Application security

How to run a software composition analysis tool

Nitesh Malviya
May 28, 2021 by
Nitesh Malviya

Protecting your organization’s website from cyberthreats is important. Websites and data servers hold important information, after all. One way to project your website is by utilizing a web application security tool.

Following are the major approaches used by industry professionals to secure their websites:

  1. Dynamic application security testing (DAST)
  2. Interactive application security testing (IAST)
  3. Static application security testing (SAST)
  4. Software composition analysis (SCA)

While many sources are available to secure your site, we will walk through how software composition analysis (SCA) helps secure your website, how it works, what it can and can't do, and more.

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What is software composition analysis? 

SCA is a part of the application security testing that takes care of managing open-source software or components in use by the application. The software composition analysis tool helps development teams to track and analyze any open-source component being used in a project.

SCA tools perform scans on the application source code, supporting libraries, all the related components and indirect and direct dependencies between them. SCA tools are also capable of detecting deprecated dependencies, software licenses, vulnerabilities and potential exploits present in the open-source software being used in the code. Thus the SCA tool is responsible for the security of the code that was not written by the development team.

Salient SCA features 

A typical SCA must provide or support many features: 

  • Comprehensive database. A typical SCA must have a comprehensive database. If the database is comprehensive and aggregated from multiple sources, there are better chances of identifying open source components and security vulnerabilities.
  • Broad language support. An SCA must support wider and broader language so it can be utilized more efficiently.
  • Extensive reporting. An SCA should help you meet any reporting and assurance requirements.
  • Robust policies. An SCA must provide a robust, flexible and customizable policy so it can cater to the organization's needs.
  • Integration with DevOps pipeline. An SCA should be easy to integrate into the pipeline. 
  • Containers/Docker/Kubernetes. An SCA should provide support to containers since they are being widely adopted and deployed.

Choosing an SCA tool 

Consider the following when considering utilizing an SCA tool: 

  1. Developer friendly
  2. Ecosystem support and integrations
  3. Dependency analysis
  4. Vulnerability detection
  5. Remediation
  6. Reporting
  7. Automation and extensibility
  8. Cloud application support

Top software composition analysis tools 

These are some of the most popular SCA tools available: 

  1. Veracode
  2. Black Duck
  3. WhiteSource
  4. Checkmarx
  5. Fortify on Demand
  6. WhiteHat Sentinel SCA
  7. Snyk
  8. JFrog Xray
  9. FOSSA


Below you will find the differences between SAST and SCA. 


Detects vulnerability in proprietary code Detects vulnerability in open-source code

Access to source code required Access to source code is not required

Complex to fix vulnerabilities Easier to fix vulnerabilities

Limited SDLC integration End-to-end SDLC integration

High false positives Less/no false positives

Consumes time since scans take time No impact on build or repo

Covers specific security aspect Covers all open-source risks


Black Duck software composition analysis, Synopsys

Veracode software composition analysis, Veracode

Software composition analysis tools, TrustRadius

SAST vs. SCA; it’s like comparing apples to oranges, WhiteSource

Guide to software composition analysis (SCA), Snykblog

Software composition analysis explained, WhiteSource

Nitesh Malviya
Nitesh Malviya

Nitesh Malviya is a Security Consultant. He has prior experience in Web Appsec, Mobile Appsec and VAPT. At present he works on IoT, Radio and Cloud Security and open to explore various domains of CyberSecurity. He can be reached on his personal blog - and Linkedin -