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What Is SCA? (Software Composition Analysis)

Using open-source code is a key part of most software development. It allows developers to benefit from the expertise of an entire community to meet their milestones faster while reducing costs. However, using open-source software can also open up your application to a number of potential problems.

That’s why software composition analysis (SCA) should always be a part of your toolbox, as it can help your team manage and mitigate those risks.

What Is Software Composition Analysis?

SCA is used to identify the open-source components within a software application, assess their security vulnerabilities, and ensure compliance with licensing requirements. SCA tools will analyze your codebase, create an inventory of all third-party components, and continuously monitor them for new vulnerabilities or licensing issues.

Why Do You Need SCA?

Software composition analysis tools have several uses, including:

  • Identifying and mitigating security vulnerabilities
  • Ensuring compliance with licensing terms
  • Maintaining an up-to-date inventory of open-source components
  • Reducing the risk of software supply chain attacks

How Do Software Composition Analysis Tools Work?

If you want to get a great idea of what SCA is, let’s walk through how Kiuwan’s SCA tool works.

1. Codebase Scanning

Kiuwan’s SCA software begins by scanning the entire codebase of an application. This includes an examination of both source code and binary files to identify all the open-source components and libraries used in the project.

2. Component Identification

Our software will identify each component of your application, including its version and license information. SCA tools do this by comparing the identified components against a comprehensive database of known open-source libraries and their metadata.

3. Dependency Mapping

Next, our SCA application will map out the dependencies between components, including transitive dependencies. This mapping is crucial for understanding the full scope of the open-source components and their potential vulnerabilities.

4. Vulnerability Detection

Once the application has been fully mapped out, our software will cross-reference the identified components against known vulnerability databases, such as the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) and other security advisories. It flags components with known vulnerabilities, providing details about the nature and severity of each vulnerability.

5. License Compliance Check

Our software composition analysis tools also check the licenses of all identified components to ensure that their use complies with the terms and conditions of these licenses. This will help prevent legal issues that can arise from improper use of open-source software.

6. Risk Assessment

Kiuwan’s SCA tools will assess the risk associated with each component based on various factors, such as the severity of vulnerabilities, the criticality of the component in the application, and the frequency of updates or patches.

7. Reporting and Alerts

Once this process is finished, our SCA software will generate detailed reports that will provide insights into the open-source components used in the application, their vulnerabilities, and license compliance status. It can also send alerts for newly discovered vulnerabilities or non-compliance issues, allowing for timely remediation.

8. Remediation Guidance

One of the most useful parts of Kiuwan’s SCA software is our remediation guidance. It can include recommendations for updating or replacing vulnerable components, applying patches, or making configuration changes to mitigate risks.

9. Continuous Monitoring

If you have the Kiuwan local analyzer installed on your machine, it can continuously monitor your application’s codebase for changes and new vulnerabilities. By providing real-time feedback on vulnerabilities, you can catch potential issues before they become a problem.

10. Integration with CI/CD

Implementing continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines is one of the best ways to build efficiencies into your application development process. Our SCA software seamlessly integrates into the CI/CD process to allow automated scans and checks at various stages of the development process.

Best Practices for Using SCA

We’ve outlined a few best practices to help you smoothly implement SCA scanning within your team.

Assess Your Current State

Create an inventory of all the open-source components currently used in your codebase. This will give you a baseline understanding of your software composition. You should also determine who will be responsible for SCA implementation and ongoing management, such as security teams, development teams, and compliance officers.

Create an Incidence Response Plan

Develop and maintain an incident response plan for vulnerabilities discovered in open-source components. The plan should outline steps for assessing the impact, communicating with stakeholders, and deploying patches or mitigations.

Prepare Your Codebase

Remove any unused or outdated dependencies from your codebase. This will simplify the scanning process and reduce the number of issues to manage. You should also ensure that all dependencies and their versions are well-documented. This will help in accurately identifying components during the SCA scan.

Pilot the Implementation

Start with a pilot project to test the SCA tool and processes. It will allow you to identify any issues and refine your approach before rolling out SCA across all your projects. Make sure to gather feedback from the pilot project team and make necessary adjustments to the tool configuration, processes, or policies.

Request a Free Scan

Ready to see what SCA can do for your development process? Sign up for a free demo of Kiuwan and request a free SCA scan today.

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