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Improve your open source security with these 10 tips
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Improve your open source security with these 10 tips

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Tabnine Team /
8 minutes /
March 1, 2023

What Is Open Source Security?

Open source security refers to measures and practices that can help protect open source software from potential security threats and vulnerabilities.

This can include the use of security tools and techniques, such as penetration testing and code review, to identify and fix vulnerabilities in the software. It also involves the use of best practices and guidelines for secure coding and development, as well as the implementation of security policies and procedures for managing and maintaining open source software.

Additionally, open source security includes collaboration and communication with the open source community to share knowledge and information about security threats and vulnerabilities and to create solutions to address them.

In this article, we will cover the following tips for improving open source security:

  • Create an Inventory of Open Source Components
  • Keep Open Source Up to Date
  • Identify Other Open-Source Risks You May Face
  • Identify License Risk in Open Source Software
  • Leverage SBOM (Software Bill of Materials)
  • Use Security Testing Tools
  • Use SCA (Software Composition Analysis)
  • Perform Regular Penetration Testing
  • Cross-Train Your Staff

Improving Open Source Software Security in Your Organization

1. Create an Inventory of Open Source Components

Creating an inventory of open source software can help to improve open source software security by providing a comprehensive view of the open source components being used within an organization, as well as identifying any potential vulnerabilities or risks associated with those components. This information can then be used to prioritize and address security issues, as well as to ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

Here are some steps to take to inventory open source software:

  • Identify all open source software used within the organization: This includes identifying all open source components that are used in applications, systems, and infrastructure.
  • Assess the risk associated with each open source component: This includes evaluating the potential vulnerabilities and risks associated with each component, as well as the potential impact of those risks on the organization.
  • Prioritize open source components based on risk: Use a risk assessment to prioritize the open source components that pose the greatest risk to the organization and focus on addressing those risks first.
  • Keep track of open source components: Keep track of all open source components used within the organization and monitor for any updates or changes that may impact the security of the software.
  • Communicate with the open source community: Regularly communicate and collaborate with the open source community to share information about vulnerabilities and risks, as well as to stay informed about any new developments or updates that may impact the security of the software.
  • Regularly review and update the inventory: Regularly review and update the inventory of open source software to ensure that it remains accurate and up-to-date.
  • Train the team: Regularly train the team on best practices of open source security management, development, testing, and deployment.
  • Automation tools: Use available tools to automate the process of open source inventorying, tracking, and monitoring security vulnerabilities, patches, and updates.

2. Keep Open Source Up to Date

Keeping open source software up to date is important for several reasons:

  • Security: Open source software is often maintained by a community of developers, who may discover and fix security vulnerabilities or bugs. Updating the software ensures that these vulnerabilities are patched and the software is secure. Learn more about scanning for security vulnerabilities in our sections about security testing and SCA below.
  • Performance: Updating open source software can also improve its performance and functionality, making it more efficient and effective.
  • Compliance: Keeping open source software up to date can also help organizations to comply with legal and regulatory requirements, as well as industry standards.

3. Identify Other Open-Source Risks You May Face

Here are additional open source risks organizations may face:

  • Dependency risks: Open source software often relies on other open source software, which can lead to dependency issues and conflicts, making it difficult to use the software or update it.
  • Vendor lock-in risks: Some open source software may be developed and maintained by a single vendor, which can lead to vendor lock-in and a lack of flexibility in the event that the vendor goes out of business or discontinues support for the software.
  • Support risks: Some open source software may not have dedicated support teams or resources, making it difficult to get assistance with issues or troubleshoot problems.
  • Reputation risks: Open source software may be associated with certain negative perceptions, such as low quality or lack of security, which can damage the reputation of the organization.
  • Integration risks: Open source software may not be as well-integrated with other software and systems, making it difficult to use in a business environment.
  • Lack of standardization: Open source software may not be standardized due to the different versions, different languages and different platforms, which can make it difficult to use in a business environment.

4. Identify License Risk in Open Source Software

Organizations should be aware of and comply with the terms and conditions associated with the use of open source software. This involves evaluating the licenses of open source components to determine if they are permissive or copyleft and the impact this may have on the organization.

Permissive licenses, such as MIT and Apache, allow for free use and modification of the software with few restrictions, while copyleft licenses, such as GPL, require that any derivative works also be made available under the same license.

Using open source software with an incompatible license can result in legal and financial consequences for the organization, including lawsuits, fines, and the requirement to release proprietary source code. 

5. Leverage SBOM (Software Bill of Materials)

Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) is a mechanism that ensures transparency of all components used in a software development project. It is a detailed list of all the binaries, libraries, and dependencies that are used in a software project, along with their versions and any known vulnerabilities.

Having an SBOM in place allows developers to understand the origin and potential risks of every component they are using in their code. It helps to identify any known vulnerabilities that may exist in the components they are using, and take appropriate action to mitigate those risks. This can include updating to a newer version of the component or replacing it with a different one.

In addition, an SBOM also helps with compliance and regulatory requirements. Many industries, such as healthcare and finance, have strict regulations around the use of open-source

components in software development. An SBOM can provide the necessary documentation to demonstrate compliance with these regulations.

6. Address Open Source Compliance Risk

Addressing open source compliance risk involves ensuring that the use of open-source software in an organization is in compliance with various legal and regulatory requirements, such as those set forth in standards such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). 

