What is Open Source Security?

Nowadays, most companies use open source software. Even if they don’t use standalone open source applications, most applications use third-party and open-source libraries and components. And this third-party code brings significant benefits to the organization in terms of the speed and costs of development.

However, open source software also creates security risks for the organization. If these open source components contain exploitable vulnerabilities or malicious functionality, they can expose the organization’s applications to attack. As a result, open source security (OSS) is crucial to managing the risk that open source code poses to an organization’s application, data, and systems.

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What is Open Source Security?

Benefits of Open Source Software

The reason that most organizations use open source software and open source components in their applications is that it provides various benefits, including the following:

  • Cost: Open source software is commonly available for free. This makes it cost-effective for organizations to integrate it into their own applications.
  • Usability: Open source packages provide pre-built, ready-to-use solutions. Developers can use them to rapidly and easily add desired functionality to applications.
  • Quality: Open source software operates under the “many eyes” principle, which states that, since anyone can read and review the code, it is unlikely to have bugs.
  • Speed: Using open source components enables software developers to avoid reinventing the wheel, speeding up development and release timelines.
  • Agility: With open-source software, an organization doesn’t risk vendor lock-in. If needed, an organization can switch to different software or packages.

Open Source Security Risks

Open source software has its benefits, but they come at a price. The use of open source code introduces significant security risks, including the following:

  • Unpatched Vulnerabilities: Open source software is often maintained by volunteers rather than an organization’s dedicated development team. As a result, it may be slower to identify and patch vulnerabilities in the code. Applications using these vulnerable components may be open to exploitation.
  • Unmaintained Packages: A related issue is the fact that developers may abandon packages that an organization’s systems rely on. This not only introduces the potential for unpatched vulnerabilities but also runs the risk that the code may be lacking necessary security mechanisms, such as up-to-date cryptography.
  • Malicious Packages: Cybercriminals have increasingly targeted software supply chain security by taking advantage of companies’ reliance on open source code. By creating malicious, lookalike libraries or infecting trusted ones with malicious code, attackers can trick developers into introducing vulnerabilities or malicious functionality into their applications.
  • License Compliance: Open source software may use one of a variety of different licensing schemes, and a lack of visibility into licensing can place an organization at risk. For example, “copyleft” licenses can require that applications built using a free, open source library be made free and open source as well.

Best Practices to Mitigate Open Source Risks

Open source software introduces significant security risks to an organization. However, these risks can be managed by implementing open source security best practices.

Open Source Visibility

One of the most significant challenges in open source security is a lack of visibility into an organization’s use of open source code. Even if an organization has visibility into open source code directly integrated into applications, these dependencies may have their own dependencies that contain vulnerabilities and licensing issues. Software composition analysis (SCA) tools automatically analyze software and develop a software bill of materials (SBOM). This aids in achieving necessary visibility and identifying vulnerabilities and licensing issues.

Automated License Management

A lack of visibility into license requirements of open source code can land an organization in legal trouble. Using components with highly permissive licenses may threaten an organization’s intellectual property or create the risk of lawsuits. With an SBOM from an SCA tool, an organization can identify the licenses associated with the open source code that it is using. Automated licensing management can help to ensure that an organization has visibility into licensing requirements and that open source code usage doesn’t create legal complications.

Vulnerability Scanning

Open source code may contain unpatched vulnerabilities. If an organization integrates these vulnerable libraries into its applications, then these applications may be vulnerable to exploitation. Companies can manage the risk of vulnerable components by performing regular vulnerability scans during and after the development process. Static application security testing (SAST) solutions run on source code and can be used early in the secure software development lifecycle (SSDLC) and integrated into automated CI/CD pipelines. Dynamic application security testing (DAST) solutions require a running application but can identify vulnerabilities that SAST tools miss.

DevSecOps Integration

Software security often takes a backseat to release timelines. A failure to integrate security into the development process increases the risk of vulnerabilities and the cost of remediating them. Integrating open source security management into automated DevOps practices reduces the friction that they cause for developers. By making security easier and more convenient, they reduce the risk that vulnerabilities will be overlooked during the development process.

Open Source Security with CloudGuard Spectral

Check Point CloudGuard Spectral provides integrated and automated solutions to enhance the security of an organization’s software development and deployment processes. Check Point also offers a range of open-source tools to enhance developer security. Learn more about the potential benefits of Check Point Spectral to your organization with a free demo.

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