SOFTWARE SUPPLY CHAIN

The Essential Guide to SCA and SAST

Simon Wenet
Head of Growth
February 13, 2024
Simon has spent the last decade in security leading product management & growth teams at various companies focused on DNS security, DLP, and now application security.

TL;DR

In the rapidly evolving landscape of software development, securing applications has never been more critical. With cyber threats becoming increasingly sophisticated, adopting a robust Application Security (AppSec) posture is essential for organizations to protect their data, applications, and users. Two critical components of a comprehensive AppSec strategy are Software Composition Analysis (SCA) and Static Application Security Testing (SAST). Understanding the differences between these two approaches and how they complement each other can significantly enhance an organization's security measures.

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The Essential Guide to SCA and SAST

Understanding SCA and SAST

Software Composition Analysis (SCA) focuses on identifying and managing risks associated with third-party and open-source components within your software. SCA tools scan your project's dependencies to detect vulnerabilities, licensing issues, and outdated libraries that could compromise your application's security.

On the other hand, Static Application Security Testing (SAST) is a white-box testing method that analyzes source code, byte code, or binaries for security vulnerabilities without executing the program. SAST tools scrutinize your codebase to find security flaws like SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and buffer overflows, providing insights into potential vulnerabilities within your own code.

How SCA and SAST Complement Each Other

While both SCA and SAST are pivotal in identifying vulnerabilities early in the development process, they serve different purposes and complement each other to create a critical component of your overarching AppSec strategy.

SCA - Guarding Against External Threats: SCA is indispensable for managing and securing the software supply chain. It provides visibility into the open-source components your applications rely on, highlighting vulnerabilities, low reputation packages, and compliance issues that could pose significant risks. By identifying outdated libraries or dependencies with known vulnerabilities, SCA enables teams to update or replace risky components before they can be exploited. The mitigation approach for these vulnerabilities is a key differentiating factor between SCA tools.

SAST - Securing Your Code from Within: SAST allows developers to catch and fix security issues within their own codebase early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC). By integrating SAST tools into their development environment, teams can receive immediate feedback on security flaws as they code, significantly reducing the cost and effort required to remediate vulnerabilities later in the development process. It is important to note that you can integrate SAST into the CI/CD pipeline or into the source code management tools directly.  

For more on what approach to code risk best suits your needs, check out this blog on CI/CD security vs. IDE plugins vs. Pipelineless security.  

Integrating SCA and SAST into Your AppSec Posture

To leverage the strengths of both SCA and SAST, organizations should integrate these tools into their SDLC with the following aspects in mind:

  • Early Integration: Incorporate SAST and SCA tools early in the development process to detect and address vulnerabilities from the start. This proactive approach ensures security is baked into your application rather than being an afterthought.
  • Continuous Scanning with 100% Coverage: Automate SCA and SAST scans to run continuously throughout the development process. Continuous scanning helps identify new vulnerabilities as they arise and ensures that changes in third-party components or your codebase do not introduce new risks. If you leave a portion of your development ecosystem uncovered by your code security tools, you may leave your organization exposed.  
  • Prioritization and Remediation: Use the insights provided by SCA and SAST tools to prioritize vulnerabilities based on their severity and potential impact. Focus on remediating critical vulnerabilities first to efficiently allocate resources and reduce risk.
  • Education and Awareness: Equip your development teams with the knowledge and tools they need to understand and address the vulnerabilities identified by SCA and SAST. Promoting a culture of security awareness encourages proactive security practices and strengthens your overall AppSec posture.

Conclusion

In the quest for robust application security, both SCA and SAST play vital roles. While SCA provides a comprehensive view of third-party risks, SAST offers deep insights into vulnerabilities within your codebase. Together, they form a formidable defense against the threats faced by modern applications. By integrating SCA and SAST into your AppSec strategy, you can not only detect and remediate vulnerabilities more effectively but also foster a culture of security that permeates every phase of the software development lifecycle.

Learn more about Arnica’s pipelineless SAST & SCA solutions, here!

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