CA Veracode, part of CA Technologies’ industry-leading security portfolio, has released the latest State of Software Security (SOSS) report.
The study includes promising signs that DevSecOps is facilitating better security and efficiency, and provides the industry with the company’s first look at flaw persistence analysis, which measures the longevity of flaws after first discovery. Businesses in the UK outperformed most regions in finding and fixing flaws in their software, but most European nations analysed fell well behind in remediation.
The state of software security is improving
In every industry, organisations are dealing with a massive volume of open flaws to address and they are showing improvement in taking action against what they find. According to the report, 69% of flaws discovered were closed through remediation or mitigation, an increase of nearly 12% since the previous report. This shows organisations are gaining prowess in closing newly discovered vulnerabilities, which hackers often seek to exploit.
Despite this progress, the new SOSS report also shows that the number of vulnerable apps remains staggeringly high and open source components continue to present significant risks to businesses.
More than 85% of all applications contain at least one vulnerability following the first scan and more than 13% of applications contain at least one very high severity flaw. In addition, organisations’ latest scan results indicate that one in three applications were vulnerable to attack through high or very high severity flaws.
An examination of fix rates across two trillion lines of code shows that companies face extended application risk exposure due to persisting flaws:
- More than 70% of all flaws remained one month after discovery and nearly 55% remained three months after discovery
- A total of 25% of high and very high severity flaws were not addressed within 290 days of discovery
- Overall, 25% of flaws were fixed within 21 days, while the final 25% remained open, well after a year of discovery
“Security-minded organisations have recognised that embedding security design and testing directly into the continuous software delivery cycle is essential to achieving the DevSecOps principles of balance of speed, flexibility and risk management. Until now, it’s been challenging to pinpoint the benefits of this approach but this latest State of Software Security report provides hard evidence that organisations with more frequent scans are fixing flaws more quickly,” said Chris Eng, Vice President of Research, CA Veracode. “These incremental improvements amount over time to a significant advantage in competitiveness in the market and a huge drop in risk associated with vulnerabilities.”
Regional differences in flaw persistence
While data from US organisations dominate the sample size, this year’s report offers insights into differences by region in how quickly vulnerabilities are being addressed.
The UK was among the strongest performing regions: businesses there closed the first 25% of their flaws in just 11 days, second fastest among all regions, closed 50% of flaws in 72 days and closed 75% of flaws in 304 days. These marks outpaced averages across regions.
Companies in Asia Pacific (APAC) are the quickest to remediate, closing out 25% of their flaws in about eight days, followed by 22 days for the Americas and 28 days for those in Europe and the Middle East (EMEA). However, companies in the US and the Americas caught up, closing out 75% of flaws by 413 days, far ahead of those in APAC and EMEA.
In fact, it took more than double the average time for EMEA organisations to close out three-quarters of their open vulnerabilities. Troublingly, 25% of vulnerabilities in organisations in EMEA persisted more than two-and-a-half years after discovery.
Data supports DevSecOps practices
In its third consecutive year documenting DevSecOps practices, the SOSS analysis shows a strong correlation between high rates of security scanning and lower long-term application risks, presenting significant evidence for the efficacy of DevSecOps.
CA Veracode’s data on flaw persistence shows that organisations with established DevSecOps programs and practices greatly outperform their peers in how quickly they address flaws. The most active DevSecOps programs fix flaws more than 11.5 times faster than the typical organisation, due to ongoing security checks during continuous delivery of software builds, largely the result of increased code scanning. The data shows a very strong correlation between how many times a year an organisation scans and how quickly they address their vulnerabilities.
Open source components continue to thwart enterprises
In prior SOSS reports, data has shown that vulnerable open source software components run rampant within most software. The current SOSS report found that most applications were still rife with flawed components, though there has been some improvement on the Java front.
Whereas last year about 88% of Java applications had at least one vulnerability in a component, it fell to just over 77% in this report. As organisations tackle bug-ridden components, they should consider not just the open flaws within libraries and frameworks, but also how they are using those components.
By understanding not just the status of the component, but whether or not a vulnerable method is being called, organisations can pinpoint their component risk and prioritise fixes based on the riskiest uses of components.
About the State of Software Security report
This is CA Veracode’s ninth iteration of the State of Software Security (SOSS) report, a comprehensive review of application security testing data from scans of more than two trillion lines of code conducted by CA Veracode’s base of 2,000 customers representing the industry’s most comprehensive set of application security benchmarks.
The report investigated variables such as flaw type, severity, app criticality, rate of scanning impact on fix velocity, and persistence of flaws after discovery. For this iteration, CA Veracode collaborated with data scientists at Cyentia Institute to better visualise and understand vulnerability fix behaviour.