Companies implementing DevSecOps address vulnerabilities faster than others

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A new study from CA Veracode 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.

The DevSecOps effect

implementing DevSecOps

The state of software security is improving

In every industry, organizations 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 percent of flaws discovered were closed through remediation or mitigation, an increase of nearly 12 percent since the previous report. This shows organizations 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 percent of all applications contain at least one vulnerability following the first scan, and more than 13 percent of applications contain at least one very high severity flaw. In addition, organizations’ 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 2 trillion lines of code shows that companies face extended application risk exposure due to persisting flaws:

  • More than 70 percent of all flaws remained one month after discovery and nearly 55 percent remained three months after discovery
  • 25 percent of high and very high severity flaws were not addressed within 290 days of discovery
  • Overall, 25 percent of flaws were fixed within 21 days, while the final 25 percent remained open, well after a year of discovery.

“Security-minded organizations have recognized 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 organizations 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.”

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 organizations 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 organization, 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 organization 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 percent of Java applications had at least one vulnerability in a component, it fell to just over 77 percent in this report.

As organizations 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, organizations can pinpoint their component risk and prioritize fixes based on the riskiest uses of components.

Flaw persistence analysis

implementing DevSecOps

Regional differences in flaw persistence

While data from U.S. organizations dominate the sample size, this year’s report offers insights into differences by region in how quickly vulnerabilities are being addressed. Companies in Asia Pacific (APAC) are the quickest to remediate, closing out 25 percent of their flaws in about 8 days, followed by 22 days for the Americas and 28 days for those in Europe and the Middle East (EMEA).

However, companies in the U.S. and the Americas caught up, closing out 75 percent 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 organizations to close out three-quarters of their open vulnerabilities. The data showed EMEA companies lagged behind the average significantly at every milepost of the flaw persistence intervals. Troublingly, 25 percent of vulnerabilities in organizations in EMEA persisted more than two-and-a-half years after discovery.