When you give a developer the task of developing software, they do not write all the code by themselves. A large portion of the software is composed of open source codes. These are the codes available for free use. For example, if a programmer is developing an inventory management software, they will need a calculator as a part of it. They don’t need to write the code for a calculator and will just simply copy the code of an open-source calculator and make it a part of the software.
There are also some specialized components of the software that are outside the scope of a developer or a team and they need to get them developed by others. As a result, the end product is a composition of codes from different sources.
This gives rise to the need for Software Composition Analysis to make sure that all the components of the software follow the same rules and are up to the same security standards.
What is Software Composition Analysis?
Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is an essential part of the Software Development Life Cycle. It is the part of development that manages the use of open-source code used in software to make sure it is at par with the required security standards.
How Does Software Composition Analysis Work?
SCA is performed by specialized tools that thoroughly scan every single line of code used in an application. The scan spans all the way to extensions, libraries, containers, and registers used in software. The main focus of the scan is to detect all the open source components and make sure they are license compliant and free of security vulnerabilities of all types.
Here is a basic outline of how Software Composition Analysis works.
The Starting Point – An Inventory Report
Most of the time, the SCA process starts with the generation of an inventory report. This report consists of all the open-source components used in the software including both direct and transitive dependencies of the software. This is the cardinal step of the process as you cannot fix or scan those components of the code that you do not know exist.
Once all the open-source components of the code have been identified, the next step is to gather intel on all of them. The information needed to be collected on this stage includes the license of the component, its attribution requirements, and the compatibility of the license with the security policy of the organization going to use the software.
Security Vulnerabilities Fix
The main reason for SCA is identifying the security vulnerabilities in your software. The SCA tools identify the open-source codes with known security vulnerabilities and suggest a fix for them. This mainly consists of updating or patching the vulnerable software so that it cannot affect the overall state of security of the software using it.
Enhanced SCA Features
If you maintain strict policy or coding standards for your organization, there are SCA tools that can compare the open-source components of any software to your standards and edit them to comply.
Automating Open Source Selection
There are tools available on the market that can fully automate the selection, tracking, and approval of open source components making sure there is no flaw in the software that can be exploited for vested interests.
Software Composition Analysis is Not Enough Without a Human Touch
There is one thing that needs to be made clear at this point and that is, open-source detection is not enough. SCA tools can detect potential vulnerabilities but it is a must to have a developer take care of them. Here are some of the things that developers need to do after potential security and compatibility threats are detected by SCA tools.
Make the Code Compatible
The first thing developers can do after the vulnerabilities are apparent is making all the components of the code compatible. This is important for the smooth and glitch-free execution and operation of the time at all times.
Replace Open Source Components
If some of the open-source components are too complicated to fix or make compatible with your code, a good approach is to develop them from scratch to make them compatible.
Implement A Coding Standard
The best practice for developing an invulnerable and fully dependable software is by enforcing a coding standard. Standards are developed by international organizations and are like ISO standards in the world of coding. Following them will make the code the nearest to perfection it can get.
Why is Software Composition Analysis Important?
You might be thinking that if a code is developed by a qualified and skilled developer or team then what is the need for Software Composition Analysis? Well, here are some of the reasons for that.
The Amount of Open Source Code Usage is Enormous
An astounding 60 to 80 percent of the code used in proprietary software is open source and that number is only growing. When the code consists of that number of components from different developers, the chances of incompatibility are enormous. SCA will make sure everything works in sync and there are minimum to no glitches and bugs in the end product.
Open Source Code is Not Regulated
The very definition of open source means that it is independently developed and free to use. Open source code follows no standard. In order to make it compliant with the standards you use, it is important to point out the inconsistency and look for a solution for it.
Open Source is Available to All
Open source code is available to literally everyone. It means that anyone can find a vulnerability in it and target the software using open source code. In order to make software using such a code secure, SCA is a necessary step of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).
Software development depends on a lot of open-source code for ease and efficiency of development. However, open-source code is highly vulnerable to security breaches and other problems. Software Composition Analysis makes sure that all the open-source components used in a code are at par with the security and compatibility standards of the organization the code is being developed for.