Combination of Static Application Security Testing (SAST) and Software Composition Analysis (SCA) tools

When building, testing, and deploying software, many development companies now use proprietary software and free software (OSS).

Proprietary software, also known as closed-source or non-free software, includes applications for which the publisher or another person reserves license rights to modify, use, or share the modifications. Examples include Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Photoshop, macOS, Microsoft Windows, and iTunes.

In contrast, OSS grants users the ability to use, modify, study, and distribute the software and its source code to anyone on the Internet. Consequently, anyone can participate in the development of the software. Examples include MongoDB, LibreOffice, Apache HTTP Server, and the GNU/Linux operating system.

This means that many organizations use third-party code and modules for their OSS. While these additions are incredibly useful for many applications, they can also put organizations at risk. According 2022 State of the Revenera Software Supply Chain Report64% of organizations have been impacted by software supply chain attacks caused by vulnerabilities in OSS dependencies.

Although OSS can put organizations at risk, it is impractical to avoid OSS software and its dependencies. OSS software and its dependencies now play a vital role in development. This is especially the case for JavaScript, Ruby, and PHP application frameworks, which tend to use multiple OSS components.

Since software vendors cannot realistically avoid using OSS, cybersecurity teams must avoid vulnerabilities associated with OSS by using Software Composition Analysis (SCA) tools. Additionally, they must combine SCA with static application security testing (SAST), as proprietary software such as Microsoft Windows and Adobe Acrobat are also used.

Read to learn more about SAST and SCA. This article also explains how cybersecurity teams can combine SAST and SCA into a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.

What is SAST?

SAST is a code analysis program that examines proprietary code and application sources to detect cybersecurity weaknesses and bugs. Also known as white box testing, SAST is considered a static approach because it analyzes code without running the application itself. Because they only read code line by line and do not execute the program, SAST platforms are extremely effective at eliminating security vulnerabilities at every page of the software product development lifecycle (SDLC), especially during the first stages of development.

Specifically, SAST programs can help teams:

  • Find common vulnerabilities, such as buffer overflow, cross-site scripting, and SQL injection
  • Verify that development teams have complied with development standards
  • Eliminate breaches and intentional acts, such as supply chain attacks
  • Spot weaknesses before code goes into production and creates vulnerabilities
  • Analyze all possible states and paths for proprietary software bugs that development teams were unaware of
  • Implement a proactive security approach by reducing issues early in the SDLC

SAST plays a vital role in software development. By giving development teams real-time feedback as they code, SAST can help teams troubleshoot and eliminate issues before moving on to the next phase of the SDLC. This prevents bugs and vulnerabilities from piling up.

What is SCA?

SCA is a code analysis tool that inspects source code, package managers, container images, binaries and lists them in an inventory of known vulnerabilities called Bill of Materials (BOM). The software then compares the nomenclature with databases containing information on common and known vulnerabilities, such as the US National Vulnerability Database (NVD). The comparison allows cybersecurity teams to spot critical legal and security vulnerabilities and remediate them.

Some SCA tools can also compare their inventory of known vulnerabilities to discover licenses related to open source code. Advanced SCAs may also be able to:

  • Analyze overall code quality (i.e. contribution history and version control)
  • Automate the entire process of working with OSS modules, including selecting and blocking them from the IT environment as needed
  • Provide ongoing alerting and monitoring of reported vulnerabilities after an organization deploys an application
  • Detect and map known OSS vulnerabilities that cannot be found through other tools
  • Map legal compliance risks associated with OSS dependencies by identifying licenses in open source packages
  • Monitor new vulnerabilities

Every software development organization should consider getting SCA for legal and security compliance. Secure, reliable and efficient, SCA enables teams to track open source code with just a few mouse clicks. Without SCA, teams must manually track open source code, a nearly impossible feat due to the sheer number of OSS dependencies.

