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SCA- Software Composition Analysis is an automatic process that searches for open-source software in the software code. This process is necessary to mitigate the security vulnerabilities of open-source tools that are used in your project.
Organizations need to be aware of the open source limitations before using them in their project. Tracking these limitations manually becomes too tedious a task and is sometimes overlooked along with its threats. However, to solve this situation, there’s an automated solution to look for code quality and security. In DevOps or DevSecOps platform, SCA has made the ‘shift left’ pattern. Earlier SCA testing is enabled, the more productive and secure the product gets. Let’s understand more about the SCA.
Software Composition Analysis- A brief intro
SCA is the abbreviation of Software Composition Analysis and is a part of the App Security Testing (AST) tool which deals with managing open-source use. SCA performs automatic scans of the app code base that includes related artifacts like registries and containers to search all open source components, their security threats, and license compliance data.
Additionally, it provides visibility into open source use where some SCA tools help them to fix the open source threats through automated remediation and prioritization.
Why use an SCA?
The open source components have become a strong building block in the software application development process across different verticals. SCA tools help keep track of open-source tools and components used by your apps. This process is important from a security and productivity standpoint.
Why is implementing SCA important?
Modern apps are made up of open-source code. It has been estimated that open-source code can make up to 90% of the code of the apps. Of course, the software is not only made up of open-source frameworks.
In fact, one of the huge challenges that companies are facing is to secure their code which is made from open-source tools. There are different building blocks of the app, and all these blocks need to be secured and managed effectively to mitigate the potential security risks.
This is one of the primary factors why companies should take steps toward implementing a software composition analysis process before deploying the final software.
Things that SCA takes care of while testing the software
There are many things that the SCA process automates while the process of software testing is implemented. Here are the primary concerns managed by SCA for testing the software.
After all open-source elements are identified, SCA tools will provide data on every component. It includes different details about the license of open source, attribution needs, and whether such a license is compatible with the company’s policies.
Software Composition Analysis starts with a scan to make an inventory report of different open-source components in the products such as transitive and direct dependencies.
If you have a brief inventory of almost all open-source components, it is the foundation of maintaining open-source use. In the end, you can’t ensure or secure the compliance of the open-source tool you do not know that is used in your project.
One of the main reasons for SCA is to look for open-source tools which might have a lot of vulnerabilities. A good SCA process will tell the user about the open source libraries and their vulnerabilities, but will also tell them whether the code calls are affected or not. If the code is affected, they will also provide an applicable suggestion for the same. The solution should also search for open-source libraries that need to be patched or updated.
Vulnerabilities found using an accurate SCA
Open source vulnerabilities may occur when there are weaknesses in the code. The vulnerabilities might be unplanned coding errors or inconsistencies that are deliberately inserted in your project code.
Attackers and spammers can exploit them to get unauthorized access to the project, theft of data, and cause damage to the system. Vulnerabilities can result from old versions or software of the current system that isn’t being updated regularly. This also causes security threats that hackers can use to infiltrate the code and steal your valuable data and causes privacy breach.
On the other hand, SCA can also find licensing risks for ensuring license compliance with various third-party codes used in your project.
Advanced SCA functions
Modern SCA solutions can also include automatic policy enforcement. It cross-referenced each and every open-source tool in your project code with different responses triggered by organizational policies like failing to build, initiating automated approvals, etc.
Here, the advanced SCA solutions will automate the whole process of open-source approval, selection, and also tracking. Some tools can also alert developers about the vulnerabilities of the component prior to the pull request and the entry of the component in the system. This process saves a lot of precious time for developers and improves their accuracy.
Limitations of SCA
Software Composition Analysis focuses on searching and solving risks of the open-source things and third-party plugins used in your code.
It isn’t made for finding vulnerabilities in the original code. For instance, the organization named SolarWind had a supply chain breach. SCA wasn’t enough to solve this problem. They had to use SAST, aka, Static Application Security Testing, for fixing this huge insecure network config.
