How do you Manage Security Risks in Open Source?

Open source is at the heart of almost every application. If you have ever developed a new application from scratch, the chance is very high that you’ve also built this on open source. In this post, I will outline security risks related to open source and give you a mitigation approach.

Reasons for open source

According to Gartner, 99% of mission-critical application portfolios within Global 2000 companies contains open source components. The complexity of our services is increasing. Users expect easy to use and responsive applications. At the same time, IT costs must be reduced. One approach to deal with this growing expectation and limited resources is building new applications on open source libraries which help developers to speed up their construction time.

Implementing critical functions such as encryptions or asynchronous processing can be both, time-consuming and challenging because there are many pitfalls involved. One being the in-depth knowledge of a particular topic which quickly leads to many hours of research. Another one being that the self-made component is erroneous. Therefore, many developers avoid reinventing the wheel and prefer open source components.

Risks

Your applications consist widely on open source libraries. I assume that you have a robust security test concept in place which also includes secure code scans according to industry standards. But, are you also aware of risks introduced by your open source components?

A static application security testing solution is unable to identify vulnerabilities without the actual source code. Typically, you don’t have the source of your open source libraries used in your business applications and your code scan solution will not point out any vulnerabilities within those.

Another often ignored risk are license terms of your open source components. While those libraries are free neglecting to comply with their requirements may result in business and technical risks.

Mitigations

First of all, you should be aware of all open source libraries are used across your applications and development projects. This open source inventory is essential because whenever a breach arises, you can quickly identify the affected application and apply a bugfix.

Secondly, regularly verify the known vulnerabilities in your open source libraries. Whenever you are using out-dated or vulnerable components, you should consider upgrading to the fixed version.

Finally, track what open source licenses you have used in your applications including their dependencies.

There are several secure code scan platforms out there which also provides an integrated solution for open source secure code analysis. Personally, I recommend using the Checkmarx Application Security Testing (CxSAST) solution.

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