This can include implementing processes for tracking the use of open-source software, regularly reviewing license agreements, and ensuring that proper attribution is given. Additionally, organizations may need to take steps to address any potential security vulnerabilities in the open-source software they use, and have policies in place for managing any incidents related to open-source software security.

7. Use Security Testing Tools

There are several open source security testing tools that organizations can use to improve the security of their open source software. These include:

  • SAST (Static Application Security Testing): SAST tools are used to scan the source code of an application for potential vulnerabilities, such as SQL injection or cross-site scripting.
  • DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing): DAST tools are used to test the application while it is running, by simulating attacks on the application to identify vulnerabilities.
  • IAST (Interactive Application Security Testing): IAST tools are used to combine the capabilities of SAST and DAST tools to provide a more comprehensive view of an application’s security. It analyzes the application while it is running and can detect vulnerabilities that might not be detectable by SAST or DAST alone.

It is important to note that these tools are not substitutes for each other, but they can be used in conjunction with each other to get the most comprehensive view of the application’s security.

8. Use SCA (Software Composition Analysis)

SCA (Software Composition Analysis) tools are used to scan an organization’s codebase and identify any open source components that are being used. This includes identifying the specific versions of open source components and any known vulnerabilities associated with those versions.

SCA tools can help organizations to:

  • Inventory open source software: SCA tools can help organizations to inventory open source software and identify which components are being used and where they are being used.
  • Identify vulnerabilities: SCA tools can help organizations identify vulnerabilities in open source software, including known vulnerabilities and potential vulnerabilities.
  • Prioritize vulnerabilities: SCA tools can help organizations to prioritize vulnerabilities based on the severity of the vulnerability and the potential impact on the organization.
  • Compliance: SCA tools can help organizations to comply with legal and regulatory requirements, such as the PCI DSS and HIPAA.
  • Improve security: By identifying and fixing vulnerabilities in open source software, organizations can improve the overall security of their systems and applications.
  • Automate the process: SCA tools can automate the process of identifying open source software and identifying vulnerabilities, making it more efficient and effective.

Here are examples of popular SCA tools:

  • OWASP Dependency Check: an open source tool released by the Open Web Application Security Project (publisher of the OWASP Top 10 security threats list).
  • Sonatype Nexus: A platform that integrates with the software development lifecycle to automate and enforce open source component usage policies.
  • Synopsys Black Duck: A tool that scans software applications to identify open source components and vulnerabilities, as well as license compliance issues.
  • Mend (formerly WhiteSource): An SCA solution that provides real-time visibility into open source software usage, vulnerabilities, and licensing information.
  • Snyk: A cloud-based platform that helps developers find and fix vulnerabilities in open source components, while also providing license compliance information.

9. Perform Regular Penetration Testing

Performing regular penetration testing is an important aspect of open source security. Penetration testing is the process of simulating a cyber attack on an application or system to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses. This can help to identify any potential vulnerabilities in open source software and ensure that they are fixed before they can be exploited by malicious actors.

Some of the key benefits of performing regular penetration testing include:

  • Measuring the effectiveness of security measures: Penetration testing can help organizations to measure the effectiveness of their security measures, and identify areas where additional security controls are needed.
  • Identifying potential attack vectors: Penetration testing can help organizations identify potential attack vectors and create strategies to mitigate them.
  • Riding a realistic assessment: Penetration testing provides a realistic assessment of the security of an application, as it simulates a real-world attack.

10. Cross-Train Your Staff

Cross-training staff is an important aspect of open source security. By providing staff with training on open source security, organizations can ensure that all staff members are aware of the risks and best practices associated with open source software. This can help to reduce the risk of vulnerabilities and security breaches.

Here are some steps that organizations can take to cross-train their staff:

  • Develop a training program: Develop a training program that covers open source security best practices, including how to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities, how to use security tools, and how to comply with legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Provide regular training: Provide regular training to all staff members, including new hires, to ensure that everyone is aware of open source security best practices.
  • Encourage participation: Encourage participation in open source security training by making it a requirement for all staff members.
  • Use real-life scenarios: Use real-life scenarios to provide hands-on training and to ensure that staff members understand how to apply open source security best practices in a practical setting.
  • Encourage collaboration: Encourage collaboration and communication between staff members to share knowledge and information about open source security.
  • Provide ongoing support: Provide ongoing support and resources to staff members to ensure that they are able to stay up-to-date with the latest open source security best practices.

Improve Open Source Security with Tabnine

Open source security is a critical concern for software developers and organizations that rely on open source software. One way to improve open source security is by using Tabnine, an AI-powered code completion tool that offers developers with total control over their code completion models.

Tabnine Enterprise offers a variety of deployment options for its AI models, including local, self-hosted, VPC, or offline, which ensures complete compliance with data privacy regulations and security policies. This makes it an excellent choice for engineering organizations that prioritize security and privacy.

  • Tabnine Enterprise offers flexible deployment options for running AI models: locally, on self-hosted servers, in VPC, or completely offline.
  • These deployment options ensure absolute compliance with data privacy regulations and security policies.
  • Tabnine’s generative AI models are only trained on repositories with permissive open-source licenses, giving enterprises confidence in compliance with licensing requirements.
  • Tabnine provides advanced security features and compliance with open source licensing requirements, making it the ideal choice for secure code completion.

If you’re looking to enhance your software development practices while prioritizing privacy and security, please reach out to us.