The report, based on an analysis of the vulnerabilities that WhiteSource tracks in its own vulnerability database and revealed at the AWS re:Invent conference, found more than 90% of vulnerabilities in NPM packages are fixed before the vulnerability is published in the NVD.
Susan St. Clair, director of product management for WhiteSource, said that fact suggests that, overall, the open source community is staying on top of vulnerabilities as they are disclosed rather than waiting for them to be assigned a CVE number.
In fact, the WhiteSource report noted 83% of the CVEs assigned to the most widely used versions of vulnerable NPMs could be remediated before the publication of the CVE.
In the wake of a series of high-profile breaches of software supply chains, there is a lot more focus on how open source software is actually secured. Commercial software products have a distribution list that they typically notify of a security patch. Open source updates, on the other hand, need to be tracked by developers that use that software. The level of attention individual developers might pay to any number of open source updates can vary widely.
Many developers are also hesitant to immediately update their applications because they are not sure what impact that additional code may have on their application, said St. Clair. For example, their application may have dependencies that are no longer backward compatible with the updated code, she noted.
Developers also need to determine the degree to which that vulnerability may affect their applications because they often don’t use every component of an open source library, so the fix being offered may not be required.
Open source project maintainers often depend on their community to help uncover vulnerabilities and create the fixes as quickly as possible. When a vulnerability is detected in an open source library, the more common practice is to report it to the NVD even after the fix for that issue has been made available.
In general, St. Clair noted the most important thing for the open source community to remember is to remain proactive when it comes to tracking vulnerabilities and then implementing DevSecOps best practices. The one thing that is certain is that a wide range of malicious actors also are tracking those vulnerabilities closely. It’s not uncommon to see a wave of exploits being created once a vulnerability is disclosed via the NVD.
The challenge, of course, is that the more open source software that is employed, the more difficult it becomes for individual developers to stay on top of every vulnerability in an application portfolio that only continues to grow. On the plus side, vendors have pledged more than $10 million to help better secure open source software. Hopefully, the return on that investment will become apparent sooner than later.