The Challenge of Unresolved Software Vulnerabilities: Understanding the Security Debt

A recent report from Veracode, a leading application security testing company, has shed light on the concerning issue of unresolved software vulnerabilities, also known as “security debt.” This security debt refers to any flaws within software that have been left unresolved for over a year, allowing vulnerabilities to build up over time. The report, titled the 14th annual State of Software Security (SOSS), analyzed data from over 1 million application scans to better understand the current landscape of security debt in software.

One of the key findings of the report is that a staggering 71% of organizations have security debt, with 46% of them having critical high-severity flaws that have persisted for more than one year. The report also reveals that it takes an average of nine months to fix half of all software flaws, and third-party flaws take 50% longer to address. Furthermore, 42% of applications have flaws that qualify as security debt, persisting for over a year.

Perhaps one of the most surprising findings is that developers are not prioritizing critical flaws when remedying bugs. The report suggests that there is little distinction between the rate at which developers prioritize and fix critical issues compared to non-critical flaws. This raises concerns about the efficiency of bug-fixing processes and the potential risks that may arise from neglecting critical vulnerabilities.

While the report does not provide a definitive answer as to why developers are not prioritizing critical flaws, it suggests that the sheer volume of work and time constraints may be contributing factors. Developers may be focused on resolving easier bugs quickly to improve productivity, rather than investing more time and effort into tackling complex critical issues.

The report also highlights that security debt is prevalent across all types of applications, with large legacy applications accumulating the most debt. Both in-house code and third-party libraries contribute to this debt, although third-party flaws take longer to address, indicating the need to improve security measures within the open-source software supply chain.

To address the challenge of security debt, the report provides several recommendations. These include prioritizing the remediation of critical high-severity flaws over one year old, integrating scanning and testing throughout the software development life cycle, adopting continuous remediation practices, enhancing developer security competency through hands-on education, and developing strategies to secure the open-source software supply chain.

In conclusion, the Veracode report underscores the pressing issue of security debt within organizations and the need for a strategic and proactive approach to mitigate vulnerabilities. By prioritizing critical flaws, implementing comprehensive testing processes, and investing in developer education, organizations can take important steps towards reducing security debt and ensuring the overall security of their software applications.

An FAQ section based on the main topics and information presented in the article:

Q: What is security debt?
A: Security debt refers to unresolved software vulnerabilities or flaws within software that have been left unaddressed for over a year, allowing vulnerabilities to accumulate over time.

Q: What did the Veracode report reveal about security debt?
A: The Veracode report, titled the 14th annual State of Software Security (SOSS), found that 71% of organizations have security debt. Furthermore, 46% of these organizations have critical high-severity flaws that have persisted for more than one year.

Q: How long does it take on average to fix software flaws?
A: The report states that it takes an average of nine months to fix half of all software flaws. Additionally, third-party flaws take 50% longer to address.

Q: Are developers prioritizing critical flaws?
A: Surprisingly, the report suggests that developers are not prioritizing critical flaws when fixing bugs. The rate at which developers prioritize and fix critical issues is similar to non-critical flaws, raising concerns about the efficiency of bug-fixing processes.

Q: Why are critical flaws not prioritized?
A: The report suggests that the volume of work and time constraints may contribute to developers not prioritizing critical flaws. Developers may focus on resolving easier bugs quickly to improve productivity, rather than investing more time and effort into tackling complex critical issues.

Q: What contributes to security debt?
A: Both in-house code and third-party libraries contribute to security debt. However, third-party flaws take longer to address, highlighting the need for improved security measures within the open-source software supply chain.

Q: What recommendations does the report provide to address security debt?
A: The report recommends prioritizing the remediation of critical high-severity flaws over one year old, integrating scanning and testing throughout the software development life cycle, adopting continuous remediation practices, enhancing developer security competency through hands-on education, and developing strategies to secure the open-source software supply chain.

Q: How can organizations reduce security debt?
A: Organizations can reduce security debt by prioritizing critical flaws, implementing comprehensive testing processes, and investing in developer education to enhance security competency.

Definitions for key terms or jargon used within the article:

Security debt: Refers to unresolved software vulnerabilities or flaws that have been left unaddressed for over a year, allowing vulnerabilities to accumulate over time.
Bug: A software flaw or defect that causes unexpected behavior or problems in a program.
Open-source software: Software that is freely available to use, modify, and distribute, with its source code made openly accessible.
Third-party: Refers to software or components that are developed by organizations or individuals not involved in the direct production of the main software application.

Suggested related links to main domain:

Note: The links provided here are example URLs and not actual working links.

Veracode: Veracode’s official website providing information on application security testing and solutions.
State of Software Security (SOSS) report: Veracode’s annual report on software security, including the 14th edition mentioned in the article.