5 Reasons You Need Composition Analysis, Especially for OSS
5 Reasons You Need Composition Analysis, Especially for OSS
With open source tools growing more prevalent, here's why you should look into composition analysis.
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In this post, you will learn about software composition analysis (SCA). You will find out what software composition analysis is, why it is relevant, and five reasons you should use an SCA tool.
What Is Software Composition Analysis?
Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is an automated way to get visibility into all the components of an application. An SCA tool scans the source code of an application to provide an inventory of all its third-party, internal, and open source components, including libraries, operating systems, and frameworks.
In practice, organizations use Software Composition Analysis tools primarily to get an inventory of and properly manage their open source components. Manually going through every piece of software and identifying all components is a painstaking and inefficient task. SCA tools are also useful for license management and other reasons, which you’ll soon read about.
The Current State of Open Source
Developers use open source components as the building blocks for many commercial and internal applications at the organizations they work for. Modern development methods such as Agile, DevOps, and CI/CD are too fast-paced to facilitate coding everything from scratch. And with high-quality open source projects providing ready-made software functionality, there’s no need to do it all yourself.
However, the rush to adopt open source and speed up development without a prudent approach to managing its use has come at a high cost. Vulnerabilities in the open source supply chain continue to rise, and up to one in eight components downloaded by enterprises are vulnerable. These vulnerabilities enter supply chains for two main reasons:
Not Applying Patches
The most widely used open source projects have large numbers of developers actively maintaining and improving the code. But new vulnerabilities are often discovered, and you can only fix them by applying updates on time. The Equifax data breach happened because the company’s IT team failed to update a vulnerable Apache Struts version, with disastrous consequences.
Lack of Visibility
Not having visibility over open source components is an accident waiting to happen. First, vulnerabilities are bound to slip under the radar eventually. Second, it’s hard to apply updates on time to components that you haven’t clearly inventoried.
SCA is relevant because it provides visibility into open source components in an automated, efficient way, helping to find and remediate vulnerabilities faster. SCA’s usefulness extends beyond just visibility, though.
5 Reasons to Use an SCA Tool
A 2018 press release predicted the software composition analysis market to grow from 154 million to 398 million by 2022. Here are some of the reasons SCA is becoming essential for software security and compliance.
1. Properly Track Open Source Components
Outdated manual tracking methods such as spreadsheets and emails are not sufficient in modern development environments. With everything done at a helter-skelter pace, teams are bound to lose track of some open source components eventually. Open source use can only truly succeed when organizations address the basic security need to know exactly which components they are using.
SCA tools effortlessly create an inventory report of all open source components in your applications, including all dependencies. Most standard tools provide basic information like versions and license types for each open source component. More advanced tools come with additional features, such as the ability to highlight the security impact of components on applications and the location of vulnerabilities in the code.
2. License Management
Open source and third-party libraries, operating systems, and frameworks come with many different license types, some of which are more restrictive than others. Organizations that don’t comply with license terms risk exposure to litigation issues.
Copyleft licenses, for example, stipulate that users preserve their terms in any derivative works. Or there could be an instance in which a company pays for 40 licenses for a third-party library but they are using it in 50 of their applications.
SCA solutions help with license management by informing developers about license types for components and making it easier to abide by license terms.
3. SDLC Integration
Any tool that slows down developers is typically treated with disdain in an environment that values speed and innovation. The earliest generation of code scanners take too long to run, produce too many false positives, and don’t run alongside the SDLC. In other words, they are not compatible with modern development methods like DevOps.
SCA has evolved from code scanning tools to its modern format in which it integrates with development tools used at all stages of the SDLC, including repositories, build tools, and package managers.
4. Automated Policy Enforcement
Modern SCA solutions come with automated policy enforcement for complying with licenses and following company policies on open source use. Automated policy enforcement is possible by cross-referencing components with organizational policies and initiating automated approval workflows.
5. Continuous Open Source Management
The current generation of SCA tools can continuously monitor in real-time for security and vulnerability issues from open source components. Users also have the option to set up alerts so that they can respond quickly to newly discovered vulnerabilities in their software; both in development and already shipped.
Software composition analysis helps organizations discover all their open source components, which makes it easier to identify and mitigate open source vulnerability risk. SCA solutions align with modern development practices and they provide much-needed speed and automation in managing open source components. SCA is also useful for ensuring compliance with different license terms.
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