Let me start by saying that the name Software Composition Analysis is very misleading in terms of what it actually is, at least from my perspective. Although the name might sound like Software Composition Analysis (SCA) covers all aspect of source code, it in fact acts as an open source management tool only.

Most code today is comprised of some part that is open source. The usage of open source components and software is increasing exponentially. With the rise of open source usage, the need to track these components and identify vulnerabilities has increased.

What is Software Composition Analysis?

Software composition analysis (SCA) is an open source component management tool allowing the security team and developers to –

  1. Create Inventory Report: It generates an inventory report listing all open source components in the product, including direct and transitive dependencies. It will describe the components included in applications, the version of the components used, and the license types
  2. Identifying Vulnerabilities: The open source elements of your code are compared against publicly available vulnerability databases to identify if any of your open source components have vulnerabilities that need remediation, this can help avoid problems later on is always good to get done early in the life cycle
  3. Set and Enforce Policies: Open source software license compliance is critical at all levels within an organization. SCA focuses on the need to set policies, respond to license compliance and security events. It can automate approval processes and policy enforcement. It can provide immediate alerts or even block developers from implementing the code altogether
  4. Continuous Monitoring: SCA can continue to monitor for security and vulnerability issues and allows users to create alerts for newly discovered vulnerabilities in both current and released code
  5. Integrate open source code scanning into the build environment: One can easily integrate open source security and license scans in the DevSecOps environment in order to scan code and identify dependencies in the build environment
What to look when selecting a Software Composition Analysis Tool

SCA tools are imperative for software security and especially crucial while implementing DevSecOps. So what would you look for while deciding what SCA tool to use. Let’s try to summarize –

  1. Process automation: Software Composition Analysis tools must provide automation for several critical processes, including approval and auditing functions. Developers need to find out in real-time whether they can – or should – use a component
  2. Vulnerability alerts: Leading SCA tools continuously monitor repositories for newly discovered security or vulnerability issues
  3. Navigation for vulnerability remediation: Ability to fix vulnerabilities quickly and easily. The tool must be able to tells developers exactly where to find the vulnerability
  4. Language support: Different tools supports different languages. Ensure that the one chosen covers most of the languages that the organization uses
  5. Seamless integration: The ideal software composition analysis tool integrates open source security and license scans within the DevSecOps environment. It should be able to scan code and identify dependencies without disrupting workflow
What are some of the recommended SCA Tools?

There are several tools available for Software Composition Analysis. From my experience, following are some of the highly recommended ones –

  1. WhiteSource Software
  2. Black Duck Software Composition Analysis
  3. Snyx
  4. Sonatype Nexus

There’s no debate about the value of open source software and code when building new applications but at the same time developers must be aware of the legal obligations and security vulnerabilities that can pose significant risks to organizations; this is why having a robust Software Composition Analysis process built in to your DevSecOps framework is so critical.