Reducing the Productivity Tax in Open Source Software Security – A Deep Dive with Varun Badhwar of Endor Labs

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In the complex field of application security, the challenges surrounding open source software security require innovative solutions. In a recent interview with Varun Badhwar, Founder and CEO of Endor Labs, he provided detailed insights into these specific issues and how Endor Labs is positioning itself to tackle them head-on.

The Broken State of Application Security

Software developers currently spend more than half their time investigating an overwhelming number of security alerts and maintaining tools in CI/CD pipelines. Badhwar characterizes the problem:

“Application security is fundamentally broken today – engineering teams are constantly being asked to deploy numerous AppSec tools in the CI/CD pipeline, which creates substantial work for developers, slows down feature delivery, and adds friction.”

Endor Labs aims to mitigate this productivity tax by focusing on OSS security, with a goal to reduce 80% of vulnerability noise.

Open Source Security and Endor Labs’ Innovative Approach

Open source software (OSS) makes up a significant portion of modern application code, sometimes exceeding 90%. While fostering efficiency and collaboration, it also introduces vulnerabilities if not managed correctly.

Challenges in Open Source Security:

  1. Proliferation of OSS Components: With 80-90% of application code being borrowed from open source repositories, it’s essential to know what components are being used and how.
  2. False Positives: Traditional security tools generate an overwhelming number of false positives, creating a massive burden on developers.
  3. Incompleteness and Inaccuracy: Existing tools often lack insight into how open source code is being used, resulting in both noisy and incomplete risk assessments.
  4. Transitive Dependencies and Reputation Risks: Hidden vulnerabilities and dependencies are often overlooked, posing a latent threat to security.

Endor Labs’ Approach to Open Source Security

Endor Labs’ pioneering approach focuses on actual risks and utilization patterns within OSS. This empowers DevSecOps teams to prioritize risks, secure CI/CD pipelines, and meet compliance objectives like SBOMs. Their methodology includes:

  1. Intelligent Analysis: By understanding exactly how developers are using open source code, Endor Labs pinpoints the actual risks. 90% of code in modern applications is open source software, yet only 12% of that code is actually used within applications. Endor Labs replaces the existing breed of Software Composition Analysis (SCA) solutions that lack context on what parts of the code developers are actually using.
  2. Evidence-Driven Insights: Endor Labs employs an evidence-driven approach that assesses the true impact and risk of vulnerabilities based on how code is being used, rather than blanket evaluations.
  3. Eliminating Noise: By focusing on what matters, Endor Labs eliminates up to 80% of the noise associated with traditional tools, saving developers’ time.
  4. Tackling Hidden Risks: The solution addresses hidden dangers like vulnerabilities present in transitive dependencies, uncovering risks that might otherwise be missed. Endor Labs research reveals that 95% of vulnerabilities live in transitive dependencies, yet most organizations have no visibility into them.
  5. Holistic View of Risk: Endor Labs provides a comprehensive view of risk by evaluating not just the code but also the reputation and potential hazards associated with using specific open source components.
  6. Regulatory Compliance: With open source being labeled a national security issue, Endor Labs ensures that their approach aligns with regulatory requirements, including initiatives like Software Bill of Materials.

Endor Labs’ approach to open source and application security is not only revolutionary but necessary in today’s interconnected development lifecycle. By focusing on actual risks, reducing noise, and providing a comprehensive and intelligent analysis, they are shaping the future of how organizations manage and secure their applications and open source components.

Advice to Organizations and Developers

For organizations and developers, the future lies in consolidating the DevSecOps toolchain, simplifying tool deployments, and prioritizing the risks that matter. In the interview, Varun provided actionable guidance to both developers and organizations:

  1. Embrace Open Source While Ensuring Security: Utilize the benefits of open source software, but with a focus on security and compliance. Implement intelligent tools that understand how code is being used, thereby reducing noise and pinpointing real threats.
  2. Streamline Development Pipelines: Avoid overcomplication and duplication by consolidating the DevSecOps toolchain. Choose tools that simplify deployments, enforce consistent security policies, and enable building software that is “secure by default.”
  3. Foster Collaboration Between Teams: Work towards aligning engineering and security teams, viewing them as internal partners. Focus on real issues that matter most, creating a synergy that enhances overall productivity and security.
  4. Adhere to Regulatory Requirements: Stay abreast of regulatory standards such as Software Bill of Materials (SBOMs), recognizing the importance of transparency and compliance, especially as open source security continues to be a national concern.
  5. Adopt a ‘Trust but Verify’ Approach: Balance the use of open source with vigilant verification of its security. Encourage a development model that leverages OSS benefits without slowing down the development process, promoting a secure and innovative environment.

Endor Labs is at the forefront of reshaping how we approach application security. With a new $70 million round of funding and a clear mission to enable developers to be more productive without compromising on security, they are leading the way toward a more secure and efficient future in software development.

For more information on Endor Labs, visit https://www.endorlabs.com

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