Most application developers today don’t write much raw code. Rather, applications developed today are created mostly by combing various modules and widgets to create a custom application. But currently there is little oversight being applied to the provenance of application components, especially when it comes to open-source software.
The third annual State of the Software Supply Chain Report published by Sonatype, a provider of tools for managing software supply chains, finds that the amount of time it takes for open-source projects to address vulnerabilities is considerable. The report states that only 15.8 percent of open-source software projects actively fix vulnerabilities, resulting in an average mean time to remediation of 233 days. In effect, that gives cybercriminals the better part of a year to exploit a known vulnerability. Of course, that’s usually longer simply because most IT organizations are not especially efficient when it comes to regularly updating all the components that make up an application once it’s been deployed in production.
Matt Howard, chief marketing officer for Sonatype, says managing all the components that make up an application will only become more challenging as developers increasingly start to leverage Docker containers. The Sonatype report estimates there will be 12 billion downloads of Docker containers in 2017, a 100 percent increase over 2016.
The good news is that more awareness of DevSecOps issues appears to be having an impact. The report finds the percent of Java components downloaded from the Sonatype Central Repository that contained known security vulnerabilities fell to 5.5 percent (1 in 18), down from 6.1 percent the year prior. Of course, that improvement needs to weigh against the 68 percent increase in downloads, which would suggest that the total number of components with known vulnerabilities finding their way into production applications has never been higher.
By way of contrast, the report claims that applications built by teams employing automated governance tools reduced the percentage of defective components in their application by 63 percent. The report also says organizations that are actively managing the quality of open-source components flowing into production applications are realizing a 28 percent improvement in developer productivity, a 30 percent reduction in overall development costs and a 48 percent increase in application quality.
The report makes clear that DevOps processes are not being extended far enough to the proverbial left. Instead of focusing on only on the application release cycle organizations need to apply structured processes to the components that are being aggregated together during the application development process. In fact, Howard notes that application development is moving away from being an art to more of a manufacturing process. As that shift continues to occur, it’s only a matter of time before a much greater emphasis gets placed on quality control all the way down that manufacturing line to not only limit liability but also generally improve the overall application experience.