SCA prevents hiccups later that lead to production delays.
The primary benefit of using an SCA tool is its ability and reliability to map and detect OSS vulnerabilities that are impossible to identify by other means. The tool can provide a full accounting of the OSS application, and beyond that, it continues to monitor for new threats and vulnerabilities as they are discovered.
With estimates of 70% of applications containing OSS vulnerabilities, there is a significant threat to businesses in terms of costs. SCA tools — integrated throughout the development lifecycle — significantly reduce the risks of exposure. The tool’s purpose is to identify compliance and vulnerability issues, allowing teams to fix the problem before launch. While using a software composition analysis SCA tool to mitigate risks is enough of a benefit to justify the importance of its use, there are several other advantages to the tool as well.
The SCA Benefits
According to findings from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, 2021 represents the fifth straight year of a record number of vulnerabilities. Over 18,000 vulnerabilities were reported in 2021. The report was not all bad, though, as the number of high severity vulnerabilities was lower than in 2020.
While severe threats are down, the risks to integral components and systems are still enough to cause concern. SCA can provide security and protection against the growing number of risks, making this software increasingly advantageous.
First, the tool can automatically track OSS components. Because the tool is consistently updated, developers gain exceptional visibility. Additionally, SCA provides a detailed breakdown of vulnerabilities, dependencies, and licenses through the Bill of Materials.
Second, SCA tools make use of continuous scanning rather than static scanning. Most vulnerability scanners are deployed before publication in a static environment. While static scanning is valid, it can leave websites and applications vulnerable. Software composition analysis uses continuous monitoring, even in live applications. The tool can send alerts to developers based on preprogrammed triggers, providing greater visibility.
Third, SCA allows for vulnerability remediation that is prioritized and automated. Automation is crucial to modern workflows. While manual assessments were possible in the ’90s, those times have long since passed.
Finally, a software composition analysis tool can help developers maintain license compliance. There are more than 200 OSS license types, and the penalties for violating those licenses can be costly. An SCA tool helps limit the risks associated with compliance issues by verifying the types of licenses in use.
What to Consider Before Buying a Software Composition Analysis Tool?
While companies can opt for closed-source components, OSS is a necessity with the rate of development in the marketplace. The growing need is likely the reason OSS continues to see unabated growth.
It is the rapid development of OSS that makes it so valuable for commercial development. However, with the increasing reliance on OSS, integrating security tools that act with speed and automation is vital to DevOps teams.
The right SCA tool is integral to a long-term open-source strategy. When reviewing tools for software composition analysis SCA, there are many things to consider, including use and management.
Discovery of Security Software Vulnerabilities
While an SCA tool is valuable and automated, it is only as capable as the developer controlling it. Programmers must understand the open-source components in their project. SCA tools typically cover multiple languages, and it is up to the development team to choose a tool that includes the languages currently in use and ones that might be used in the future.
Additionally, different tools use various discovery methods. While scanning package managers are efficient and quick, if not sophisticated enough, they can miss OSS, mainly if it includes modifications or was pieced together from copies.
Finally, developers may require a tool capable of working without accessing the source code. In such instances, a development team will need a program capable of scanning binaries.
Integration Into Existing Workflows
It is not enough to adopt a tool for vulnerability discovery; progress and efficiency require seamless integration into workflows. A development team needs an SCA tool to work with tools already in use, and it needs to do so across the software development lifecycle.
While an SCA tool is effective in the later stages of software development, it is best to implement the tool as early in the process as possible. Using the software earlier in the integrated development environment allows developers to make more informed decisions about OSS, potentially avoiding late-stage issues and reducing remediation efforts later.
Early adoption and effective integration allow for greater team efficiency. The automation of discovery means fewer issues find their way into the codebase, with the few exceptions diverted directly to familiar tools.
Using a tool compatible with other application security testing tools can also create a more integrated and efficient experience for teams. For instance, using an SCA tool with static application security testing often provides higher-fidelity results.
Review of License Compliance and Information
People often reference Apache Struts or other major breaches when discussing OSS’s financial and security risks. While vulnerabilities are costly when not correctly remediated, license compliance presents an equal, if not greater, the financial risk to companies and developers.
Many license problems occur because of lax OSS adoption policies. It is normal for programmers to try and save time with open-source code during development. Unfortunately, it is easier for compliance issues to arise without appropriate policies upfront.
Having an SCA tool to review license information and compliance practices reduces overall risk, but the tool will still need additional support through policy definitions. Once the team sets the policy, the program can weed through the code to ensure appropriate use.
While an SCA tool is beneficial and reduces inappropriate use of OSS, it is only as capable as the code running it. A development team needs to find tools with expansive license coverage and comprehensive and sophisticated discovery methods. The more advanced and versatile the instrument, the more effective it is at reviewing license details and compliance.
Updates of Critical Vulnerability Data
SCA tools are known for producing or compiling a complete BOM. Knowing the existence and location of vulnerabilities is only part of the tools process.
The tool’s effectiveness depends on identification, prioritization, and remediation guidance. Without prioritizing the threats, a development or security team will spend valuable time patching or fixing things that do not require immediate attention, creating delays and costly missteps. The tool should also provide remediation suggestions, making code repairs simpler and more efficient.
When selecting a tool, developers want to find one with a dedicated research team focused on continually augmenting data and updating definitions and fixes. Without continuous updates and with the growing number of vulnerabilities, a stagnant tool will quickly become obsolete, leaving an application vulnerable to exploits.
However, continuous updating is not enough if the sources of the information are too few. The effectiveness of SCA tools often relies on the diversity of its data sources. For instance, while the National Vulnerability Database is an excellent resource, it is not the best for timely updates. Tools that rely on the NVD alone will leave clients open to exploits and attacks.
Secure your Software With SCA
There is no denying the opportunities provided with OSS. The ability to integrate pre-made components rather than build everything from scratch saves time, allowing for the rapid development required in the digital age. However, with increased opportunities comes inevitable and growing risks.
The anonymity and potential lack of sophistication in OSS mean developers take on an inevitable risk when using it. SCA software composition analysis tools help mitigate that threat by uncovering the underlying components within a project and identifying known vulnerabilities. The device then prioritizes the dangers and provides potential remediation tactics to make repair straightforward.
Even with the automation of the tool, its effectiveness depends on early deployment in the SDLC. With early integration into the IDE, developers can work to correct issues before they cause significant delays or costs.
Securing development projects using SCA is not a choice when using OSS; it is necessary. Without implementing the tool, businesses and developers are leaving themselves vulnerable to attacks and systemic complications.
SOOS is the OSS software security solution for everyone, from lone developers to corporate development teams. Most codebases contain OSS, and most of those bases contain known vulnerabilities in the dependency tree. Beyond vulnerabilities, many codebases have license conflicts resulting in potential financial trouble. Programmers and companies cannot afford to ignore security best practices.
With a quality SCA tool, such as SOOS’s, developers can receive comprehensive security information and compliance reports early in the SDLC. The tool is also helpful for audits, quick scans, and ad-hoc compliance work.
As a trusted partner of Stratton Aviation, Boxcar, SCOUT Digital, and more, developers know that SOOS is a name they can trust. Ignoring the risks of OSS integration is no longer an option, especially with a growing number of vulnerabilities every year. SOOS makes security accessible and affordable — there are no individual quotes or frustrating tier levels. With SOOS, developers have access to the entire system with no limits. Development teams can try the SOOS system for free when they sign up. No credit card is required, and no long-term commitments.