Vulnerable Open Source Dependencies: Counting Those That Matter

Vulnerable Open Source Dependencies: Counting Those That Matter

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Vulnerable dependencies are a known problem in today’s open-source software ecosystems because OSS libraries are highly interconnected and developers do not always update their dependencies. AIMS: In this paper we aim to present a precise methodology, that combines the code-based analysis of patches with information on build, test, update dates, and group extracted from the very code repository, and therefore, caters to the needs of industrial practice for correct allocation of development and audit resources. METHOD: To understand the industrial impact of the proposed methodology, we considered the 200 most popular OSS Java libraries used by SAP in its own software. Our analysis included 10905 distinct GAVs (group, artifact, version) when considering all the library versions. RESULTS: We found that about 20% of the dependencies affected by a known vulnerability are not deployed, and therefore, they do not represent a danger to the analyzed library because they cannot be exploited in practice. Developers of the analyzed libraries are able to fix (and actually responsible for) 82% of the deployed vulnerable dependencies. The vast majority (81%) of vulnerable dependencies may be fixed by simply updating to a new version, while 1% of the vulnerable dependencies in our sample are halted, and therefore, potentially require a costly mitigation strategy. CONCLUSIONS: Our case study shows that the correct counting allows software development companies to receive actionable information about their library dependencies, and therefore, correctly allocate costly development and audit resources, which is spent inefficiently in case of distorted measurements.

Publication
In Proc. of the 12th International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement (ESEM 2018)