Lineaje, a software supply chain security management company, recently released its new research report titled “What’s in Your Open-Source Software?” Compiled by the company’s research arm, Lineaje Data Labs, the report revealed that 82% of open-source software (OSS) components are inherently risky due to vulnerabilities, security issues, code quality or maintainability concerns.
Focusing on the Apache Software Foundation as the gold standard of open-source software, the report uncovers the inherent risk and ease of software supply chain tampers in its most popular products and their dependencies. This inaugural installment of a series provides valuable insights into the often-opaque domain of OSS, shedding light on its integrity and implications for organizations’ security.
Lineaje Data Labs analyzed 41,989 open-source components embedded in the top 44 popular projects of the Apache Software Foundation across its last three versions. The analysis revealed that 68% of dependencies are on non-Apache Software Foundation open-source projects. These dependencies make even Apache Software Foundation’s integrity and inherent risk only as strong as the weakest component it embeds.
With direct dependencies accounting for only 10%, the remaining 90% are transitive dependencies, which are not easily visible to developers selecting these packages. This creates an opaque and deep software supply chain invisible to developers.
The research reveals some additional insights about open-source software risk:
- Extremely high inherent risk – 82% of components are inherently risky due to vulnerabilities, security issues, code quality or maintainability concerns.
- Popularity of software does not indicate quality – Thus, choosing dependencies based on their popularity is not a reliable risk mitigation approach. Apache Software Foundation’s eCharts is its most popular package and is also one of the riskiest, for example.
- The mirage of patching vulnerabilities – While organizations drown in a sea of patches they must apply, the research uncovers that 64.2% of all vulnerabilities have no fixes available yet — so they cannot be patched. At the same time, due to the deep transitive nature of dependencies, another 25.8% of all vulnerabilities are not patchable by the organization deploying or including open-source software. Effectively, complete patching — if achieved — addresses only about 10% of the vulnerability exposure of an organization.
It is crucial to note that the most significant risk lies not in the vulnerabilities that are not patched, but in those for which no fixes exist. These vulnerabilities continue to exist and pose a persistent threat, regardless of other patches applied.
The ability to detect tampering of the software supply chain is directly linked to software integrity. Of the tens of thousands of open-source projects decomposed by Lineaje Data Labs, results showed:
- Unknown components – While the majority of software assessed had high integrity attestable components, our research reveals that about 3% of all components had no known origin. These are deeply embedded in Apache Software Foundation software, and their origin and update mechanisms are opaque.
- Dubious origin components – 5.3% of components failed a basic integrity check that the package published by developers matched the source code it claimed to be associated with. This kind of integrity check would have flagged both the recent 3CX compromise as well as the SolarWinds compromise.