While earlier, the responsibility of detecting and fixing vulnerabilities came under the security teams, with the coming of the DevSecOps approach, it has now become a shared responsibility.
However, even after involving multiple teams and carefully developing applications, vulnerabilities can still be there. To ensure maximum security and build applications that are ready to face the dark side, we must use an open-source vulnerability scanner.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to about open-source vulnerability scanners and why do you need them.
What is Open-Source Vulnerability Scanning?
Open-source vulnerability scanning is the process of detecting open-source components used in an application and then determining vulnerabilities and helping organizations fix them. Multiple open-source vulnerability scanners available in the market can help organizations conduct automated scans in the dependency trees and highlight areas that need attention.
Importance of Open-Source Vulnerability Scanner
To build software or applications fast and of high quality, most organizations use open-source components. These components are readily available on various websites and can be reused while developing applications.
However, while it seems easy, these componets are usually susceptible to security risks. While most of the open-source projects are backed by huge communities, there are some that are not regularly maintained. This, in turn, makes them prone to security issues.
There helps an open-source vulnerability scanner. Here are a few reasons why organizations using open-source components need vulnerability scanning tools
No matter how hard developers and other teams try, building an application with no vulnerabilities is a myth. Especially when you’re using open-source components, vulnerabilities can come along with them. This is because open-source components have two kinds of dependencies— direct and transitive. Direct dependency can easily be tracked; however, transitive dependencies are difficult to be tracked because these are the packages used by one of your direct dependencies.
Using a vulnerability scanner can help you check the complete dependency tree and spot all the vulnerabilities.
Developers are busy writing codes, and other teams have their own tasks. Now, if you dedicate these teams to continuously monitoring application development for security threats, it would just waste their time. An open-source vulnerability can perform the job without involving anyone else or slowing down the development process.
Spotting the vulnerabilities is not the end. You also need to fix those vulnerabilities before any cybercriminal spots them. Most of the tools also offer remediation options that could help developers fix those vulnerabilities.
Detecting Vulnerability Priority Level
Not all vulnerabilities have the same level of threat for the application. Some are severely harmful, while some won’t cause much trouble. However, you need to know what is the level of risk a vulnerability is coming with and then focus on them based on their risk level. This can be a tedious thing to do if done manually. A good vulnerability scanner will highlight the level of risk and then help you remediate them.
A software license is an agreement between the real developer and the user that defines the software's usage and distribution of rights. There are several kinds of licenses that allow various rights to users. Typically, there are two types of licenses— proprietary and free.
The role of software licenses is to protect all the parties involved and ensure that the creator and the user get the appropriate rights. However, there are over 200 license types, and keeping track of them can be very daunting. The right vulnerability scanner reveals open-source modules to ensure compliance with any open-source license requirements that could lead to legal issues.
Ensure Security From the Beginning
If you plan to detect at the end of the development phase, you might need a lot of time to detect and then remediate those issues. This can lead to delays in the production phase. However, taking care of security from the beginning won’t slow down the process. Using this approach, you’ll be able to find and fix vulnerabilities as soon as you spot them. With a vulnerability scanner, you can easily do it and make your application secure from the beginning.
So these were the importance of using an open-source vulnerability scanner, and in the next section, we will explore how a scanner works.
How Does an Open-Source Vulnerability Scanner Work?
To secure your application, you must understand how a vulnerability scanner works. This will help you picture the process and understand how it will help you to secure your application. While different scanning tools use different technologies, the basic steps remain the same.
Here’s a step-by-step process of how a vulnerability scanner works
Step 1: Scanning the Open-Source Components Thoroughly
The first thing any scanner would do is review all the open-source components used in the application. It would analyze the code repositories, package managers, and build tools. It creates an inventory of open-source components and dependencies and generates a software Bill of Materials (SBoM) with all the important data.
Step 2: Checking License Compliance
Vulnerability scanners check all the software licenses of open-source components to ensure none of them conflict with organizational policies. For instance, some licenses could be risky for commercial projects; some would not allow modifications in the package. With a vulnerability scanner, you can check all the licenses and ensure that you remain compliant with them without any legal issues.
Step 3: Detecting Vulnerabilities
After scanning the code, vulnerability scanners take the results and then compare them against various databases, usually the tool’s proprietary information, containing information about vulnerabilities. Some of the tools also use their own directories. In this way, they find the vulnerabilities and then start providing suggestions related to remediation options.
Step 4: Continuous Monitoring
The process doesn’t end with the last step. The vulnerability scanner continuously scans the application to check if any vulnerability has occurred.
So this is how an open-source vulnerability scanner works. However, there’s one really difficult thing— finding the right vulnerability scanner.
Fortunately, we’re here to help.
Why is Scantist the Best Open-Source Vulnerability Scanner?
It compares the open-source and third-party components found in an application against their own proprietary database of vulnerabilities to spot threats in various phases of the development process.