Other SCAs were not made to scan deployment and development environments. Hence, they cannot safeguard the modern parts of the SDLC.
Also, some older SCAs did not provide the context necessary for accurately monitoring the impact of the risk if any issue occurs in the project. Without this process, the tools can change many negatives into positives. This consumes very less resources because the security team ends up performing unnecessary changes.
Software Composition Analysis- The Future
Just like the whole world of open-source software looks completely different today as compared to a decade ago, software composition tools have evolved noticeably since their past days. While the SCA was initially used for performing periodic and manual scans, today, it plays an integral part in ensuring OSS and security in the whole SDLC process.
With these lines, everyone expects that the next generation SCA tools will even deliver a rich set of capabilities from several frontiers.
1. Policy Engine
Next-Gen policy engines are something that will enable different stakeholders to get approvals and automatic builds as a part of their day-to-day activities.
2. SCA makes development developer-friendly
Modern SCA tools integrate into CI & CD pipelines and also into the developer’s native workflow. However, the more SCA we build, the easier it is going to become for developers to develop risk management into the project’s daily use.
The next-generation SCA solutions will not require developers to utilize new tools majorly and help with the overall efficiency and acceptance of the organization.
3. Code Provenance and Quality
In today’s SCA tools, they do a quicker and better job of dependencies and inventorying licenses than providing steps on code quality improvement. Users expect that to upgrade in upcoming years. The next-gen SCA solutions will then offer quite more advice on code provenance and quality.
4. Next-Generation Reporting
Today’s SCA tools will offer a variety of varied options, but the next decade will see different richer features. We expect different reports to include more insights in different formats that are easy to digest for both non-technical and technical stakeholders. For instance, any SCA platform makes data compliance data available for the customer and sales team in real time and can help them address questions from prospects and customers in a quick manner.
SCA- Final Verdict
A thorough understanding of software composition analysis (SCA) is essential for companies to ensure the reliability, security, and compliance of their software applications.
By implementing effective SCA, businesses can proactively find and solve vulnerabilities and license compliance issues, mitigating the risks associated with open-source components.
This guide has provided an overview of SCA, including its key concepts, benefits, and best practices. By adopting a comprehensive SCA strategy that encompasses continuous monitoring, vulnerability management, and policy enforcement, organizations can enhance their software development processes, minimize security risks, and build robust and trustworthy software solutions.
Embracing SCA as an integral part of software development is not only essential for protecting the organization and its users but also for fostering a culture of security and accountability in an ever-evolving digital landscape.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question 1: What is Software Composition Analysis (SCA)?
Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is a technique used to identify and manage the open-source and third-party components used in software applications. It involves scanning the software codebase and its dependencies to detect vulnerabilities, licensing issues, and other risks associated with the components used.
Question 2: Why is Software Composition Analysis important?
Software Composition Analysis is important because it helps organizations identify and mitigate security vulnerabilities and licensing compliance risks associated with open-source and third-party components.
Question 3: How does Software Composition Analysis work?
Software Composition Analysis works by scanning the software codebase and its dependencies to identify the open-source and third-party components used. It compares these components against known vulnerability databases and licensing databases to identify potential risks. Additionally, it provides insights into the usage of outdated or unsupported components that may pose security concerns.
Question 4: What are the benefits of using Software Composition Analysis?
Using Software Composition Analysis offers several benefits, including enhanced security by identifying and remediating vulnerabilities in open source and third-party components, compliance, and licensing management by identifying licensing obligations, improved development efficiency by addressing security and compliance issues early in the development lifecycle, and risk mitigation by managing risks associated with third-party components.
Question 5: What are some popular Software Composition Analysis tools?
Some popular Software Composition Analysis tools include WhiteSource, Black Duck, and Snyk. These tools provide comprehensive SCA capabilities such as vulnerability detection, licensing management, and policy enforcement.