How to use SAST and SCA to mitigate vulnerabilities

Using SAST and SCA to mitigate vulnerabilities isn’t as easy as it sounds. Indeed, using SAST and SCA involves much more than just pressing buttons on a screen. Successful implementation of SAST and SCA requires IT and cybersecurity teams to establish and follow a security program across the organization, an undertaking that can be challenging.

Fortunately, there are several ways to do this:

1. Use the DevSecOps model

Short for development, security, and operations, DevSecOps is an approach to platform design, culture, and automation that makes security a shared responsibility at every phase of the software development lifecycle. This contrasts with traditional cybersecurity approaches that employ a separate security team and quality assurance (QA) team to harden software security late in the development cycle.

Cybersecurity teams can follow the DevSecOps model when using SAST and SCA to mitigate vulnerabilities by implementing both tools and approaches at each phase of the software development lifecycle. To get started, they should introduce SAST and SCA tools into the DevSecOps pipeline as early as possible in the build cycle. Specifically, they must introduce the tools during the coding phase, during which the program code is written. This will ensure that:

  • Security is not just an afterthought
  • The team has an unbiased way to weed out bugs and vulnerabilities before they reach critical mass

While it can be difficult to convince teams to adopt two security tools at once, it is possible to do so with a lot of planning and discussion. However, if teams prefer to use only one tool for their DevSecOps model, they can consider the alternatives below.

2. Integrate SAST and SCA into the CI/CD pipeline

Another way to use SAST and SCA together is to integrate them into the CI/CD pipeline.

Short for continuous integration, CI refers to an approach to software development in which developers combine code changes into a centralized hub multiple times a day. CD, which stands for Continuous Delivery, then automates the software release process.

Essentially, a CI/CD pipeline is a pipeline that builds code, runs tests (CI), and safely deploys a new version of the application (CD). It’s a series of steps that developers must perform to create a new version of an application. Without a CI/CD pipeline, computer engineers would have to do everything manually, which would reduce productivity.

The CI/CD pipeline consists of the following steps:

  1. Source. Developers start running the pipeline by modifying code in the source code repository, using other pipelines, and auto-scheduled workflows.
  2. To build. The development team creates an executable instance of the application for end users.
  3. Test. Cybersecurity and development teams run automated tests to validate code correctness and catch bugs. This is where organizations need to integrate SAST and SCA analysis.
  4. Deploy. Once the correctness of the code has been verified, the team is ready to deploy it. They can deploy the application in multiple environments, including a staging environment for the product team and a production environment for end users.

3. Create a consolidated workflow with SAST and SCA.

Finally, teams can use SAST and SCA together by creating a consolidated workflow.

To do this, they can purchase state-of-the-art cybersecurity tools that allow teams to perform SAST and SCA scans at the same time and with the same tool. This will help developers and IT and cybersecurity teams save a lot of time and energy.

Discover the Kiuwan difference

With so many SAST and SCA tools on the market, it can be difficult for businesses to choose the right tools for their IT environments. This is especially true if they have limited experience with SAST and SCA tools.

This is where Kiuwan comes in. A global organization that designs tools to help teams detect vulnerabilities, Kiuwan offers Code Security (SAST) as well as Insights Open Source (SCA).

Kiuwan Code Security (SAST) can enable teams to:

  • Analyze IT environments and share results in the cloud
  • Detect and fix vulnerabilities in a collaborative environment
  • Generate custom reports using industry standard security ratings so teams can better understand risk
  • Create automatic action plans to manage debt and technology weaknesses
  • Empower teams to choose from a set of coding rules to customize the importance of various vulnerabilities to their IT environment

Kiuwan Insights Open Source (SCA) can help companies:

  • Manage and analyze open source components
  • Automate code management so teams can use OSS with confidence
  • Integrates seamlessly into their current SDLC and toolkit

Want to know more about Kiuwan products? Obtain demos of Kiuwan security solutions today. Developers will see how easy it is to initiate a scan, navigate our seamless user interface, create a remediation action plan, and manage internal and third-party code risks.

Content provided by Kiuwan.


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Steven L. Nielsen