GitHub: Open source vulnerabilities can go undetected for four years

GitHub research finds that time between vulnerability detection and fix must shorten

GitHub office with GitHub logo over top

Detecting and identifying vulnerabilities in open source software can take as long as four years, according to GitHub's annual State of the Octoverse report.

The research, which looked at the efforts of over 56 million developers worldwide creating over 60 million repositories over the last 12 months, found that once flaws had been identified, the package maintainer and security community typically generate and release a fix in 4.4 weeks.

The report’s authors said that this highlighted the opportunities to improve vulnerability detection in the security community. 

“Many of the services and technology we all rely on, from banking to healthcare, also rely on open source software. The artifacts of open source code serve as critical infrastructure for much of the global economy, making the security of open source software mission-critical to the world,” the report said.

The research found that 94% of projects have open source dependencies written in JavaScript, while Ruby and .Net were close second and third at 90.2% and 89.8%, respectively.

GitHub also found that most software vulnerabilities are mistakes, not malicious attacks. An analysis of a random sample of 521 advisories from across six ecosystems found that 17% of the advisories stemmed from explicitly malicious behavior, such as backdoor attempts. The remaining 83% of vulnerabilities were due to mistakes. 

“These malicious vulnerabilities were generally in seldom-used packages but triggered just 0.2% of alerts. While malicious attacks are more likely to get attention in security circles, most vulnerabilities are caused by mistakes,” said the report.

Related Resource

A buyer’s guide to managed detection and response (MDR) services

Simplifying and strengthening your security programme through outsourcing

Download now

The report urged developers to use automation to remediate vulnerabilities and stay secure.

“Using automated alerting and patching tools to secure software quickly means attack surfaces are evolving, making it harder for attackers to exploit," the report's authors said.

"Repositories that automatically generate pull requests to update vulnerable dependencies patch their software 1.4 times faster than those who don’t. Automating security practices helps your team secure your code as developers share their expertise with their community, remove security and engineering silos, and scale their expertise."

Phil Odence, general manager of Black Duck On-Demand at Synopsys, told ITPro that the main takeaway here is a significant amount of open source in virtually every modern application used today, so companies must track and manage the code to keep those apps secure. 

“The report focuses on security and so doesn’t delve into legal risks associated with licensing; however, despite being 'free,' open source software is no different from other software in that its use is governed by a license.

"Based on research conducted for the 2020 OSSRA report, 68% of codebases contained some form of open-source license conflict, and 33% contained open-source components with no identifiable license. This is another way in which open source can get organizations into hot water, and thus should be managed and not overlooked,” he said.

Featured Resources

B2B under quarantine

Key B2C e-commerce features B2B need to adopt to survive

Download now

The top three IT pains of the new reality and how to solve them

Driving more resiliency with unified operations and service management

Download now

The five essentials from your endpoint security partner

Empower your MSP business to operate efficiently

Download now

How fashion retailers are redesigning their digital future

Fashion retail guide

Download now

Recommended

How to use machine learning and AI in cyber security
Security

How to use machine learning and AI in cyber security

30 Jul 2021
Chipotle’s marketing email hacked to send phishing emails
phishing

Chipotle’s marketing email hacked to send phishing emails

29 Jul 2021
The top 12 password-cracking techniques used by hackers
Security

The top 12 password-cracking techniques used by hackers

29 Jul 2021
Colonial Pipeline hack spurred copycat attacks on other oil and gas companies
hacking

Colonial Pipeline hack spurred copycat attacks on other oil and gas companies

29 Jul 2021

Most Popular

The benefits of workload optimisation
Sponsored

The benefits of workload optimisation

16 Jul 2021
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G review: A rose-tinted experience
Mobile Phones

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G review: A rose-tinted experience

14 Jul 2021
RMIT to be first Australian university to implement AWS supercomputing facility
high-performance computing (HPC)

RMIT to be first Australian university to implement AWS supercomputing facility

28 Jul 2021