How to Include Open Source Code in Your Product

How to Include Open Source Code in Your Product

Photo by Jad Limcaco on Unsplash

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Modern software development involves the increased use of open-source code as an essential part of tailoring product projects.

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The Linux Foundation survey on corporate open source programs says that 72% of organizations make non-commercial use of open source code and 55% use it for commercial product development.

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We have outlined three key bottlenecks related to the use of open-source code that you and your team might wish to avoid in your product development project. Read on and learn how to prevent future or fix current flaws.

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Problem 1:

Violation of the License Agreement for Commercial Uses

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Using unlicensed open-source сode is unsafe. You might end up violating intellectual property rights or bringing security vulnerabilities and risks into your project, which can translate into financial and legal consequences.

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Despite that, most developers strive to release faster or cut costs so much that they don’t stop to think about the origin of the components they are going to use.

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Now, how does licensing work? A code license allows developers to use, copy, modify, and share the component in a certain way, while unlicensed parts make those aspects unclear. There are 20 common licenses, such as Apache License 2.0 and others.

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Still, 33% of codebases contain unlicensed open source components. So if you bump into an unlicensed component, be extremely careful. Adopting unlicensed components entails great risks of copyright violations.

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==Tip: Watch out for Hidden Inconsistencies.==

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You must be wondering how to stay on the safe side.

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Firstly, document the use of all third-party resources on the project. Although it requires time and resources, you get to know where all your open-source elements come from.

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Secondly, import libraries only after getting approval from the project tech lead.

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Problem 2:

Use of libraries without community support open-source code in product development

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Another aspect you might stumble over is using open source libraries that a developer community doesn’t support. These libraries might often fail to comply with security standards, work incorrectly with other open-source components, be out-of-date, or have no license at all. Furthermore, developers of open source components may create custom licenses or distribute their code without any information.

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Black Duck Audits says that out of all audited codebases, 31% of open source components have custom licenses, and their usage might result in license conflict. Business and legal risks are likely aftermaths that your development team may wish to dodge by comprehensively analyzing open-source code and its origin.

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Open source code that is supported by the community usually comes with regular updates as its creators take responsibility to ensure security compliance and compatibility with new language versions. They focus on constant and timely delivery of all necessary support, thus reducing the risk of product developers using outdated code. Moreover, the community is usually quick to detect bugs and fix them. All this dramatically increases the trustability of open source libraries that enjoy community support.

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==Tip: Check the origin of the libraries you use.==

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If your project requires an open-source library, start with scrutinizing the component you need: сheck its license, source, and version before you use it. Otherwise, your engineering team may neglect the license policy, which is likely to ruin the final product and result in legal action from copyright holders.

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Also, try to only use libraries from official sites, and if possible, do not import code manually. Do it with the help of builders instead.

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There is another way that might work for you: opt for the help of a professional provider of software evaluation services. You’ll have a highly qualified team at your service, sharing their vast experience of product quality assessment, and doing research instead of your engineers.

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Problem 3:

Use of outdated open-source components causing vulnerability risks open-source code in product development

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A huge number of product development projects (91%, to be precise) use outdated open source components, thus jeopardizing project security significantly.

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According to Synopsys, 82% of codebases have four-year-old parts and 88% have had no add-ons during the last two years.

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Providers of open source code sooner or later withdraw support of earlier versions and stop delivering new patches. If your organization is using legacy software, this may result in security breaches.

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Your business-critical files or customer data may be stolen or become publicly available as it happened to the American credit ranking giant Equifax. They used an open-source server framework that had security vulnerabilities already detected by the solution provider.

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The latter had released the patch to fix the issue, but the credit ranking company continued using the outdated version. This company suffered a hacker attack through the vulnerable open source code, and 143 million sensitive customer records leaked into the public domain.

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==Tip: Track the software versions you use.==

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To avoid security risks, failures and corruption of data-related processes, you need to be sure that the software you use is brand new and receives vendor support and upgrades. In case you work with different frameworks, you need to check that all libraries work together correctly.

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Final recommendations:

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The following general steps can help you deal with major open-source code issues:

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  • Inventory your open-source components right now. Structured records can help you navigate through and monitor all the elements.

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  • Create policies for your development and legal teams to regulate every open source activity in the project.

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  • Keep on auditing your open-source code regularly. It is the best way to detect and troubleshoot issues on time.

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  • Engage in open source communities. In this way, your engineers improve their knowledge of the components they employ in the project.

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If you are not confident about the product quality and wish to scrutinize your open source components, go for a large-scale software project assessment. We recommend the TETRA platform. It can help you uncover technical debt and get an in-depth analysis of code quality, as well as useful ideas for solving your burning issues.

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