What are the Risks of Using Open Source Components That You Must Consider?

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Open Source Software (OSS), in the form of third-party software, enjoys prolific use among individuals and companies worldwide. An unprecedented number of application components – libraries and frameworks – dominate the app market in the public domain. These are used by developers to modify, share, and augment source code.

OSS enjoys global adoption and is ubiquitous in the online arena. The world’s premier corporations, notable among them Microsoft, Chase, Walmart, JPMorgan, and countless others, have fully embraced Open Source Software in daily operations.

The ability to rapidly develop software gives companies a competitive advantage. It is often the differentiator between the service offerings of different companies. For example, a report found that 64% of SMEs reported application development backlogs, with many SMEs reporting a substantial queue in apps under development. Such is the significance of OSS technology that: there was a 40% growth rate between 2018 and 2019. By 2023, this slowed to 14%, but remains a significant growth industry.

Naturally, there are inherent benefits and risks to using OSS. Since it is free to use, that’s a benefit, but there are compliance issues with specific obligations in effect. Licenses may or may not be required alongside the requisite attribution. Some licenses are permissive, while others are restrictive.

In order to mitigate open source risk, it’s imperative to implement a multi-pronged approach to deal with potential vulnerabilities in OSS.

Software vulnerability detection tools are sacrosanct. They can be used to identify weaknesses and license risks in open-source libraries. Exploitable paths require prioritized remediation. We know that third-party and OSS code is not risk-free. Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is a powerful remediating tool that tells you what to focus on, lists all your software components, and prioritizes your biggest risks.

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Vulnerable methods should be identified stat. Other important elements include malicious package detection, which serves as a buffer against malicious code impacting apps from OSS repositories. Many other security elements are designed to help companies understand OSS risk and guard against it.

Things like artificial intelligence-generated code scanning and private package scanning are cases in point.

Now, let’s turn our attention to the biggest issues – the downsides to OSS. These typically pertain to the inherent safety risks. For starters, it is difficult to comprehend the security of open-source software owing to the following:

  • Open Source Software can be modified easily. It can also be copied easily. It’s uncertain and unclear what types of OSS are widely used.
  • Open Source Software has a distributed nature. There is no central oversight authority that ensures quality standards, or maintenance thereof.
  • Open Source Software can include a multitude of errors, resulting in security breaches. It is freely available, and thousands of vulnerabilities are identified every year. These problematic OSS elements resulted in a high growth rate of vulnerabilities, year on year.

Table of OSS Risks

Risk Description
Publicity of exploits Vulnerabilities in OSS code are publicly accessible, making it easy for bad actors to exploit them against other projects. This increases the risk of targeted attacks, especially with poorly maintained code.
Licensing management Failure to comply with OSS licensing terms can lead to legal repercussions and loss of intellectual property rights. Companies must track and adhere to license terms to mitigate legal risks.
Acquisition complications OSS vulnerabilities can complicate mergers or acquisitions, as investors and acquiring companies scrutinize code for legal compliance and security. Inadequate documentation can disrupt business deals and lead to serious consequences.
Managing code Developers often overlook security and licensing concerns when selecting OSS libraries, leading to complex software with undisclosed vulnerabilities. Monitoring such software for security and stability becomes increasingly challenging.
Lack of security expertise Many developers lack security expertise, leading to the inadvertent introduction of security issues in code. Reliance solely on security teams may result in overlooked vulnerabilities, potentially leading to the release of insecure applications.

By implementing effective software protections, OSS security can be mitigated. The right solutions can minimize OSS risk, prioritize remediation, and build developer security trust. All these essential elements are required for the smooth, productive, and profitable running of SMEs.

By continuously managing the software supply chain, it’s possible to quickly identify restrictive OSS licenses, manage SBOM data, and gain an ongoing SBOM of declared/indirect third-party/OSS code packages.

SCA is a critical tool in the modern development of software management, particularly OSS. Full effective SCA usage delivers precise tracking and management of open-source software components. By targeting weaknesses/vulnerabilities, mitigating risk elements, and maintaining a vigilant presence, SCA analysis provides developers with a robust framework, protecting apps from security breaches.

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