What Is a Software Composition Analysis? (And Other FAQs)

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Whiteboard Wednesday: An Introduction to Software Composition Analysis (SCA)

How does a software composition analysis work?

These tools scan programs and databases, usually under the control of a technology department or a single expert Then, these tools examine all of the accompanying files, packages, containers, and open-source code. When finished, it offers a report known as a bill of materials, or BOM. Using vulnerability databases that provide information on common threats and the licenses necessary to operate safely, technology professionals review this document to identify any potential risks. This can also assist in identifying potential program legal requirements and code quality problems.

What is a software composition analysis?

Software composition analysis, or SCA, is a technique for automatically vetting various aspects of open-source software. Because open-source programs and code are available for use by anyone, this analysis frequently verifies their security before a company uses them. These analyses frequently give users reports that detail a program’s inventory, potential risks, and licenses to make sure they’re secure and compliant

How does software composition analysis differ from other security tools?

There are several ways SCA differs from other security tools:

Identification of threats early

Identifying general threats to access, intellectual property, and malware inside of particular programs while they’re running requires the use of many other security tools. Even though tech experts might turn on firewalls and encryption tools early, software composition analysis frequently takes place in the development stage to comprehend the various parts of a program. In contrast to later blocking or remediating them, this enables businesses to identify these vulnerability issues early in the process.


People have greater access to their shared code thanks to software composition analysis, which focuses on identifying problems with open-source content. Although they may provide less information about the open-source code, many other tools, such as encryption tools, malware detectors, and network security, concentrate on the programs’ specific code. As more programs use open-source code, this security measure can assist in identifying potential problems before they occur more frequently.

Why is software competition analysis important?

There are several reasons this type of analysis is important:

Providing an inventory

While an SCA scans a program in its entirety to find threats and problems, it also provides a complete inventory of everything that is included. This indicates that it is able to supply each instance in a program where it makes use of open-source codes, licenses, threats, and risks. Beyond simply securing a program, this inventory can be useful because it can show users how much of their content is open-source and what might be proprietary. A program’s open-source components’ versions and current licenses can also be discovered.

Managing open source

Since anyone can access open-source content, this analysis enables technology professionals to control how users might use this This may be crucial if your programs have a large user base and make extensive use of open-source code because more users may persuade you to enable additional security and legal compliance. Many open-source programs have prerequisites and dependencies, so you can make sure the program will run safely and legally on a variety of devices for these users.

Overseeing security risks

SCA tools often help companies ensure their programs are safe. These scans can assist in identifying vulnerabilities early and keeping an eye on them while programs are live because open-source code can be more susceptible to cyberattacks or problems. Along with the usual virus and threat protection, this provides additional controls to manage security risks. You can frequently run these analyses multiple times.

Improving delivery times to markets

A software composition analysis can speed up the time it takes to market a program. You can address these before releasing it to the market because they find problems and frequently automatically fix them. Finding potential open-source problems may be quicker using this method than with standard testing. Additionally, by spotting any licensing gaps early on, you can plan for your legal requirements without needing to fill them in retroactively.

What should you consider when choosing a software composition analysis tool?

When selecting an SCA tool, there are several factors to take into account:

How do you know if you need to perform a software composition analysis?

Software development firms that sell or distribute programs or applications to their customers are frequent users of this analysis. Since many of them now use more open-source software, they might decide to combine this security measure with other established practices. This analysis could assist you in avoiding any legal or cybersecurity issues if you use open-source code for application development.


What is SCA scan used for?

Definition. The automated process known as Software Composition Analysis (SCA) identifies the open source software in a codebase. To assess security, license compliance, and code quality, perform this analysis. Companies must understand the restrictions and responsibilities of open source licenses.

What is SCA and SAST?

The process of automating visibility into the use of open source software (OSS) for risk management, security, and license compliance is known as software composition analysis (SCA).

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