Open Source Audits Explained

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Open source auditing checks the open source software used in your applications for security vulnerabilities and license violations within the open source libraries or between the open source software and the product company. Learn more about the different types of cybersecurity audits here.

Teams using GitHub for code hosting and collaboration should be sure to follow these GitHub security best practices.

Benefits of open source audits

While open source auditing can be a tedious and tiresome process, it offers significant benefits.


Open source auditing provides an overview of your product’s existing open source software usage. This visibility enables software teams to identify which product components rely heavily on open source software. Teams can then determine whether there are any redundant open source components or whether existing libraries can be used for new features, rather than writing a library from scratch.


Auditing offers insights into the health of the open source software being used through indexes like the dexie health score. Evaluated metrics may include the software’s maintenance score, the time of its last code commit, and its compatibility with other open source software.


Open source auditing identifies security vulnerabilities in the software your application uses. However, the total vulnerabilities discovered can become overwhelming when a project’s open source components are combined with the existing vulnerabilities in the open source software itself. This makes prioritizing vulnerabilities prior to fixing them vital. Open source auditing helps software teams decide which open source tools are worth using by providing visibility into malicious packages, such as node-ipc, or malicious versions of the open source software. Security experts should:

  • Evaluate the exploit maturity of the vulnerabilities.

  • Evaluate whether the open source software is a malicious package or has any malicious versions.

  • Discuss which vulnerabilities are most likely to affect the business and how easily they can be fixed with business stakeholders and software teams.

As an organization’s DevOps adoption matures, they’re more likely to favor automated vulnerability resolutions — such as pushing fixes into the code repository — with tools like Snyk.


Not all open source software licenses can be applied for commercial purposes. For example, if the software uses any open source software that is under the GNU General Public License (GPL), its code must be distributed too. This can be problematic for enterprise companies. open source auditing helps assess whether any open source components violate company policies or each other’s terms.

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What does an open source audit cover?

Open source auditing gives software development teams full visibility into the current status of the open source software being used in their systems. An open source audit should typically include:

  • Open source inventory or software bill of materials (SBOM): A report showing the list of dependencies in the software product.

  • Open source dependency trees: Shows how open source projects are nested into each other. For example, an open source component may rely on another open source library — a very common scenario, also known as a transitive dependency.

  • Open source vulnerabilities: A list of known vulnerabilities that exist in the current open source dependencies. Security experts use this list to prioritize vulnerabilities, so development teams can address the critical vulnerabilities first.

  • Open source license compliance audit: A list of licenses that the open source projects might conflict with, or open source projects that violate the business’ existing software policies.

Open source audit solutions

Now that we’ve reviewed the benefits of open source auditing and what it covers, the next step is learning how to execute it properly so that software teams can get the best return on investment. There are a number of different tools that can be used for open source auditing tasks.

SCA tools for automating SBOMs

There are a number of open source SCA tools that provide automation to check for a software bill of materials. Among the most popular are:

SCA tools can help manage a growing number of open source components as your codebase scales.

Tool for checking outdates packages

Using old or outdated packages in your application can be risky, since they may not be maintained and could present a threat that isn’t easily fixed. So, it’s important to check for any outdated dependencies you may be using. If any are found, some SCA tools will automatically suggest an update or an alternative, saving you time and helping to remediate the issue.

Tool for checking licensing issues

Checking licensing issues helps you avoid the legal risk and liability of using open source software components that aren’t compatible with your product. However, the large number of required open source libraries can make this task  daunting. Which is why an automated tool is needed to check for licensing issues.

When should a business run an open source audit?

Software development teams should run an open source audit as early as possible — either while developing the product code, or when the product package is being built in the continuous integration pipeline. These insights will help minimize open source security risks and licensing issues. This aligns with the DevSecOps methodology, which focuses on developer-first security and shifting security left in the software development life cycle.

What if you lack the resources to run an open source security audit?

An open source security audit can seem daunting for software teams that lack the time, resources, or open source auditing experts to do the job. Snyk Open Source is a developer-first security tool that provides all of these capabilities for free, even for private code projects, including:

  • Enables automated software inventory: Provides the SBOM for the existing product, and automatically updates it if a library is added or removed.

  • Automates steps to check for out-of-date packages: Outdated or deprecated packages are automatically checked, notifying you so you can update to a newer version or an appropriate alternative OSS.

  • Automated checks for open source licenses: Automatically checks for open source licenses, pointing out any violations with business rules or from the combination of selected licenses.

  • Producing SBOMs and dependency trees: Provides an overview of how your open source software is nested and dependent on each other, offering a better understanding of how OSS is being used in the product.

  • Continuous monitoring: Enables software teams to continuously monitor code projects for violations in their open source code, outdated packages, or new libraries that are added.

Snyk helps software teams streamline the remediation process by regularly checking for the latest security issues and providing an up-to-date and prioritized list of vulnerabilities.

You can also work with a company like Snyk that offers open source audit services. Snyk offers blind audits, so target company source code doesn’t need to be exposed or uploaded anywhere, satisfying data security requirements. Snyk services can also help you identify license compliance issues on snippet level in both managed and unmanaged code.

Get started with open source security

Sign up to easily audit your open source software for security and license compliance


Companies can utilize the rapidly growing world of open source software to stay ahead of their competitors. In fact, many of today’s software projects have become dependent on open source software. But with so many open source components in your application, it’s hard to keep track and security vulnerabilities are common.  In addition to that, development and security teams must account for highly targeted malicious package attempts and supply chain security concerns.

Now, more than ever, customers are paying close attention to how companies use and protect their data, especially in the wake of incidents like the vulnerability found in open source logging service Log4j, which impacted thousands of websites and business applications globally. Security vulnerabilities put your product and brand at risk — making open source security auditing a must.

Snyk streamlines this often time-consuming process, providing scanning capabilities to ensure the open source libraries in your applications have been thoroughly checked. Snyk also offers license compliance management, making it easy to manage open source licenses across your application. Take control of your open source software compliance and security with Snyk Open Source. Schedule a demo today or get started for free.

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