Identifying and Addressing Overlooked Software Vulnerabilities

Learn how to proactively address vulnerabilities, improve your application's overall security, ensure compliance, and produce high-quality software solutions.

Some Vulnerabilities Don’t Have a Name

As the pace of software development increases, so does reliance on a growing depository of open-source, custom, and third-party software. This is both for practicality and because of the availability of free or cost-effective software solutions developed and maintained by communities of developers. Unfortunately, this reliance introduces novel and often overlooked risks into the software development process.

The Role of SBOM Capabilities

While incorporating open-source software can help speed development and reduce costs, it also risks introducing security vulnerabilities. To address flaws that attackers can exploit, software bill of materials (SBOM) solutions have been developed to help identify and manage risks associated with open-source software.

SBOMs can provide detailed information about every component used in software applications, including version numbers, licenses, and dependencies. Developers and security professionals can gain valuable insights into potential vulnerabilities that exist within an application by using SBOM solutions.

Those vulnerabilities can often be complex and exist across several components of a larger project. While each may be secure in its operation, cross-functionality with other open-source software components can introduce exploitable vulnerabilities.

A better understanding of the kind of security concerns that can be discovered is helpful in determining how your organization can benefit from SBOM solutions. Here’s a look at some vulnerability aspects that can be overlooked or misunderstood.

Known Security Vulnerabilities

Because open-source libraries are widely used and freely available, they’re prime targets for cybercriminals. Communities of these bad actors quickly discover vulnerabilities in these libraries, and they are often just as quickly exploited.

Leveraging software composition analysis (SCA) techniques is critical to ensuring secure software development. It enables developers and security teams to analyze the components used in an application and screen them for known security vulnerabilities. If a vulnerability is detected, an SBOM solution can help identify affected components, enabling developers to address the issue before shipping vulnerable code.

For example, a vulnerability in networking framework solutions could allow attackers to execute code remotely on affected servers. Developers using SCA and an up-to-date SBOM could quickly determine which applications were at risk and isolate those applications or take other appropriate measures to address the issue.

License Compliance Issues

Though many may not think of compliance as an explicit area of vulnerability, software found to be non-compliant can cause bottlenecks, lost productivity, or other negative impacts.

Many open-source libraries are governed by specific licensing agreements, and developers must ensure they comply with those agreements to avoid significant legal and financial consequences.

With increases in federal compliance guidelines and regulations, non-compliant software risks failure to meet contractual obligations. It can also jeopardize a federal contractor’s relationship with upstream government partners.

Having SBOM capabilities to track licenses associated with every component used in an application enables developers to ensure they’re using open-source or third-party libraries in compliance with the applicable license agreements and requirements.

Software Supply Chain Considerations

Software applications often rely on a variety of different components, including open-source libraries, third-party software, and custom code, each of which can introduce risks into the software supply chain.

Tracking the components used in an application allows developers to better understand the potential risks associated with each element. For example, if a component relies on a vulnerable or non-compliant library, an SBOM can identify the problem and enable developers to address the issue.

Third-Party Software Risks

Many software applications rely on third-party components developed and maintained by external vendors. These components can include anything from database software to KYC components to messaging systems.

While third-party software can accelerate development and reduce costs, it introduces potential vulnerabilities in the software supply chain. By using an SBOM to track third-party software components, developers can gain greater visibility into the risks associated with these components and take appropriate measures to mitigate them.

Custom Code Vulnerabilities

Open-source and third-party software components can introduce new risks into the software supply chain, but custom code can introduce vulnerabilities that can be more challenging to identify and mitigate without the proper tools.

The ability to scan custom code and identify potential vulnerabilities is essential. This can include identifying issues such as buffer overflows, SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), or other developing security hazards that are less well-known but can still be exploited by attackers.

Scanning custom code and identifying potential vulnerabilities enables developers to proactively address vulnerabilities before they can be exploited. This can help improve an application’s overall security and reduce the risks of successful attacks.

Successfully Addressing Vulnerability Variables

Vulnerabilities in custom code can be just as dangerous as vulnerabilities in open-source software or third-party components. Using Software Composition Analysis or SBOM solutions such as those provided by Apona SCA to identify and address these vulnerabilities allows developers to improve the overall security of their applications, ensure compliance, and produce high-quality software solutions.