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What Developers Need to Know About Open Source Vulnerability Management
As a resourceful developer, you’re not writing code from scratch anymore
By: Lacey Thoms
Sep. 27, 2014 08:00 PM
As a resourceful developer, you're not writing code from scratch anymore. You probably have access to a vast amount of code you wrote at previous jobs, and a lot of your development probably relies at least in some part around third party or open source software. Every savvy developer knows their way around Sourceforge, Codeplex, or GitHub, and with access to readily available code that frees you up to tackle real challenges, there really is no downside to open source code.
Sure, you're probably aware that many open source projects have license obligations tied to them. And licenses are not generally written for developer consumption, so you may be part of a growing contingent of developers that doesn't care about them, but it's likely that your manager cares.
With the increasing complexity of software, organizations are more cognizant than ever about the potential pitfalls of including open source code in their products. Below are some quick tips to continue leveraging open source code, while keeping your manager and legal department happy.
1. Know What to Look For
Before incorporating an open source component in your project it's a good idea to take a look at what (if any) license terms are attached to it. This information can typically be found in a file called COPYING, license.txt or even in a readme file.
Here are three possible licensing scenarios you could encounter when using open source code:
2. Know Your Boundaries
If your organization does not have a formal policy in place, talk to your managers or legal department to see if any license types are off limits, or to find out if there is an existing list of pre-approved packages.
3. Know How to React
Do nothing. Use whatever open source packages you want and hope for the best. Quality assurance and legal teams will dislike you. You'll probably create more work for yourself by having to fix issues uncovered during testing, and repeat offenders should probably make sure their resumes and GitHub profiles are up to date, just in case.
Manually track open source packages. You'll be creating a little more work for yourself, but your managers will thank you. Check to make sure that the packages you are using have a license and that the license complies with your organization's policy. Consult the NVD to make sure the package doesn't contain security vulnerabilities. Make sure you commit this information along with your code.
Automate the tracking process. There are various tools available to automate open source package pre-approval and there are even background developer assistant tools that can automatically report on licensing and security issues as code is being developed. These tools can be digitally linked to the organization's policy as well as the NVD to accurately detect license and security vulnerabilities in real time.
By taking a proactive approach and getting involved in open source vulnerability management, you'll save yourself and your organization as a whole from running into roadblocks that stall the development process. Find out if your organization has a license policy and implement some vulnerability management tactics and start developing code worry free.
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