Cybercrime is on the mind of every business — from the largest enterprise to small and mid-sized companies that may have limited technical expertise. Minimizing risk and controlling vulnerability must start from the very beginning of website development. 

Cybercrime resulted in business losses exceeding $2 trillion in 2019 alone. Much of this loss involved small businesses that have limited resources to address website vulnerabilities, making them attractive targets for hackers or internet criminals.

Why businesses have invested in open source

Open source code is offered by developers or groups of programmers to be reused, copied, modified, and utilized in developing web applications. This collaboration has made website development, gaming sites, and custom applications faster and more economical than “reinventing the wheel” in writing custom programs from scratch.

Web developers can take advantage of open source packages, modifying and adding code to satisfy business requirements. This results in useful programs without heavy investment in time and coding resources on boilerplate functionality

Vulnerabilities of open source deployment

Open source frameworks and libraries can be effective tools for creating robust applications quickly, but there are vulnerabilities to be considered.


Along with the benefits of rapid development and free availability of open source packages, looms the fact that the author of the code is often unknown. Knowledge of and adherence to secure coding techniques may be excellent, or it may be absent in the code. These are risks taken when utilizing open source libraries.


Adopters of open source technology may fall victim to code that does not follow best practices for application security. This exposes the applications – and business – to potential vulnerabilities including:

  • Malware injections
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks
  • Data exposure

Coding vulnerabilities

There are well-known vulnerabilities that seasoned developers know of, but not all open source projects  have addressed:

  • SQL injections — Code permits alteration of SQL scripts, allowing attackers to manipulate or compromise information in databases through modifying parameters.
  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) — Compromised web pages enable attackers to inject client-side scripts that will be executed by other users who view the web page. The damage may include extracting cookies, exposing sensitive data or defacing the existing website.
  • Insecure Direct Object References (IDOR) — This is an access control vulnerability where the code refers to an object directly by user-supplied input. This can be a name or id that is supplied as a URL parameter. This might expose data unintentionally and give hackers information that is useful for other attacks on the site.
  • Cross-Site Request Forgery — CSRF is when an end-user is forced or tricked into executing unwanted web requests for which they are currently authenticated. An attacker tricks the user into executing the actions of the attacker’s choosing. This can enable cyberthieves to modify or create profiles or user accounts for use in additional attacks.
  • Security misconfiguration — This vulnerability is often the result of using default configurations. Developers might not even know about these default settings but it might enable attackers to access the system or retrieve important user information, and even specific data regarding the application. This opens the door for future attacks that compromise those specific technologies.

Users and software providers continuously uncover security flaws. One such CSRF vulnerability was even detected on a popular social media site, which could have impacted millions of users if there had been a successful attack utilizing the weakness. Fortunately, the provider resolved the issue in short order, once it was brought to their attention.

These are only a few of the vulnerabilities that may be lurking in open source code, waiting for unethical cybercriminals to discover and use them to their advantage.

While many developers are well aware of secure coding practices, there is no guarantee that all practices have been adhered to or corrected when the vulnerabilities are identified. Some may still be present in available code for several years.

Why everyone should use an open source vulnerability scanner

Implementing the use of an open source vulnerability scanner like Snyk offers many advantages to website developers and security teams.

1. Identification

As vulnerabilities are discovered in code libraries, scanning offers a simplified process to determine any libraries present in a company’s portfolio. This allows for faster remediation of any exposure.

2. Action

Once risks are identified, vulnerability scanning allows the prompt discovery of all instances of the issue, permitting aggressive response and remediation of security problems and locking out potential attackers..

3. Documentation

Scanning open source code quickly reveals the open source frameworks and libraries that are included in applications. It tracks open source – where it is used, what version is used, and more. This also highlights any dependencies between open source components.

4. Licensing

Some open source requires licensing, even if it is available at no cost. Vulnerability scanning tools reveal open source modules to ensure compliance with any license requirements that could have legal implications.

5. Security

Implementing vulnerability scanning as a standard practice for open source packages provides a sense of security for both management and developers. By detecting code vulnerabilities early in the development process, secure open source packages are used in the applications from the beginning, not after websites have been compromised.

Benefits of using open source vulnerability scanners

Many companies utilize open source components, operating systems, or containers to enhance applications that have been developed in-house.

Regardless of how open source code has been utilized in web development and deployment, anyone that utilizes open source functionality should incorporate the use of an open source vulnerability scanner. 

Businesses must be proactive in discovering security issues before hackers and cybercriminals can exploit them. Open source scanning tools provide just such a capability for developers and IT security teams.

Best practices for security and discovery of weaknesses mandate that companies take responsibility for the integrity of open source components. Unknown vulnerabilities present unnecessary exposure to the corruption of applications, denial of service attacks, and data theft.

Organizations should implement open source vulnerability scanning as a standard procedure in developing and distributing applications. This offers continuous protection from cyberattacks and protects vital information.

Scan your project for open source vulnerabilities

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