What is Software Composition Analysis?

Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is the process of automating the visibility into open source software (OSS) use for the purpose of risk management, security and license compliance. With the rise of open source (OS) use in software across all industries, the need to track components increases exponentially to protect companies from issues and open source vulnerabilities. Because the majority of software creation includes OS, manual tracking is difficult, requiring the need to use automation to scan source code, binaries and dependencies.

A SCA solution allows for the secure risk management of open source use throughout the software supply chain, allowing the security team and developers to:

  • Create an accurate Bill of Materials (BOM) for all your applications. A BOM will describe the components included in applications, the version of the components used, and the license types for each. A BOM helps security professionals and developers to better understand the components used in applications and gain insight into potential security and licensing issues.
  • Discover and track all open source. OSS and license management scanning tools allow companies to uncover all open source used in source code, binaries, containers, build dependencies, subcomponents, and modified and OS components. This is especially critical as companies factor in extensive software supply chains including partners, third party suppliers, and other open source projects.
  • Set and enforce policies. OSS license compliance is critical at all levels within an organization, from developers up to senior management. SCA spotlights the need to set policies, respond to license compliance and security events and provide OS training and knowledge across the company. Many solutions automate the approval process and sets specific usage and remediation guidance.
  • Enable proactive and continuous monitoring. To better manage workloads and increase productivity, SCA continues to monitor for security and vulnerability issues and allows users to create actionable alerts for newly discovered vulnerabilities in both current and shipped products.
  • Seamlessly integrate open source code scanning into the build environment. Integrate OS security and license scans in the DevOps environment in order to scan code and identify dependencies in the build environment.

SCA tools are becoming a must-have for application security, creating an environment for organizations to discover evidence of OSS through code scanning, to find vulnerabilities and licensing issues early and reduce remediation costs, and allowing for automated scans to find and fix issues with less effort. SCA drives success across several key strategic business initiatives:

  • Quicker, safer time-to-market. More than 50% of the code found in applications today is open source. Competitive advantage is driven by who gets to market first, and software engineers use OS components to expedite their work. Software Composition Analysis implements the right OSS management and scanning to ensure legal obligations are met and all vulnerabilities are remediated. Product gets to market quicker with less stoppages, and what is delivered is safer for end users and reduces the potential for license non-compliance, litigation and open source vulnerabilities to negatively impact the business.
  • Innovating quickly and effectively. OSS offers cost efficiencies, flexibility, and freedoms that are unsurpassed by proprietary software solutions, allowing organizations to be both innovative and in control, and to make their own decisions. Product innovation is safer when SCA is applied to OS compliance and license management.
  • Eliminating unknown business risks. Organizations are aware of less than 10% of their open source use. Software Composition Analysis turns the unknown to known by putting in place the right processes and automation to seek out, find, and remediate open source security and license compliance risk.

There’s no debate about the value of using OSS when building new business applications – cost, flexibility, quality and ease of use – but its use comes with legal obligations and security vulnerabilities that can pose significant risks to organizations. To effectively pre-empt such risks, proactive OSS management is essential. Conducting an audit of the use of OSS code can help companies get a handle on the emerging risk areas.

The typical, modern software application is comprised of more than 50 percent open source code, while at the same time, surveys show that the vast majority of teams disclose nowhere near that amount. With a solid security plan, organizations can take advantage of OSS, while also protecting end users against its inherent vulnerabilities. A strong, collaborative partnership between security and engineering teams in addition to a robust SCA solution will ensure successful data protection.