What is Software Composition Analysis (SCA)?

Most modern applications rely on third-party components and dependencies to function. While this open-source code has its benefits, it can also introduce vulnerabilities, malicious code, and other security risks into an application. Software composition analysis (SCA) is a DevSecOps tool for identifying these pieces of external code. SCA can be used to track open-source components, find vulnerabilities, and manage software licenses.

Request a Demo Learn More

What is Software Composition Analysis (SCA)?

How Software Composition Analysis Solutions Works

SCA solutions are designed to inspect an unknown codebase and document the open-source components used, their vulnerabilities, and other information. This can be accomplished via the following steps:

  • Scanning: An SCA tool will begin with scanning a codebase to identify the libraries and dependencies used by the code. Based on this scan, the tool can generate a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) that lists all of the open-source code used by the application.
  • Documentation: Software version, licensing information, and usage by an application are all valuable information. After identifying open-source code in a codebase, an SCA scanner will record this data.
  • Vulnerability Detection: Known vulnerabilities are recorded as common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) along with affected software and versions. With knowledge of open-source libraries used and their version numbers, SCA tools can identify known vulnerabilities within the application.

At the end of this process, the SCA tool has generated a report that contains information about all of the open-source dependencies used by an application. This information may be reported to security personnel, or, depending on the findings and the level of integration within CI/CD pipelines, may even block new commits from being added to the codebase if they use deprecated or insecure components.

By integrating SCA into CI/CD pipelines, developer teams can shift security left and reduce the risk of exploitable vulnerabilities reaching production systems.

Why It’s Important

Supply chain attacks have become a growing threat to application security. Many applications rely upon open-source components that contain vulnerable code. Cybercriminals are also actively working to develop libraries or inject malicious code into legitimate ones to undermine application security.

SCA provides an organization with visibility into the third-party code that its applications rely upon. This visibility is essential to identify inherited vulnerabilities and other issues that might arise from the use of open-source and third-party code.

Software Composition Analysis (SCA) Use Cases

SCA provides visibility into the open-source dependencies that an organization’s applications use. This visibility is essential for vulnerability and license management.

Vulnerability Management

Open-source libraries can contain exploitable vulnerabilities or malicious code. If an application imports these libraries, it may be vulnerable to exploitation or execute the malicious code. Often, companies struggle to maintain visibility into the third-party code that it uses. This is especially true of indirect dependencies where one open-source component imports one or more others. SCA solutions can help companies to gain the visibility that they need and rapidly determine if CVEs exist for the versions of the libraries used by the application.

License Management

The use of third-party code can create licensing issues for an organization, especially with the wide range of potential licensing requirements. At one extreme, copyrights may make it impossible for a company to use a component or may require payment of royalties. At the other, copyleft licenses can mandate that any code using a particular component must also be freely available and open source.

Without visibility into the open-source components used by its applications, an organization is in the dark about licensing rules and may be in legal jeopardy. By collecting licensing information about all open-source components used within a codebase, a company can achieve visibility into potential licensing and legal issues.

How SCA Helps to Prevent Supply Chain Attacks

Increasingly, cyber threat actors are performing supply chain attacks, where vulnerabilities or malicious code are injected into open source projects used by other applications. The software that imports the library will execute the malicious code or inherit vulnerabilities that open them up to exploitation.

SCA can help protect against supply chain attacks by identifying vulnerabilities in an application’s dependencies. Additionally, insight into the dependencies used by an application can help with the identification of known-bad libraries that were created or compromised by cybercriminals for these attacks.

Software Composition Analysis (SCA) Challenges

SCA is essential to managing an organization’s software supply chain security risks. However, SCA faces challenges, including the following:

  • Indirect Dependencies: An application’s dependencies may have their own dependencies. These chains can go several levels deep, making it difficult to achieve full visibility.
  • Dependency Identification: Different programming languages and ecosystems handle dependencies differently. SCA solutions must understand all of the ways that open-source code could be imported into an application.
  • Vulnerability Management: New vulnerabilities are discovered each day, and sources of vulnerability management are not always up-to-date. As a result, SCA may miss vulnerabilities, and development teams may struggle to keep up with the backlog.

Supply Chain Security with CloudGuard Spectral

As applications grow more dependent on complex networks of open-source dependencies, monitoring and managing these dependencies becomes more complex. The main benefit of SCA is that it enables development teams to rapidly generate an SBOM and use this information to identify potential vulnerabilities and licensing issues in their software.

Check Point CloudGuard Spectral is a security platform designed to address the main security challenges that developers face. Among other capabilities, Spectral can perform SCA to help identify and remediate vulnerabilities in an organization’s applications. To learn more about Spectral and how it can streamline your organization’s application security practices, sign up for a free code scan today.

This website uses cookies for its functionality and for analytics and marketing purposes. By continuing to use this website, you agree to the use of cookies. For more information, please read our Cookies Notice.