What is Software Composition Analysis (SCA)? Definition, Working, and Implementation

In this blog, we will see what Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is, How its works, and its implementation.

First, we will see what is Software Composition Analysis (SCA) and Why it is required?

Nowadays, developers use the number of open-source libraries to build their software because third-party libraries allow them to reuse the code that was developed by other developers, and it will also save time and cost to develop the software.

But on the other hand, the usage of open-source libraries has its own risk because we are using code that was written by someone else. That code may contain the known vulnerabilities reported by security researchers or malicious code, so it is essential to maintain the list of open-source libraries that we are using in our software, but manually tracking all the libraries to check which libraries are safe to use and which are vulnerable is not a feasible and efficient process because an application contains hundreds or thousands of open-source libraries and every day new vulnerabilities are reported in open-source libraries.

Now we will see how Software Composition Analysis (SCA) helps to solve this problem.

Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is an automated process to identify all the open-source libraries, including the known vulnerable libraries and Open-Source license details, by analyzing the Packaging format, source code files, binaries, manifest files, etc., as part of the CI/CD pipeline.

How Software Composition Analysis (SCA) works?

The first thing that Software Composition Analysis (SCA) tools does is create a list of Open-Source libraries, including the library version and its hash value, by mainly using three sources.

  1. Fetching the list of open-source libraries mentioned in Packaging format files like requirement.txt (PIP), pom.xml (Maven), package.json (node.js), and so on based on the language used.
  2. SCA tools will analyze the source code files to check if any open-source libraries are imported.
  3. SCA tools create a hash value of all the binaries present in the codebase and then search all these hash values in a database that contains the mapping Binary Hash value with the details of the Open-Source library if the hash value is found in the database, then the SCA tool will add details of the open-source library associated with that hash value.

After the generation of the list of Open-Source libraries, including their versions and hash values, the SCA tool starts the vulnerability analysis of all the open-source libraries present in the list.

SCA tools search all the open-source libraries present in the list in the vulnerability database (Public or Private) to check weather which open-source library is vulnerable and which one is safe to use, and it will also check the OSS license details of the libraries and their risk.

After performing vulnerability analysis, the SCA tool reports all the vulnerable libraries, license risk including remediation to fix (Safe Veriosn of Open-Source library)

How to use Software Composition Analysis (SCA) Tools?

The best and most effective way to use the SCA tool so to integrate it with CI/CD tools like Jenkins, Bamboo, Gitlab, and so on because when the developer triggers the build, the SCA tool will automatically start to identify the vulnerabilities in open-source components, and it will also allow us to continuously monitor open-source libraries for any new vulnerabilities without any manual effort.

Sahil Gupta

Application Security | DevSecOps | Secure SDLC | Penetration Tester (Web and API) | CEHv10 | IBM Certified Cybersecurity Analyst Professional

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