Open Source News Desk
Application Security for Open Source - The New Frontier
Building a partnership between security and engineering teams
May. 23, 2008 02:15 PM
Hybrid applications made up of proprietary, open source and third-party components are the result of today’s fast-paced and complex software development landscape. Applications developed within the last five years – whether internal or external – are at least 50% open source software (OSS) and third-party components. Of that amount, over one-third of it is undocumented. What were once purely proprietary applications are now complex code mashups. It’s safe to say that open source is everywhere – it’s woven throughout your enterprise network whether or not you are aware of it.
IDC Research has called the use of open source “the most significant, all-encompassing and long-term trend that the software industry has seen since the early 1980s.”  The study also revealed that open source was being used by 71% of worldwide developers, and was in production at 54% of their companies. Although upper management has only recently signed off on its use, developers have long understood that open source is the fastest (and cheapest) path to software innovation.
For good reasons, developers have been coding around OSS components for many years – it’s extremely accessible, it’s collaborative, and it’s free. While OSS offers clear benefits to application development, it also poses unique challenges to application security.
The sheer size of an application code base coupled with the number of contributing developers makes it nearly impossible for companies to get accurate documentation of OSS inventory and usage. Without this information, security vulnerabilities, copyright violations, and license requirements often go unnoticed. Undocumented code represents a significant gap in application security coverage that can lead to:
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