Software Composition Analysis: Everything You Need to Know

According to an OpenLogic report, about 77% of companies use open-source software while 36% of the firms use more open-source tools either to accelerate their development time or to improve their productivity. With developers relying on open-source platforms, it makes them come up with shorter release cycles along with accelerating the innovation into their projects.

However, along with the advantages of using open-source solutions, it also has some cons that have to be taken care of while developing any software using such platforms. Hence, it is essential to track the projects using open-source components to avoid the risks and compliance issues that come with open-source solutions. Tracking the projects for the risks and security issues can be intimidating and sometimes it would also become difficult to recognize some bugs and vulnerabilities.

Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is the automatic process that identifies all the open-source software and components present in the project, this analysis evaluates all the security and compliance issues along with the code quality. This article explains all the necessary details that one has to know about Software Composition Analysis (SCA).

Software Composition Analysis

Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is a methodology for securing the application and managing the open-source components present in the project. This analysis helps the development teams to analyze and track the open-source component that is being used in the project.

In a DevOps environment, where CI/CD is the core concept so it becomes very important to consider CI/CD security, in such situations SCA tools come to the rescue where these tools can be integrated and it can track all the changes into the project environment at each stage of the software development lifecycle. These tools can also detect deprecated dependencies, and licenses along with bugs, vulnerabilities, and possible threats and exploits. The SCA tool scans the entire project and generates a bill that provides complete detail of the components present in the software.

Importance of Software Composition Analysis

SCA is known for the speed, reliability, and security it offers, since the manual tracking of the entire project is not possible and with the increasing dominance of cloud-native applications, using an SCA tool is a necessity. With the increasing software development speed because of DevOps and its CI/CD methodology, organizations need an effective solution so that they can cope with the velocity of developing the software, and SCA tools help to do the same. These tools can identify all the open-source components and correlates them with any associated security and licensing information, automated SCA tools scan the entire process that starts from detecting and identifying the components and then it analyzes them for the vulnerabilities, licenses, and remediation of prospective threats and risks.

What does an SCA tool do?

The SCA tool runs a scan on the code base and creates a vulnerability analysis, this analysis generates a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) that contains the lists of all the software components along with their licenses, it also scans and analyzes the files if it has any third-party libraries or dependencies, the tool the compares the SBOM with the other potential security and vulnerability databases so that it can pinpoint all the critical threats and vulnerabilities, as a result, an SCA tool provides complete metrics of the open-source projects.

A good SCA tool should be able to do the following tasks identify and track open-source components, libraries, and dependencies; run scans depending on the situation; integrate with the development environment; manage the licenses, compliance, and risks involved within the open-source components; identify and fix the bugs, vulnerabilities, and potential threats; and continuously monitor the security issues and generate an alert for newly discovered security threats.

Best Practices for SCA tools

SCA tools are indeed one of the best ways to detect and fix the potential security risks and threats present in the open-source libraries and packages, it helps to develop secure applications, here are some of the best practices for using SCA tools that would help to mitigate the potential security risks and use these tools to the fullest.

Integration with the CI/CD Pipeline

With the organizations opting for the CI/CD technologies that help to improve the productivity and the time involved in developing the software, a good SCA tool should be easily able to integrate into the ongoing project environment and scan through the CI/CD pipeline for detecting and fixing the vulnerabilities. By integrating the SCA tool in the pipeline while developing the software helps the developers to look into the security factors while developing the software.

Using a Developer-Friendly Tool

Most developers spend their time thinking about the logic and implementing it into their system, a tool that is not developer-friendly will hamper the productivity of the developer since then they have to manually look into setting up the tool and look into the issues. A good SCA tool should be easy to integrate, set up, and use with the existing development environment. Developers should also know about the security factors while coding the applications as it will save their time by reducing their effort and time while fixing the security issues.


Analyzing All Dependencies and Libraries

Open-source components include different types of dependencies and libraries, some of them may be a direct dependency and some might be a transitive dependencies, transitive dependencies are the packages that are being used by some of the direct dependencies and most of the security bugs and issues exists in the transitive dependencies so a good SCA tool should be able to inspect all the direct and transitive dependencies present in the source-code and suggest possible remediation methods according to the severity issues present in the code.

Automate the Scanning Process

A good SCA tool should have the option to run automated scans and continuously monitor the source code, it should also be able to suggest some preventive measures for the vulnerabilities and different ways to fix them so that the developers can fix the security issues at the earliest.


With the exponential use of the open-source components in the projects, organizations should be able to recognize the security issues and licenses limitation, tracking these issues manually is a daunting task and sometimes the possible threats might get overlooked, hence an automated tool would make the entire process easy and SCA tools help to do the same process along with suggesting and fixing the common issues.

SCA tools can identify the open-source components along with the possible threats that come with them, some advanced SCA tools can even fix the issues present in them, thus developers can develop safe and secure software by properly using the SCA tools.