Building applications with third-party components can accelerate development, but also introduces risks if those components contain vulnerabilities. Here’s how to manage software dependencies and keep components updated.
Developers rely heavily on software components like libraries, frameworks, and packages to build feature-rich applications efficiently. However vulnerable and outdated components are a major risk.
The recently released OWASP Top 10 2021 ranks using outdated or vulnerable components as the #6 security risk. Surveys also found it was developers’ #2 concern. This risk covers a very broad category – any third party code with potential issues.
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Real-World Impacts of Vulnerable Components
Neglecting software dependencies has enabled major breaches, like the 2017 Equifax breach that exposed personal data of 147 million people. Analysis suggested an outdated Java framework was the root cause.
Managing software dependencies protects against many types of potential weaknesses and exposures. Any of the OWASP Top 10 vulnerabilities could potentially exist in third party components.
Avoiding and Mitigating Risks from Software Components
The key is knowing exactly what components are used in your software, their origin, and version. Without that inventory, you cannot effectively maintain and secure app dependencies.
Audit all third party code dependencies. Analyze them to remove unneeded bloatware. Less code means less surface area for vulnerabilities.
Maintain a bill of materials detailing every component, including versions. Keep this updated as an accurate, live inventory.
Actively monitor for vulnerabilities to determine potential impact. Watch for new CVEs in the National Vulnerability Database that affect project dependencies.
When newer versions are available, update components promptly. Replace end-of-life software no longer getting maintainer security patches. For open source projects, consider contributing fixes.
Use tools like OWASP Dependency Check to automatically scan dependencies and detect known vulnerable components, both in development and CI/CD pipeline. It supports Java/.NET/Python/Ruby/Node.js.
Consider automating the inventory updates as well. Integrate software composition analysis into the software delivery lifecycle.
Staying on top of software dependencies is crucial. Know your inventory, prioritize updates, and leverage automation. With discipline, vulnerable components can be avoided to reduce application risk.
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