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The Hidden Flaws Of Commercial Applications

Open source components in commercial applications are more plentiful than organizations think -- and they're full of long-standing vulnerabilities.

Organizations developing commercial software often only have a limited window of visibility into the kinds of open source components their developers are leveraging and, as a result their software is full of flaws that put customers at risk, according to a new study out by Black Duck Software today.

The State of Open Source Security in Commercial Applications offers a comprehensive look at the findings from a study that reviewed 200 applications reviewed over six months by the Black Duck Open Source Security Analysis (OSSA) service. It found that its customers were only aware of about 45% of the actual open source components used in their software. And among all the open source components used in commercial applications 67% contained security vulnerabilities.

The study showed that on average, applications contained about 105 open source components. The average number of open source component vulnerabilities in each application equaled a little over 22.

"While many of these companies have internal security programs and deploy security testing tools such as static and dynamic analysis, those tools are not effective at identifying the types of vulnerabilities disclosed every day in popular open source components," the report explained. "More importantly, if a customer is not aware of all of the open source in use, they cannot defend against common attacks against known vulnerabilities in those components."

As the survey explained, open source components have become a lifeblood in modern development across all types of applications these days. Development teams under the gun have learned that it doesn't make economic sense to reinvent the wheel with functionality that can just as easily inserted by utilizing open source components that have been around for years. The problem is that these software parts are often folded into the commercial code base undisclosed and then neglected. In other words, not only are components vulnerable, but these are often old flaws.

According to Black Duck's analysis, the typical vulnerability found among these components was left open for five years -- 1,894 days on average, to be specific.

"This indicates that the organizations didn’t know about the vulnerabilities, either because they didn’t know the component was present, or had not checked public resources for vulnerability information," the report says.

These are not benign flaws, either. Nearly 40% of the flaws were of high severity, with CVSS base scores of 7.0 or higher. And, in fact, a significant number of the applications studied by Black Duck contained components exposed to highly publicized 'named' vulnerabilities. For example, 10% of applications contained components vulnerable to Heartbleed and the same ratio contained components vulnerable to POODLE.

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