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What the 2021 OSSRA Report Tells Us About the State of Open Source in Commercial Software

The 2021 “Open Source Security and Risk Analysis” (OSSRA) report, produced by the Synopsys Cybersecurity Research Center (CyRC), examines the results of more than 1,500 audits of commercial codebases, performed by the Black Duck Audit Services team. This is the sixth edition of the annual report on the state of open source security and license compliance. The report:

  • Highlights trends in open source usage within commercial applications
  • Provides insights to help commercial and open source developers better understand the interconnected software ecosystem they work in
  • Details the pervasive risks posed by unmanaged open source, including security vulnerabilities, outdated or abandoned components, and license compliance issues

The 2021 OSSRA report affirms the fact that open-source software provides the foundation for the vast majority of applications across all industries. It also shows that many of those industries are struggling to manage open source risk and license compliance. For example:
All the companies audited in the marketing tech industry sector — which includes lead generation, CRM, and social media — had open source in their codebases. And 95% of those codebases also contained open source vulnerabilities.

  • Ninety-eight per cent of healthcare sector codebases contained open source, and 67% of those codebases contained vulnerabilities.
  • Ninety-seven per cent of financial services/fintech sector codebases contained open source. Over 60% of those codebases contained vulnerabilities.
  • Ninety-two per cent of codebases in the retail and e-commerce sector contained open source, and 71% of the codebases in that sector contained vulnerabilities.
 

Other key takeaways from the 2021 OSSRA report
 
There is a widespread use of “abandoned” open-source components across all industries. An alarming 91% of the codebases contained open source dependencies that had no development activity in the last two years — meaning no code improvements and no security fixes. Unlike commercial software, which has vendors that push updates to users, open-source relies on community engagement to thrive. When an open-source project no longer has that engagement, security issues can become a major problem.
 
Outdated open-source components in commercial software are the norm. Eighty-five per cent of the codebases contained open source dependencies that were more than four years out-of-date. Unlike abandoned projects, these outdated open-source components have active developer communities that publish updates and security patches. But these patches are not being applied by their downstream commercial consumers.
 
The prevalence of open-source vulnerabilities is trending in the wrong direction. In 2020, the percentage of codebases containing vulnerable open-source components rose to 84% — a 9% increase from 2019. Similarly, the percentage of codebases containing high-risk vulnerabilities jumped from 49% to 60%. Several of the top 10 open-source vulnerabilities that were found in codebases in 2019 reappeared in the 2020 audits, all with significant percentage increases.
 
Over 90% of the audited codebases contained open source components with license conflicts, customised licenses, or no license at all. Sixty-five per cent of the codebases audited in 2020 contained open-source software license conflicts, typically involving the GNU General Public License. Twenty-six per cent of the codebases were using open source with no license or a customised license. All three issues often need to be evaluated for potential intellectual property infringement and other legal concerns, especially in the context of merger and acquisition transactions.

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