Open Source Software (OSS) is a form of
computer software designed and licensed to grant multiple parties increased
access. This includes the ability to study, change, and distribute the code
however they see fit. It is estimated that OSS adoption saves $60 billion dollars for consumers each year.
This might explain why about 96% of all commercial applications
contain elements of OSS.
Open Source Vulnerabilities
Any code is vulnerable to exploits, a few
characters the developers accidentally wrote can expose their code to malicious
intent. Attackers can exploit these coding errors and gain benefits in the form
of increased access. Scenarios of hackers exploiting coding vulnerabilities
include rendering the software unusable online like in Denial Of Service (DoS)
attacks or acquiring more access than the developer intended users to have such
as remote file access.
What makes OSS more vulnerable than a
proprietary code developed in house is the fact that it’s a distributed system.
When a code is developed in house, it is much easier to monitor it and keep
strict policies and security protocols than when it is developed by many
different individuals with no specific authority.
Due to their popular and open nature, lines of
code are added to open source projects very rapidly which often leads to a code
of lesser quality. In many scenarios, by the time a release cycle is checked
for bugs and vulnerabilities, a new one is already out, rendering the last
release cycle obsolete and the check performed almost useless. This means the
code that many open source projects rely on has many security risks in forms of
vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. In addition, many smaller companies
prefer to use open source since it’s cheaper and faster. Typically, these
companies can only channel fewer resources into scanning their code for
potential vulnerabilities which also adds to the risk of using open source.
Ways to Find and Fix Open Source
The best way to fix the vulnerabilities of
open source would have been to keep all the codes and libraries up to date with
the latest patches and fixes at all times. However, with so many users and the
speed at which release cycles are introduced, this solution is mostly
impractical. Therefore, it is important to know the best ways to find and fix
open source vulnerabilities.
Here are 8 ways that you can find
and fix open source vulnerabilities.
1. Find open source components
within your code
In order to find and fix open source
vulnerabilities, you first need to find and identify which components of your
software contain components of open source code. Only after you identified all
open source components within your software you can start checking them
vulnerabilities within the code.
2. Check your code for existing
The first thing to do after identifying open
source components is Checking the code within your inventory for existing
vulnerabilities. Now that you know how common can vulnerabilities be within the
open source code, you understand how important it is to frequently check for
vulnerabilities and apply the necessary fixes. This can be accomplished
manually, which can prove time-consuming and troublesome. Luckily, various
tools offer automation for this process.
3. Educate employees to identify
One of the most efficient methods to fend off
your product from vulnerabilities of open source code is to educate your
employees in the dangers of adopting it within the software. Making sure all
employees follow security protocols when they use open source code and identify
risks themselves can greatly reduce the risk of vulnerabilities finding their
way into the code in the first place.
4. Enforce strict security rules
and protocol standards
Another way to make sure your employees only
allow safe open source components into the software is to enforce strict
security policies. Doing so will improve the security of your product because
your developers will have to prove the open source components they are
interested in are safe to use and don’t include any vulnerabilities before
implementing them inside the build.
5. Use updated libraries
Using updated libraries with current fixes and
security patches is a great way to ensure the code you are using isn’t
vulnerable to existing exploits and threats. While this method isn’t
bulletproof, it does improve the chances the code you are implementing is
secure. As opposed to old and obsolete libraries which are more vulnerable to
6. Update frequently
Many vulnerabilities and exploits are often
exposed only after certain amounts of time. This means that even though you
thought your software is safe to use it actually isn’t. This is why it’s
important to continuously improve and deliver updates and fixes to your product
even after being released. There are some tools available in the market that
can automate this process for you by checking when a new Common Vulnerability
and Exposure (CVE) threatens your software and alert you about it.
Learn about common and dangerous vulnerabilities
The popularity of open-source projects means
any vulnerability hackers can find and exploit can be used on a large number of
systems, making the open-source project a prime target for hackers. By
understanding the current biggest CVE trends, you can take the necessary steps
to ensure those vulnerabilities don’t exist in your software.
One noteworthy example of a known open source
vulnerability is the Heartbleed vulnerability. In 2014, CVE-2014-0160, a vulnerability within the
heartbeat extension (RFC 6520) of OpenSSL caused by a common coding error,
became publicly known as the Heartbleed vulnerability. OpenSSL, an open source
library providing security for 66% of the web servers. Essentially, because of
how popular OpenSSL was at the time, two-thirds of all the world’s web traffic
was exposed to this vulnerability. The fact that a project of this magnitude
was maintained by only two part-time developers, which clearly didn’t have enough
time to identify weaknesses, had a big part in shaping how important
cybersecurity is today.
8. Use security tools
Partly because of Heartbleed vulnerability and
other incidents like it the market for cybersecurity has grown substantially.
Many tools to improve security within open source frameworks have been
introduced. Today, wide availability of solutions are designed to automate the
process of dealing with security vulnerabilities in open source components.
Some tools discover open source components
in your code, alert you of vulnerabilities they find and notify you when a new
fixing patch is released so you can apply it immediately.
Implementing components from open source
projects into your code can expose your software to many security
vulnerabilities and put your product at risk. Even popular project like seen in
OpenSSL can have security issues. Therefore, it is crucial to familiarize
yourself with the best ways to find and fix open source vulnerabilities so you
could implement them and secure your project.
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