According to OSSRA – Open Source Security Risk and Analysis – 97% of all codebases contain open source coding. Not only that, but only a finite amount of companies – about 7% – have actual up-to-date intel on what those codes are and what they are used for. That very same study revealed that a staggering 81% of audited codebases had multiple open-source vulnerabilities — not only vulnerabilities that exposed clients and the company to cyber-threats but software licensing issues that could lead to serious legal implications. In today’s article, we’re going to talk about open source security and, more importantly, why most companies need it.
What is open source security?
Open source software is an important part of the internet and many organizations use it for their websites, applications, and other systems. But these systems are not always as secure as they could be because there are some risks associated with using open-source software.
In the early days of computing – while the field was evolving and folks were more interested in progress than profits – programmers shared their software. They shared their trade secrets and codes. Regardless of how computing evolved, some folks maintained the practice. The passion for the open source software movement.
OSS – Open source software – is computer software that is released under a license and the holder of the copyright grants users the right to exploit it. In that words, the license is critical when it comes to open-source security and SBOM – Software Bill Of Materials. This type of software has resulted in billions of dollars in savings for users and companies every year.
The issue with open-source software is that – like all programs – there is an inherent danger and risk to it. And, unlike custom build codes – which companies can test for quality issues while creating them with their own departments – open-source coding comes as it — companies have to accept it with its advantages and flaws already embedded in their DNA.
The risks of open source software
Open source software is a risk for many reasons, one of the most common beings that it can be difficult to track who has access to the software and what they are doing with it. This poses considerable security risks should there be an attack on the system. Open source software is also difficult for companies that rely on proprietary systems as it can sometimes lead to incompatibility and data loss.
And, like all software, there is the question of how and what you’re using it for. The software might be free, but someone has copyright over it and when companies use it they understand that with that permission – by its copyright holder – there are some clauses they have to adhere to. This is called the licensing agreement. If companies use the software in any other fashion besides the one stated in this agreement they are liable and can be sued – as has happened multiple times – by the rightful owner of that open-source software.
The complexity of open source security is why companies undermine it.
Companies often undermine open source code security because they don’t want to spend money on security enhancements. The problem is that it can cost a lot to hire someone or a team who can do a thorough audit of your codebase. There’s also the issue of time and the fact that having a proper – up-to-date – SBOM with automatic updates is complex. The truth is that companies are always a day or two behind their deadline and launch date. They are always raising against the clock. When they are creating software they are creating a codebase that’s a hodgepodge of components — some customized by them, others bought, and a huge variety of them free – open source.
Consequences of neglecting open source security
Open source software security is a broad topic. There are many aspects to it and many consequences that result from neglecting it.
The first consequence is the increased vulnerability of the company’s data and infrastructure to cyberattacks. This is a direct result of employing software that was not built in-house and that is not updated in the same manner. All software is vulnerable to attacks — but not all software companies are as focused on patching weaknesses that expose their products to said attacks. Are you aware of all your open-source software creators’ policies on updates and patches?
The second consequence is that companies cannot get access to new features, updates, and bug fixes for open-source libraries if they don’t have the necessary expertise on hand.
The third consequence is that open source vulnerabilities are not patched as fast as in-house vulnerabilities.
With open source security companies can examine their open source codes and inform users of their weaknesses through an SBOM. This will force users and vendors to accept all flaws and protect companies against legal problems.
The truth is that some open-source codes have backdoors installed into them — in many cases, they are well-intentioned on the programmer’s side. These backdoors allow its original programmer to patch up issues or help its users if the need arises. Open-source security software examines these backdoors and discovers their functionality and if there are any mal intentions involved.
The principle is based on the idea that an enemy can steal secure info without compromising the system or said information. In other words, they can sneak in like a thief and you wouldn’t even notice it. Open-source security protests against this practice.
What kinds of tools do you need to assess and monitor your open-source software for vulnerabilities?
The idea behind open-source software is that you can access the source code and modify it for your own purposes. The downside to this is that it means you are responsible for any vulnerabilities found in your software. This can be time-consuming and difficult, but there are plenty of tools available to help you assess and monitor your open-source software for vulnerabilities.
These tools will help you find out if there are any security issues with your open-source software and give you advice on how to fix them. They will help in:
- Find out if your code has security vulnerabilities.
- Find out which project team is responsible for different parts of your software.
If you are the maintainer, you should use different scripts or other tools that identify the most important people and determine their responsibilities. If you’re using a repository that’s not managed using these types of tools, you can create a spreadsheet that captures your business’s structure and data. You’ll probably want to define your project’s key stakeholders. These are the people who will be most responsible for implementing, owning, and tracking usage of the repository and custodianship of the data in it. These may include:
- Project members from different countries and cultures.
- Project members from different companies.
- The organization in which the project is created.