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CA Veracode’s Latest State of Software Security Report Finds Organizations Implementing DevSecOps Address Flaws 11x Faster Than Others

January 2019 by Veracode

CA Veracode, part of CA Technologies 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.

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 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 U.S. organizations 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 here closed the first 25 percent of their flaws in just 11 days, second fastest among all regions, closed 50 percent of flaws in 72 days and closed 75 percent of flaws in 304 days. These marks outpaced averages across regions. 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 organisations to close out three-quarters of their open vulnerabilities. Troublingly, 25 percent 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 programmes and practices greatly outperform their peers in how quickly they address flaws. The most active DevSecOps programmes 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 percent of Java applications had at least one vulnerability in a component, it fell to just over 77 percent 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.

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