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Software Composition Analysis (SCA)

The Role of SCA Tools in Securing Software Supply Chains

Explore Smarter Security with Contrast SCA
Table of Contents

What is Software Composition Analysis (SCA)?

Today’s software applications rely heavily on open-source components. Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is the process of automating visibility into the use of open source software (OSS) for the purpose of risk management, license compliance, and security. SCA tools help ensure that the open source components that developers embed in their applications meet basic security standards and do not introduce risk to the organization.

Software Composition Analysis tools not only identify open source security risks and vulnerabilities of third-party components, they can also provide licensing and vulnerability information about each component. More advanced SCA security tools are able to automate the entire process of open source selection, approval, and tracking, saving developers precious time and increasing their accuracy significantly. Increasingly, SCA tools are becoming an essential part of application security portfolios.

What are the Benefits of Software Composition Analysis?

Software Composition Analysis (SCA) benefits include: end-to-end software supply chain visibility; third-party software testing throughout the software lifecycle; ability to prioritize risks; ability to manage dependency risk; and govern third-party software in real-time.

How did Software Composition Analysis (SCA) tools come to be?

The adoption of third-party open source software (OSS) has increased significantly over the last few years to help augment proprietary code developed in-house and to accelerate time-to-market. It’s important to recognize that free code comes at a cost, and that cost is responsibility. Businesses need to “own their sources,” because it is the business that will bear the brunt of any losses, both financial and reputational. Read more about Open Source Security.

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How do Software Composition Analysis (SCA) Tools work?

During the building of software applications, vulnerabilities can be introduced into the process at different stages of the SDLC, both on custom code and third party libraries that you may be using. In order to ensure that your codebase is secure, you need visibility into your open source code dependencies as well as a very clear understanding of what that code is doing across your applications and systems.

As such, standalone software composition analysis solutions or “SCA” tools are often added into your software security testing —alongside DAST and even additional IAST, SAST—to scan software, identify and document all its dependencies, components and versions. Open-source software (OSS) is the primary focus of analytics. There are SCA tools that can be used to audit open source code for known vulnerabilities and databases that can be searched for detailed information and remediation guidance. There are also Runtime SCA tools like Contrast OSS, that provide a more precise open source risk management by showing which dependencies are really being used and by highlighting compliance issues in regards to license violations. All these verifications are done automatically and continuously throughout the SDLC.

The software scan can generally be in the form of binary scanning, manifest scanning, or a combination of the two. The software bill of materials (SBOM) created is checked against vulnerability databases and licenses. Non-public vulnerabilities require a SCA tool with a license. Since OSS components keep growing and new vulnerabilities and exploits are always being discovered, it is a good idea to scan all assets with SCA tools daily, from early stages of the SDL all the way through production - especially if only static SCA scans are being performed in a point-in-time fashion. It is important to remember that software composition analysis tools can be static or dynamic.

What does the Contrast SCA tool analyze and protect?

Contrast Security offers Software Composition Analysis (SCA) capabilities both in the code repository and in application runtime, providing full SCA testing coverage across the entire software development lifecycle. As a shared service across the Contrast Application Security Platform, Contrast SCA provides third-party software visibility without the need to deploy any additional tooling.

By using a single platform for both static SCA analysis and runtime SCA analysis and protection, Contrast SCA not only detects vulnerabilities in packages that are declared as dependencies in code repositories; Contrast’s dynamic SCA also determines whether those packages are actually being used by the application at runtime, down to the class, module, or file. The former is done by analyzing project manifests, while the latter is done by leveraging agent technologies to observe whether a package’s classes were loaded into memory during application runtime in the scope of Contrast’s interactive application security testing (IAST).

Contrast SCA also  provides support for GitHub, Bitbucket, and GitLab, empowers customers to choose the platform that best meets their needs, unlocking flexibility and control.

Learn More About Contrast SCA

What is the Difference between Static SCA and Dynamic SCA?

Static SCA tools are used during the beginning build stages of the software development process, scanning the application’s build manifest files and third-party dependencies for pre-release vulnerabilities. This is a proactive approach but not without problems. Static SCA tools can fail to identify components with vulnerabilities by missing dependencies not on a package manifest or find code it deems vulnerable because it references unused dependencies based on the manifest.
Dynamic SCA tools can be integrated into the continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline and at runtime, looking at front- and back-end open-source components from both the inside and outside. Dynamic SCA can use a binary or combined approach of scanning artifacts and recognizing components with known vulnerabilities. The vulnerabilities’ remediation can then be prioritized depending on importance.

What are the Benefits of Dynamic SCA?