Here are some of Scantist’s features
Comprehensive Vulnerability Database
Scantist employs state-of-the-art machine learning models to find the latest vulnerabilities registered on the web. These new vulnerabilities are then manually verified by security experts to remove false positives before they are added to the database.
License Management System
The use of wrong open-source libraries may result in disastrous consequences like lawsuits. Scantist provides a license management system that allows users to define policies in flagging and denying certain licenses based on their names or attributions.
Scantist builds a dependency graph to list all the dependencies in a visual format for the users to identify the relationship between these libraries.
Scantist provides a high-level visual representation of the common open-source components and vulnerabilities between various projects to help developers direct and prioritize their remediation efforts.
Scantist allows for full API integration. Third-party providers can use Scantist’s platform by connecting with their APIs.
Scantist supports multiple programming languages, so it becomes easy to use it and scan open-source components to check for vulnerabilities.
Benefits of Using Open-Source Vulnerability Scanners
Many organizations leverage open-source components, containers, or operating systems that would take a lot of time and effort in developed in-house.
It doesn’t matter how an organization uses open-source components in an application; it is crucial for them to use a vulnerability scanner.
After all, if an application gets launched with loopholes, it could attract the attention of cybercriminals and can severely damage the organization and application users.
While developers can get trained to ensure security, being humans, there are still chances to make mistakes. In order to minimize the number of vulnerabilities and remove all the severe vulnerabilities before the launch, organizations should make using scanning tools a compulsory practice.
By investing a little in an open-source vulnerability scanner, organizations can save themselves from heavy investments in fixing harmful consequences in the future.
Vulnerability Scanning Best Practices
Now that you know why vulnerability scanner is essential for your organization, here are a few best practices that will help you get the most out of it.
Just like any other business projects, starting with the objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be the first step here as well. With KPIs, you help your security team to work towards achieving realistic goals by taking small steps. Some of the KPIs you can try include
Build a Database
The next thing you should do is map out and identify all the open-source components you use in your applications. Gather all the details at one place will help you get a holistic view of all your open-source components. So whether you use a third-party vulnerability management system or not, you can always revisit the database to ensure everything is updated timely. Also, just building a database once isn’t the end, you need to keep updating it time to time to ensure that all the new components are also being mentioned over there.
Frequent Automated Scans
An organization should have a vulnerability management program tailored to the DevSecOps environment. The management system needs to be fast, continuous, and reliable. You can have the same kind of management program with the right vulnerability scanner. Here are some of the benefits of conducting frequent scans
Accuracy: Accuracy is important when it comes to detecting vulnerabilities. With a machine learning-based tool, you can get accurate information about the vulnerabilities and reduce the number of false positives.
Automation: A vulnerability scanner will conduct automated scans once it is set up. This means you won’t need to monitor the open-source components manually. The tool will do the job for you without slowing down the development process.
Compliance: Open-source components come with some terms that anyone using it needs to follow. Therefore, you need a tool to ensure license compliance with all the open-source components.
Monitor From the Beginning
You shouldn’t wait till the production stage to scan the application. Instead, you need to keep monitoring the application from the beginning.
Scanning from the early stage has two major benefits. The first is that when you spot the vulnerabilities early, no damages are done, and the modification cost is minimal.
The second benefit is that if an application launches with vulnerabilities, it could lead to severe cyberattack attacks; however, when scanning happens from the beginning, it wouldn’t have major vulnerabilities by the time of launch.
Not all vulnerabilities are the same. Some need immediate fixes, and some can wait. You need to prioritize vulnerabilities based on their severity. Now doing this manually is a very time-consuming task. The vulnerability scanner will do the job of categorizing vulnerabilities as per their risk levels. Once done, you can start working on fixing the vulnerabilities based on their risk levels.
Once you pick a vulnerability scanner, make sure its database is updated time-to-time. This way, it can spot more vulnerabilities and provide fixes before it’s too late.
Also, you should ensure that you keep monitoring the application even after its launch because even after that the open-source components need to be updated regularly. This way, there will be no loopholes even after the launch.
Don’t Use Deprecated Components
You should timely replace the components their real creators don’t support. If you still use components that aren’t updated, it could lead to security risks.
To ensure maximum effectiveness, you can use these practices while scanning your open-source components.
With the use of open-source components the adoption of a vulnerability scanner becomes compulsory. No matter how dedicated the developers or the security teams are, there’s always room for improvement. After all, any small vulnerability can lead to dangerous consequences. So the best idea here is to invest a small amount in a vulnerability scanner now rather than waste alot of money and efforts both for damage control in future.
Learn what DevSecOps is and how it can improve your organization's security posture. Find out how to implement it to improve collaboration.
Application security is the practice of adding features or functionality to software to protect against attacks. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
Do you need an open-source vulnerability scanner? Here’s the answer to all your questions about vulnerability scanners.