Open Source Security in the Cloud

Open Source Security in the Cloud

By Contributing Writer
Gilad David Maayan
  |  January 25, 2023



What Is Open Source (News - Alert) Security?

Open source security refers to the security measures and practices used in open source software. Open source software is software that is freely available for anyone to use, modify, and distribute. It is developed by a community of volunteers, who work together to improve and maintain the software.

Open source software is often considered more secure than proprietary software, as it is open to review and scrutiny by anyone who is interested. This allows security vulnerabilities to be identified and fixed quickly, as they are found.

There are several key practices that contribute to the security of open source software:

  • Peer review: Open source software is developed in a transparent way, with the source code available for anyone to review. This allows security vulnerabilities that can lead to cyber threats to be identified and fixed quickly.
  • Security by design: Open source software is often designed with security in mind from the start, rather than being an afterthought.
  • Regular updates: Open source software is updated frequently to fix security vulnerabilities and improve performance.
  • Community involvement: The open source community is often very active in identifying and fixing security vulnerabilities, as well as developing best practices for securing open source software.

Why Is Open Source Security Important in the Cloud?

Open source security is important in the cloud because open source software is widely used in cloud computing environments. Cloud computing involves the delivery of computing services, including storage, processing, networking, and software, over the internet. These services can be provided by a public cloud provider, such as Amazon Web Services (News - Alert) (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform, or by a private cloud, which is owned and operated by a single organization.

Open source software is often used in cloud computing because it can be more cost-effective, flexible, and scalable than proprietary software. However, the use of open source software in the cloud also introduces security risks, as vulnerabilities in the software could be exploited to compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the cloud environment.

There are several open source security threats that organizations may face when using open source software in the cloud:

  • Vulnerabilities in open source software: As mentioned earlier, open source software is developed by a community of developers and its source code is available to the public. This means that vulnerabilities in the software may be more easily discovered and exploited by malicious actors.
  • Lack of visibility: Many organizations use a large number of open source components in their cloud environments, and it can be challenging to keep track of all of them and ensure that they are secure. This lack of visibility into the open source components being used can make it difficult to identify and address vulnerabilities.
  • Complex licensing: Many open source software licenses have specific requirements and restrictions on how the software can be used. If an organization is not careful, they may inadvertently violate these licenses, which can result in legal and financial consequences.
  • Dependency vulnerabilities: Open source software often depends on other software libraries and components, and vulnerabilities in these dependencies can affect the security of the overall system.
  • Misuse of open source software: If open source software is not used correctly, it can introduce security risks. For example, if an organization uses outdated versions of open source software that have known vulnerabilities, they are at increased risk of a cyber attack.

Open Source Cloud Security Best Practices

Establish an Open Source Inventory

An open source inventory is a list of all the open source software that is being used in an organization, along with details about each piece of software, such as the version, license, and any known vulnerabilities.

There are several ways to automatically generate an open source inventory, depending on the tools and processes that are in place within an organization. Here are a few options:

  • Use a specialized open source inventory tool to scan and list open source packages.
  • Use a package management system, such as npm or Maven, to manage open source dependencies.
  • Use a build automation tool, such as Jenkins or Travis CI, to scan the source code of an application.
  • Use a code scanning tool like Veracode or Checkmarx.

Regularly Perform Penetration Testing

A penetration test is a simulated cyber attack on a computer system, network, or web application, with the goal of identifying vulnerabilities that could be exploited by a real attacker. Pen tests can be conducted by in-house security teams or by specialized third-party firms.

Performing regular penetration tests, also known as "pen tests," allows organizations to identify and address vulnerabilities in their systems before they can be exploited by attackers. In some cases, regulatory bodies may require organizations to perform regular pen tests as part of their compliance requirements.

Use SAST, DAST, and IAST

Using SAST (Static Application Security (News - Alert) Testing), DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing), and IAST (Interactive Application Security Testing) allows organizations to comprehensively test the security of their applications and identify vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers:

  • SAST is a type of security testing that analyzes the source code of an application to identify vulnerabilities. It is typically performed during the development process, before the application is deployed.
  • DAST is a type of security testing that analyzes the behavior of an application while it is running, to identify vulnerabilities. It is typically performed after the application has been deployed.
  • IAST is a type of security testing that combines the features of SAST and DAST, by analyzing both the source code of an application and its behavior while it is running.

Use SCA Tools

Software composition analysis (SCA) is the process of identifying and analyzing the third-party open source and proprietary components that are included in a software application or system. SCA tools are used to scan an application's codebase to identify all of the third-party components it includes, as well as any vulnerabilities or licensing issues that may be present in those components.

SCA is important because it helps organizations understand the full extent of their exposure to security vulnerabilities and licensing issues in the third-party components they use. This can be especially important for open source software, which may be developed and maintained by a community of volunteers and may not have the same level of support and security as proprietary software. SCA tools can help organizations to detect vulnerabilities, ensure compliance, improve their security posture, and manage dependencies.

Cross-Train Employees

Cross-training employees is a best practice for open source security because it helps ensure that an organization has a diverse and knowledgeable team that can effectively maintain and secure its open source software.

In the context of open source security, cross-training employees means providing training to employees in different departments or with different job roles on how to use and secure open source software. This can include training on topics such as how to identify and fix vulnerabilities, how to implement security controls, and how to use the software in a secure manner.

Cross-training employees helps ensure that the organization has a deep bench of experts who can handle open source security issues. This is especially important in the event that a key member of the team is unavailable or leaves the organization, as the remaining team members will have the necessary skills and knowledge to continue working on open source security.

Employees who are knowledgeable about open source security are more likely to be able to identify and address potential vulnerabilities, which can help prevent security breaches from occurring.

Conclusion

In conclusion, open source security is an important consideration for organizations using the cloud. The cloud relies heavily on open source software, introduces additional security challenges, and requires a different approach to security.

To address these challenges and ensure that their use of open source software in the cloud is secure and compliant, organizations should follow best practices such as regularly updating software to fix vulnerabilities, conducting security audits, training employees, using SCA and application security testing tools, implementing security controls, and providing documentation and guidance.

By following these best practices, organizations can effectively manage the risks and compliance issues associated with open source software in the cloud and protect their systems and data.

Author Bio: Gilad David Maayan

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP (News - Alert), Imperva, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Check Point, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today he heads Agile SEO, the leading marketing agency in the technology industry.

LinkedIn (News - Alert): https://www.linkedin.com/in/giladdavidmaayan/