Overview

Skill Level: Any Skill Level

Ingredients

Due to the popularity of open source components, and the increase in data breaches caused by open source vulnerabilities, open-source security has become crucial to the health of the majority of systems. This article provides an overview of open-source security and trends we can expect in 2020.

Step-by-step

  1. Why You Need Open Source Security

    The term open source software refers to a publicly accessible code that any user can modify and share. Open-source software is popular, including some well-known programs, such as  Linux, Kubernetes, PostgreSQL. 

    While the term originated as an approach to software development, today’s open-source defines a philosophy. The core set of values of the open-source way includes collaborative participation, transparency, and community-oriented development. 

    Shared code saves costs and time spent otherwise in buying and installing proprietary code. A common misconception is that open-source software equals free software. Open-source software creators can charge for their software. However, in many cases, the software remains free, and developers charge for support or software services. 

    When the code is open, it means more opportunities for expert users to examine and refine the code, making it potentially more secure. On the other hand, an attacker can potentially take the open-source code and use it to cause harm. 

    In theory, the “many eyes on the code” theory means that it is easier to spot bugs or flaws. In practice, there are a couple of risks involved. Software maintenance relies on contributors which have no obligation to maintain it. That is why open-source software typically comes with a disclaimer stating the software comes “as is”, without warranty of any kind. Even large projects rely on volunteers to maintain and secure the code.

  2. What Is Open Source Security?

    The risks involved with using open-source software are driving the development of open-source security practices and solutions. Open-source security solutions search and identify open-source components in the software, dependencies, and repositories. The software then sends alerts in real-time. 

    Besides installing a solution, developers and SecOps or DevSecOps teams can secure open-source components by adhering to a number of best practices:

    • Track assets—first, you should know what assets need protection. Assessing and tracking your open-source components can help you pinpoint which assets are heavier in open-source and which aren’t. This helps you map the risk areas. 
    • Perform a threat assessment—at this stage, you should assess which type of threats you can expect. Evaluate the possible attack vectors, and the viability of the security measures you can implement. 
    • Treat everything as code—establishing a clear chain of practice can help you include regulations easily into daily practices. This makes it easier to apply patches. It is important to apply the patches as soon as you find them, to avoid security gaps. 
    • Automate as much as you can—there are application security testing and open-source security solutions that can increase your open source visibility. Monitoring tools can help you keep track of open-source components, detecting bugs and flaws in real-time. 
    • Build a security-first culture—you should focus on implementing security across the pipeline, building security practices into every step of the development process. Adopting a DevSecOps model can help you shift security left. 
    • Apply container security best practices—containerization is deemed to have security advantages given their self-contained operating system. However, securing the container usage through the developing pipeline requires running scans for proprietary and open-source vulnerabilities. 
    • Encrypt everything—this is a basic security best practices that should be applied to all data.

  3. Open Source Security Trends for 2020

    An increasing number of companies integrate open-source software, even as reports on OSS data breaches keep flooding the web. As open source becomes more popular, it will continue attracting the attention of attackers. Below, you’ll find an overview of key OSS security trends to watch out for in 2020.

    1. Open-source will continue to grow, due to cloud adoption

      Open-source and the cloud are a perfect match. Open-source is used to scale cloud-native apps while the cloud gives open-source the environment required for the shared software. The expansion of cloud adoption has been possible greatly because of open-source software.

    2. Open-source is fueling innovation

      The collaborative nature of open-source software increases the odds of fueling innovations. More companies are emerging to create unique, end-to-end solutions while reducing upfront costs. Using open-source usually eliminates licensing fees, accelerating the pace of innovation.

    3.  Increase in open-source security improvements

      Data breaches caused by open-source vulnerabilities are increasingly common. This results in the proliferation of security solutions to refine and secure open-source components. With more cloud-native and containerized deployments, open-source solutions and practices are taking a central stage in application development.

    4. Companies adopt sophisticated open source-security

      To counter advanced attacks, organizations are adopting sophisticated OSS security. This can help cross-functional teams maintain security practices. In addition, this can increase the development of new solutions.

    5. Increased relevance of compliance regulations

      Most data protection compliance regulations require tracking and monitoring of open-source components. Compliance regulations will then raise the bar for companies using open-source components, driving them to increase security levels. Organizations will include reviews of commercial software for open-source libraries, to be on the safe side of data protection regulations. This can allow software procurement staff to embed security into the process.

    6. More commons clauses

      It is possible that we will see major open source projects add the “commons clause” to their licenses. Commons Clause is a modifier for open-source licenses that allows them to offer modules as paid services.

  4. Wrap Up

    Perhaps the factor that most impacts open-source security is the risk of non-compliance with data protection regulations. The tight requirements of GDPR and PCISS regulations regarding open-source software are making open-source security a critical factor for organizations. 

    Another challenge stems from the increase in application vulnerabilities, which ramps up the need for updated patches and comprehensive solutions. New developments in open-security solutions can address these open-source security challenges by helping organizations track and manage open-source components.

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