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Overview of Software Composition Analysis

  • Last Updated : 24 Sep, 2021

As we know, there are number of different components are used during development of a software application/product. So, only using different components from different sources is not the case, it needs proper verification and validation to ensure everything is correct in the codebase. Here comes the point Software Composition Analysis which is responsible to automate and scan opensource code software.

In this article we will discuss about what is Software composition analysis, need of this SCA, working of SCA and finally benefits of SCA. So, let’s go to the topic.

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Software Composition Analysis :
Software composition analysis (SCA) is a process of identifying the third party and open source components in the applications of an organization. This analysis leads to the discovery of security risk, quality of code and license compliance of the components.  



In the modern world, people want everything to be very fast. So the businesses need to deliver their products and/or services also very fast without compromising the quality. That expectation goes the same for software development as well. So the third-party and open source components are integrated into the application being developed to simplify and fasten up the delivery of software.  

Need of Software Composition Analysis :
With the increasing usage of open source components in the applications of enterprises, enterprises need to be aware of the limitations and vulnerabilities of open source.  

So they need to keep track of the components integrated, to identify and mitigate the risks associated with the components. But this process of tracking is a tedious job that cannot be done manually. That is why Software Compilation Analysis Tools show up and do the tedious job almost effortlessly by automation. So the SCA tools help the organization to manage the risk of security, license compliance and to measure the quality of code.  

Working of an SCA tool : 
An SCA tool compiles all the identified components into a Bill of Materials (BOM) and then compares the BOM against various databases such as NVD and CVE. Those databases have information relating to known and common vulnerabilities. And when comparing the BOM against other databases, license compilation and quality of code are known. This is how SCA tools aid the security team of an enterprise to effectively keep track of open source and to do the needful as per the vulnerabilities and outdated licenses. 

The BOM represents all the components used in the application, the type of licenses and also the version of components. This way SCA tools help security teams of an organization to identify security risks and code vulnerabilities for fixing them up quickly. 

Some of the popular SCA tools are Sonatype,  Blackduck, Veracode, JFrog Inc. and so on.  

Well, let’s see when a software compilation analysis tool can be used.  

Software compilation analysis tools can be used after the completion of software development. Yet identifying issues and fixing them after completing developing software will just increase the operational cost and time. That is why it is better to use the tool in the software development life cycle (SDLC) as soon as the code is getting proper structure.  

Hereby, we understand what software composition analysis is, why it is used, how it is used and when to use it. Now, what could be next?  

It is time for the benefits of software composition analysis tools.  

Benefits of SCA :

  1. Keep Track of Open Source Components Automatically –
    In order to save time, developers integrate open source components in the software being developed. Although it significantly saves time for development, it has its own downside – vulnerabilities and outdated licenses associated with the usage of open source components. And the SCA tool helps the organization to identify the downside and fix the risks associated by providing conducive corrective measures.
  2. Weak Point Detection by Continuous Monitoring –
    Development speed has been accelerated by disruptive approaches such as Agile and DevOps. So to ensure the security of the codebase, static scanning is not enough. The SCA tool constantly monitors and alerts when vulnerabilities (weak points of the source code collection) are found.
  3. Vulnerabilities are identified and dealt automatically –
    Advanced SCA tools not only detect vulnerabilities but also provide prioritized automated management tools to fix them up throughout the pipeline of SDLC. Thus they send real-time alerts as vulnerabilities are encountered and also the suggestion to handle them appropriately.
  4. Risk Management of Licenses –
    Software licenses are documents providing legally binding protocols for the usage and distribution of software. The licenses commonly fall under two categories. They are free and proprietary. Since the software is integrated with various open-source and third-party components, keeping track of different types of licenses manually is almost impossible. If any license is violated by the organization, then this would cost a large amount of money for infringement. The SCA tools help to dodge this potential risk. You can set licensing policies to check whether your software meets the requirements are not.

Usage of open source components in software development is secured smartly and automatically with the help of SCA tools.

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