7 Factors to Consider Before Investing in A Software Composition Analysis (SCA) Tool

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If you want to know the essential factors before investing in an SCA tool, this guide is for you. 
SCA tools have become indispensable as software development evolves and becomes more complex. While you can’t deny the importance of source code review in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), using an SCA tool plays just as crucial a role.  

SCA tools help identify vulnerabilities and open-source components within software code, allowing developers to mitigate potential risks and ensure compliance with licensing requirements.

However, with so many SCA tools available in the market, it can be overwhelming to determine the best fit for your organization’s needs. 

The good news is that this blog post explores the key factors you should consider before investing in an SCA tool. 

Understand these seven factors to help you make an informed decision and choose an SCA tool that allows you to achieve your software security goals.

What is SCA?

Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is an application security procedure designed to track and analyze open-source software components. 

Essentially, SCA tools give insights into your projects’ open-source license limitations and potential vulnerabilities. 

The tools help your organization stay on top of critical tasks such as license compliance, code quality, and security to reduce overall risks.  

SCA generally offers these core capabilities:

  • Determine the open-source software you use and its origin to verify license compliance requirements.
  • Discover in-depth information about your source code’s key vulnerabilities and give applicable remediation recommendations.
  • Create a Software Bill of Materials or SBOM to develop a detailed open-source software package inventory.

SCA is critical to application security because it helps spot and mitigate risks that come with using third-party components, specifically the vulnerabilities in these components that attackers can exploit. 

SCA can also help you track third-party component versions to ensure they are up to date and that your organization compiles with license and security policies. 

7 Important considerations when choosing SCA tools

While your SCA tool can depend on your organization’s unique requirements, there are essential factors you should consider when choosing the best solution. 

1. Ease of use

Choose an SCA tool that can make your DevOps team’s life easier. 

At a minimum, the SCA solution should be easy-to-use and intuitive, allowing your team to focus time and energy on core tasks. 

SCA tools with a steep learning curve can eat into your productive hours. 

You’re better off choosing a developer-friendly tool that you can easily integrate into your current development process. 

The tool should also scale with your organization. 

Additionally, check if the vendor provides developers with proper and complete technical documentation, including easily accessible technical support. 

2. Comprehensive vulnerability database

Opt for an SCA solution vendor that offers a rich vulnerability database for detecting weaknesses in your open-source packages. 

Most vendors with this database can offer robust features such as customized notifications and recommendations on fixing the identified vulnerabilities. 

Also, check if the SCA tool vendor has expert analysts who can help your DevOps and security team understand the vulnerabilities’ nature, including their impact on your organization if you need support. 

3. Detailed remediation and reporting

Find an SCA tool with detailed reporting features to help your DevOps and security team understand your open-source packages’ findings and scan results. 

At a minimum, the report should include the list of your scanned packages, including these results:

  • Common Vulnerability Scoring System or CVSS and CVSS3 score
  • Vulnerability description
  • The versions affected

The SCA solution should also give remediation steps to help your developers fix the identified issues. 

4. Binary scanning support

Opt for an SCA tool that supports binary file scanning. 

Not a lot of SCA solutions support this kind of scanning. 

Failing to perform binary file scanning can leave vulnerabilities within the binaries developers use unchecked. 

Scanning binary files, such as wheel files, is crucial because scanning the dependencies can spot vulnerabilities that you can easily miss.  

You’re not likely to get a complete view of your code’s security if you don’t do the binary scanning your developers use.  

5. Language support

Check the languages the SCA tool supports. 

SCA is language and ecosystem-dependent (build system, package managers, and more). 

For example, most SCA solutions rely on lock files (Pipfile.lock or package-lock.json) to spot dependencies, including their respective versions. 

Opt for an SCA tool that supports the language you use and will use in the future. 

6. API and webhooks support

Assess whether the SCA tool offers webhook and API support so you can integrate the solution easily into your CI/CD pipeline. 

Webhook and API support lets you automate SCA scanning as part of the CI/CD process, helping ensure that your apps are security standard compliant and are always up-to-date. 

Using SCA tools without API and webhook support can mean manually triggering your SCA scans, resulting in potential delays within your pipeline. 

7. False positives and negatives detection

False positives are vulnerabilities that an SCA tool can incorrectly flag. 

False negatives are real vulnerabilities that the tool silently skipped. 

Your best bet is to select SCA tools less likely to generate false positives since this can cause your DevOps teams to waste crucial time and resources. 

False positive results can lead to your developers spending a lot of time manually checking and investigating the results that don’t pose security risks or threats. 

It can frustrate developers, decreasing their trust in the tool and leading them to refrain from using or ignoring it, which defeats its purpose. 

Find a reliable SCA tool with robust detection features to minimize false positives. 

Find the right SCA tool for your organization

Investing in an SCA tool can greatly benefit your organization in terms of software security, compliance, and overall productivity. 

Consider crucial factors before deciding and carefully evaluate each to help you select the best-fitting SCA tool for your organization. 

The right tool can help you manage your software supply chain and mitigate the risks associated with open-source components effectively. 

Choose an SCA tool that can help safeguard your software assets and maintain your reputation as a trusted provider of high-quality software products.

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