Chart of the Week

NOV 2023: VOLUME 2

90% of software components in Open-Source are transitive, invisible dependencies


The recent finding that 90% of software components in open-source software reside in transitive, invisible dependencies carries significant security implications for the software development community:

  • Increased Attack Surface: Transitive dependencies introduce a larger attack surface. Malicious actors may exploit vulnerabilities in these components to gain unauthorized access or execute attacks.
  • Undetected Vulnerabilities: Developers may not be aware of the existence of these dependencies, making it harder to identify and mitigate potential vulnerabilities. This increases the risk of using outdated or vulnerable components.
  • Delayed Patching: As these dependencies are less visible, they are more likely to be overlooked when it comes to security patching. This delay in addressing vulnerabilities leaves systems exposed to potential threats.
  • Chain of Trust: Trust in the security of open-source software is predicated on the assumption that direct and transitive dependencies are secure. If a vulnerability exists within a transitive dependency, it can undermine the entire chain of trust.

Mitigation Measures:

Addressing this issue requires a multi-faceted approach:

  • Deep N-th Level Dependency Scanning: Implement robust dependency scanning tools that can identify and track both direct and transitive dependencies. This provides visibility into the entire, n-th-level dependency tree.
  • Automated Vulnerability Scans: Regularly scan dependencies for known vulnerabilities. Utilize automated tools that can detect and alert developers to security issues in real time.
  • Component Level Security Assessments: Conduct thorough reviews of both direct and transitive dependencies. Evaluate their security posture, popularity, and community support to make informed decisions.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Implement continuous monitoring of dependencies for security updates and patches. Automated alerts can notify developers of new vulnerabilities.
  • Fallback Mechanisms: Establish fallback mechanisms to quickly switch out or update dependencies in case of a critical security issue.
  • Audit Trails: Maintain detailed records of all dependencies and versions used in a project. This facilitates traceability and assists in identifying and addressing vulnerabilities.
  • Community Engagement: Engage with the open-source community to stay informed about updates, security patches, and best practices for managing dependencies.


By implementing these measures, organizations can better manage the security implications of transitive dependencies in open-source software, reducing the risk of potential vulnerabilities and enhancing the overall security posture of their software projects.