Dynamic SCA tools can find components’ vulnerabilities during runtime that previously hadn’t been discovered. A runtime SBOM provides visibility to understand what is in use when the system is running and can include information about whether components are active and what parts are used. The prioritization of security assessments by dynamic SCA can tell a team the likelihood of vulnerabilities that can be exploited at runtime. Because dynamic SCA is deployed at runtime, it can also reduce the noise of false positives that static SCA tools can deliver. The dynamic SCA can also scan for continual software license use compliance down the road which can be very challenging to keep track of. These continual data updates from dynamic SCA benefit many of the organization’s stakeholders including DevOps and engineering. Another benefit is that as Contrast SCA keeps an up-to-date listing of active dependencies that users of the Contrast platform will get notified if new vulnerabilities are being reported for listed dependencies - without having to perform any new scans.How do Software Composition Analysis (SCA) Tools work?

During the building of software applications, vulnerabilities can be introduced into the process at different stages of the SDLC, both on custom code and third party libraries that you may be using. In order to ensure that your codebase is secure, you need visibility into your open source code dependencies as well as a very clear understanding of what that code is doing across your applications and systems.

As such, standalone software composition analysis solutions or “SCA” tools are often added into your software security testing —alongside DAST and even additional IAST, SAST—to scan software, identify and document all its dependencies, components and versions. Open-source software (OSS) is the primary focus of analytics. There are SCA tools that can be used to audit open source code for known vulnerabilities and databases that can be searched for detailed information and remediation guidance. There are also Runtime SCA tools like Contrast OSS, that provide a more precise open source risk management by showing which dependencies are really being used and by highlighting compliance issues in regards to license violations. All these verifications are done automatically and continuously throughout the SDLC.

The software scan can generally be in the form of binary scanning, manifest scanning, or a combination of the two. The software bill of materials (SBOM) created is checked against vulnerability databases and licenses. Non-public vulnerabilities require a SCA tool with a license. Since OSS components keep growing and new vulnerabilities and exploits are always being discovered, it is a good idea to scan all assets with SCA tools daily, from early stages of the SDL all the way through production - especially if only static SCA scans are being performed in a point-in-time fashion. It is important to remember that software composition analysis tools can be static or dynamic.

What does the Contrast SCA tool analyze and protect?

Contrast Security offers Software Composition Analysis (SCA) capabilities both in the code repository and in application runtime, providing full SCA testing coverage across the entire software development lifecycle. As a shared service across the Contrast Application Security Platform, Contrast SCA provides third-party software visibility without the need to deploy any additional tooling.

By using a single platform for both static SCA analysis and runtime SCA analysis and protection, Contrast SCA not only detects vulnerabilities in packages that are declared as dependencies in code repositories; Contrast’s dynamic SCA also determines whether those packages are actually being used by the application at runtime, down to the class, module, or file. The former is done by analyzing project manifests, while the latter is done by leveraging agent technologies to observe whether a package’s classes were loaded into memory during application runtime in the scope of Contrast’s interactive application security testing (IAST).

Contrast SCA also  provides support for GitHub, Bitbucket, and GitLab, empowers customers to choose the platform that best meets their needs, unlocking flexibility and control.

What is the Difference between Static SCA and Dynamic SCA?

Static SCA tools are used during the beginning build stages of the software development process, scanning the application’s build manifest files and third-party dependencies for pre-release vulnerabilities. This is a proactive approach but not without problems. Static SCA tools can fail to identify components with vulnerabilities by missing dependencies not on a package manifest or find code it deems vulnerable because it references unused dependencies based on the manifest.
Dynamic SCA tools can be integrated into the continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline and at runtime, looking at front- and back-end open-source components from both the inside and outside. Dynamic SCA can use a binary or combined approach of scanning artifacts and recognizing components with known vulnerabilities. The vulnerabilities’ remediation can then be prioritized depending on importance.

What are the Benefits of Dynamic SCA?

Dynamic SCA tools can find components’ vulnerabilities during runtime that previously hadn’t been discovered. A runtime SBOM provides visibility to understand what is in use when the system is running and can include information about whether components are active and what parts are used. The prioritization of security assessments by dynamic SCA can tell a team the likelihood of vulnerabilities that can be exploited at runtime. Because dynamic SCA is deployed at runtime, it can also reduce the noise of false positives that static SCA tools can deliver. The dynamic SCA can also scan for continual software license use compliance down the road which can be very challenging to keep track of. These continual data updates from dynamic SCA benefit many of the organization’s stakeholders including DevOps and engineering. Another benefit is that as Contrast SCA keeps an up-to-date listing of active dependencies that users of the Contrast platform will get notified if new vulnerabilities are being reported for listed dependencies - without having to perform any new scans.

 

Learn More About Contrast SCA

Contrast is the clear customers’ choice

Contrast is named a Customers’ Choice in the 2021 Gartner Peer Insights “Voice of the Customer”: Application Security Testing report. With the highest percentage of 5-star ratings, this is the third consecutive year Contrast has received this powerful endorsement from customers.

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