Software Composition Analysis

Your Comprehensive Guide: Software Composition Analysis and How to Leverage Its Features

The growing popularity of open-source software introduces additional risks associated with vulnerable libraries. As such, corporations have started to add supplemental security technologies such as program composition analysis, which checks code libraries for vulnerabilities. These technologies enable enterprises to decrease risk at an earlier point in the software development lifecycle (SDLC).

Businesses have manually monitored these vulnerabilities or sifted through enormous quantities of code to uncover them. Both techniques resulted in a waste of both time and money. Because open-source software is getting increasingly complex, software composition analysis, or SCA, has developed as a critical approach in recent years. SCA tools perform complete vulnerability analyses on software dependencies in a timely and predictable manner.

How to Select a Tool for Software Composition Analysis

The following are key features to search for in an SCA tool:

  • A Significant Open-Source Database. There is not yet a centralized source of information on any open-source elements, licenses, or vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, several sites catalogue publicly known vulnerabilities or open-source components from a certain vendor or distribution. On the other hand, having this information is necessary to ensure that actual risk visibility is maintained across the codebase. Tools for SCA need to make use of a broad variety of knowledge sources, and one of them should be original security research. As a result, the likelihood of correctly identifying the component and establishing a secure connection will be boosted.
  • Wide Range of Programming Language Support. SCA systems should be able to scan programs written in a wide range of programming languages, ranging from the most widely used to the most recently developed. To provide correct information on the related hazards, the open-source database’s language support should be aligned.
  • Producing Useful and Thorough Reports. SCA tools are meant to detect prospective licensing and security issues. This data, on the other hand, will only be useful if it is compiled into appropriate reports and distributed to those who can eliminate any hazards. The SCA tool should ideally contain a broad range of report options, interfaces, and APIs that will assist a wide range of stakeholders.
  • Prioritization and Repair. In today’s context, which is characterized by rapid release cycles and dispersed security and development teams, any SCA tool should include rules for prioritizing the most significant vulnerabilities and making recommendations for the required actions. When risks are appropriately prioritized and verified, significant time and resources may be saved, allowing teams to handle concerns more quickly. It is usual for these talents to be able to be combined with regulations to speed up the problem-solving process and avert massive issues.

Advantages of Software Composition Analysis (SCA)

Using an SCA tool as part of your company’s development process can give you several benefits, such as:

  • Licensing

Some businesses make the mistake of using open-source components that need licensing but do not have such licenses. With software composition analysis solutions, they may be able to save money by avoiding large fines. 

  • Vulnerability Management

The fundamental reason for utilizing SCA-enabled technology is to prevent forking programs with known vulnerabilities. These may be promptly discovered and, when feasible, remedied using SCA tools. If a problem patch is not available or cannot be provided quickly, the development team may decide to discontinue using that component entirely.

  • Bill of Materials

One of the main advantages of software component analysis is that documenting the open-source components used in a software bill of materials (SBOM)) can assist in the compilation of a software bill of materials. Sometimes, it may be a legal requirement to create an SBOM, and other times, it can be a need that potential customers have expressed.

Which Threats Can SCA Tools Detect?

SCA can detect many open-source software vulnerabilities. Modules or dependencies with known security weaknesses are examples of common security concerns. SCA tools may be able to identify malware in application source code if an attacker acquires access to an organization’s CI/CD tools and uses them to insert malicious code.

License violations may be detected using SCA tools. They can’t tell developers if their software is licensed properly, but they can alert them to open-source licensing for the programs they administer. Developers or open-source software compliance managers may review the license to ensure authorized code use.

SCA cannot identify every licensing or security issue. Only open-source code may be detected using SCA methods. It is doubtful that proprietary third-party code will be included in the databases used by SCA tools to manage source code when developers incorporate it into an application.