Open-source software is currently used by more than 95 percent of the most popular applications on the enterprise market. Even the largest Internet companies use open-source technologies source code, or libraries, which makes development easier for them. Along with the big advantage of using open-source components, however, comes the risk of exposure to vulnerabilities, which should not be ignored.
The reason for open-source vulnerabilities is that the same code that you can see can also be seen by attackers. When they find an exploit, they can use it to extract sensitive data from compromised systems that have not been updated. In many cases, a vulnerability may go undetected for a long time.
Here are the main topics which reflect the current state of open-source security:
- Open-source security vulnerabilities are on the rise—a significant rise in the number of open-source security vulnerabilities presents a serious challenge to development and security teams striving to meet security objectives.
- Developers are inefficient when it comes to open-source remediation—developers spend a lot of time addressing open-source vulnerabilities, but the absence of standard practices for open-source vulnerability management and developer-focused tools results in inefficient use of time. The time from when a vulnerability is introduced into an open-source package until it is fixed might be months or even years.
- Developers do not have open-source security vulnerabilities strategy—prioritization strategy for open-source vulnerabilities is critical to ensure companies address the most urgent issues on time. A solid prioritization practice for open-source vulnerability remediation can reduce security alerts by up to 80 percent.
Top 5 Open-Source Security Risks You Should Know About
#1. Publicity of Exploits
Open-source projects are available to anybody. This has the advantage that the open-source community can flag potential exploits they find in the code and give open source project managers time to fix the issues before publicly revealing information on vulnerabilities. Such exploits are made publicly available on the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) for anyone to view.
Attackers can use the publicity of these exploits for their malicious purposes by targeting organizations that are slow to patch the applications that use open source projects with recent vulnerabilities. To minimize this risk, you should update your open source components as quickly as possible.
#2. Difficulty Managing Licenses
Single proprietary applications are often composed of multiple open-source components. This leads to difficulty in managing open-source licenses, considering the frequency with which enterprises develop and release software and the fact that over 200 open-source license types exist.
Organizations are required to comply with all individual terms of different licenses, and non-compliance with the terms of a license puts you at risk of legal action, potentially damaging the financial security of your company.
#3. Potential Infringement Issues
Open-source components may introduce intellectual property infringement risks because these projects lack standard commercial controls, giving a means for proprietary code to make its way into open-source projects. Appropriate due diligence into open-source projects can flag up potential infringement risks.
#4. Operational Risks
One of the main sources of risks when using open-source components comes from operational inefficiencies. A primary concern is the failure to track open source components and update those components as new versions become available. These updates often address high-risk security vulnerabilities.
#5. Developer Malpractices
Some security risks arise due to developer malpractices, such as copying and pasting code from open source libraries. Copying and pasting is an issue because you copy any vulnerabilities that may exist in the project’s code when you do it.
Another issue is that there is no way to track and update a code snippet once it’s added to your codebase. This can make your applications susceptible to potential future vulnerabilities that arise. You can avoid this issue by creating an open-source policy that specifically forbids copying and pasting snippets directly from projects to your application codebases.
The Heartbleed Vulnerability
The Heartbleed vulnerability is exemplary in terms of the importance of open-source security and application of tools that provide the functionality to identify security vulnerability. It was a serious vulnerability in the popular OpenSSL cryptographic software library. Two-thirds of the world’s web traffic was compromised by this vulnerability.
This dangerous security hole was first discovered in 2014. It lived unnoticed for years, enabling malicious agents to steal information that should have been protected by the SSL / TLS encryption used to secure the internet. While a patch was released in April of 2014, it still was not successfully updated on close to 200,000 servers worldwide that were still using the outdated version.
Heartbleed gave open-source developers a lesson in discovering issues early on. It became an industry-wide goal to identify security vulnerabilities promptly and publicize their fix days later. Not doing so takes away users’ ability to safeguard their code.
Smart use of open-source components involves awareness of the security risk they pose when incorporated into your applications. The way to minimize this risk is through an automated solution to track and manage the open-source components you use. You need to make every effort to secure your software and ensure that every newly added component is also secure. Do not be misguided by the popular misconception that open-source components are safe.