Open source projects that are widely adopted and used on a daily basis require active maintenance and regular updates. For instance, Material UI is a UI library that is used by many developers. Such large projects are not typically maintained by a single person but are driven by a community that undertakes the responsibility of reviewing code, developing new components, fixing bugs, et cetera.
While these are some essential factors that determine the usability of an open source project, security on the other hand is an equally important task that should be taken care of. As anyone is entitled to contribute to open source security, it obviously comes with the risk of adding new vulnerabilities or intentionally attacking other parts of the system, and with projects at scale, determining such risks becomes even more difficult.
To better streamline the process, let us look at some of the proven ways to detect, prioritize, and remediate open source security.
Identify the Blind Spots
Most applications are highly likely to be dependent on open source libraries to deliver functionality, however, these libraries may be linked to transitive dependent libraries, creating a chain of dependencies. This arrangement adds levels of unknown risk because these dependent libraries might contain vulnerabilities.
One effective way of ensuring good security is creating and enforcing regulations that demand the developers of the open-source components to demonstrate that they are free of known vulnerabilities.
Many developers are still mostly ignorant of the dangers posed by many open source components. Helping them comprehend that open source components’ vulnerabilities put the entire application at risk, if not the company as a whole, is of the utmost significance.
Another measure to take before using any open source library thoroughly is to check the licensing agreement. Although open-source libraries are free, many of them come with a licensing requirement, which many corporations might not wish to divulge.
However, if businesses don’t have complete insight into the dependencies of third-party libraries, they risk accidentally reaching deployment and finding out their release contains libraries they shouldn’t have included. Releases are postponed while programmers create fresh code or include other open source libraries. After that, fresh application security testing is required before the code can be used. The consequences frequently take the form of lost income and productivity.
Determine the Usage Levels for Each Library
When using multiple libraries, it becomes quite a task to track the usage and current version of each library. On top of this, there comes the challenge of updating the libraries to avoid security risks on the one hand, and worrying about whether the new changes might break the current codebase on the other.
Prioritizing updates becomes quite tedious with the above-mentioned challenges. Manually tackling each of these issues is typically time-consuming and anti-productive. Hence, such tasks can be automated using tools that are built to serve exactly this.
Other Remediation Techniques
In addition to the above-mentioned approaches, a team or a developer could use a few other techniques to remediate and detect vulnerabilities.
Testing is a great way to remediate and act on vulnerabilities. Before making a new release, various kinds of tests can be performed on the application, including unit testing, integration testing, and end-to-end testing. Such tests give more information on what’s failing and the cause for the same. This information can be used to further improve the code or update outdated libraries.
To ensure that new changes do not bring new security risks or vulnerabilities, security policies and tests can be incorporated into the CI pipeline that will be able to detect such risks before adding them to the main branch, thereby giving enough evidence about the newly made changes.
One of the most pressing problems for developers today is finding and fixing open source vulnerabilities. While there are many tools that help in easing the process, the ultimate decision is still left to the developers who’ll have to spend sufficient time reviewing the fix suggestions and package updates and make sure the codebase is not in conflict.
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