Without a doubt, the role of open source is pivotal to software development across the board. Indeed, the software security corporation, Synopsys, has affirmed that open source constitutes seven out of ten lines of code on the average application. Among the most popular were jQuery which could be found in more than half (55%) of codebases, followed by Bootstrap with 40% and Font Awesome with 31%.
However, what is truly concerning is the widespread neglect among software developers to ensure that these codebases are updated and secured. In fact, following the analysis of more than 1,250 commercial codebases from 2019, it was revealed that a shocking 91% had components that were either more than four years out of date or had been abandoned altogether. As a result, leaving applications vulnerable to operational or compatibility issues, but more importantly, at significant risk of compromise.
In fact, out of these codebases, 75% are riddled with vulnerabilities having increased by 15% from the year prior, in 2018. While the Heartbleed bug and Apache Struts vulnerability employed in the 2017 Equifax breach no longer appear to be an active threat, 49% of high-risk vulnerabilities continue to endure.
“It’s difficult to dismiss the vital role that open source plays in modern software development and deployment, but it’s easy to overlook how it impacts your application risk posture from a security and license compliance perspective.
The 2020 OSSRA report highlights how organizations continue to struggle to effectively track and manage their open source risk.,” shares Tim Mackey, principal security strategist of the Synopsys Cybersecurity Research Center.
To aggravate the issue further, DevOps teams are walking on thin ice with regards to copyright law compliance. Indeed, 73% of audited codebases were found to have license conflicts or no discernable license at all.
With this in mind, Synopsys have offered a number of recommendations to mitigate the risks. First and foremost, software development teams should compile an accurate software inventory, or software ‘Bill Of Materials’ which highlights all open source components and their versions used. Indeed, Mackey adds that “Maintaining an accurate inventory of third-party software components, including open source dependencies, and keeping it up to date is a key starting point to address application risk on multiple levels.”
From there, it is pivotal that teams are not only vigilant about monitoring changes and the releases of new threats and vulnerabilities, but also have a plan of policies and procedures to proactively manage open source components. If the software is a fundamental aspect of the organisation’s valuation, then it might be worth hiring a third-party to audit the code. Last but not least, it is suggested that everyone from code writers to information security specialist to legal consultants, come together to contribute their talents in an open source community.