Scanning strategies

Learn strategies to best scan your projects with Endor Labs.

There are several key scanning strategies your team should be aware of as your deploy Endor Labs in your environment.

Testing and monitoring different versions of your code

Across the software engineering lifecycle its important that continuous testing is separated from what is monitored and reported on regularly. Often, engineering organizations want to test each and every change that enters a code base, but if security teams reported on each test they would quickly find themselves overwhelmed with noise. Endor Labs enables teams to separate what should be reported on relative to what should be tested but not reported on. Endor Labs allows teams to select reporting strategies for their software applications when integrated into CI/CD pipelines.

Here are the primary scanning and reporting strategies:

  • Reporting on the default branch - All pull request commits are tested and all pushes or merges to the default branch are reported on and monitored by security and management teams.
  • Reporting on the latest release - All reporting and monitoring is performed against tagged release versions. This requires each team have a mature release tagging strategy.

How to deploy a strategy for reporting

The endorctl scan command by default will continuously monitor a version of your code for new findings such as unmaintained, outdated or vulnerable dependencies in the bill of materials for a package. In order to test a version of your code without monitoring and reporting on it, use the flag --pr or environment variable ENDOR_SCAN_PR as part of your scan.

When adopting a strategy such as reporting on the default branch, you will want to run any push or merge event to the default branch without the --pr flag and run any pull_request or merged_request event with the --pr flag. This allows you to test changes before they have been approved and report what has been merged to the default branch as your closest proxy to what is in production.

Lets use the following GitHub actions workflow as an example! In this workflow any push event will be scanned without the --pr flag but any pull_request event is scanned as a point in time test of that specific version of your code.

name: Endor Labs Scan
on:
  push:
    branches: [main]
  pull_request:
    branches: [main]
jobs:
  scan:
    permissions:
      security-events: write # Used to upload sarif artifact to GitHub
      contents: read # Used to check out a private repository but actions/checkout.
      actions: read # Required for private repositories to upload sarif files. GitHub Advanced Security licenses are required.
      id-token: write # Used for keyless authentication to Endor Labs
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    steps:
      - name: Checkout Repository
        uses: actions/checkout@v3
      - name: Setup Java
        uses: actions/setup-java@v3
        with:
          distribution: 'microsoft'
          java-version: '17'
      - name: Build Package
        run: mvn clean install
      - name: Endor Labs Scan Pull Request
        if: github.event_name == 'pull_request'
        uses: endorlabs/github-action@v1.1.1
        with:
          namespace: 'example'
          pr: true
          sarif_file: 'findings.sarif'
          pr_baseline: $GITHUB_BASE_REF
      - name: Endor Labs Reporting Scan
        if: github.event_name == 'push'
        uses: endorlabs/github-action@v1.1.1
        with:
          namespace: 'example'
          pr: false
          sarif_file: 'findings.sarif'
      - name: Endor Labs Testing Scan
        if: github.event_name == 'pull_request'
        uses: endorlabs/github-action@v1.1.1
        with:
          namespace: 'example'
          pr: true
          sarif_file: 'findings.sarif'
      - name: Upload findings to github
        uses: github/codeql-action/upload-sarif@v3
        with:
          sarif_file: 'findings.sarif'

Scanning detatched refs

In some CI/CD based environments, each time code is pushed to the default branch the exact commit SHA is checked out as a detatched Git Reference. This is notably the case with Jenkins, CircleCI and GitLab Pipelines.

In these senarios on push or merge events Endor Labs must be told that the reference should be monitored as the default branch. You can do this with the --detatched-ref-name flag or ENDOR_SCAN_DETACHED_REF_NAME environment variable. You should also couple this flag with the --as-default-branch flag or ENDOR_SCAN_AS_DEFAULT_BRANCH environment variable. This allows you to set this version of code as a version that should be monitored as well as define the name associated with the branch.

This strategy may be used for both a strategy reporting on the default branch on push events and a strategy reporting on tag creation event for that version of code.

You can see in the below GitLab Pipelines example defining the logic to manage a detatched reference on GitLab.

    - if [ "$CI_COMMIT_REF_NAME" == "$CI_DEFAULT_BRANCH" ]; then
        export ENDOR_SCAN_AS_DEFAULT_BRANCH=true;
        export ENDOR_SCAN_DETACHED_REF_NAME="$CI_COMMIT_REF_NAME";
      else
        export ENDOR_SCAN_PR=true;
      fi

The full GitLab pipelines reference can be found below:

Endor Labs Dependency Scan:
  stage: Scan
  image: node # Modify this image to align with the build tools nessesary to build your software packages
  dependencies: []
  variables:
    ENDOR_ENABLED: "true"
    ENDOR_ALLOW_FAILURE: "true"
    ENDOR_NAMESPACE: "demo"
    ENDOR_PROJECT_DIR: "."
    ENDOR_ARGS: |
      --path=${ENDOR_PROJECT_DIR}
      --show-progress=false
      --detached-ref-name=$CI_COMMIT_REF_NAME
      --output-type=summary
      --exit-on-policy-warning
      --dependencies --secrets --git-logs      
  before_script:
    - npm install yarn
  script:
    - curl https://api.endorlabs.com/download/latest/endorctl_linux_amd64 -o endorctl;
    - echo "$(curl -s https://api.endorlabs.com/sha/latest/endorctl_linux_amd64)  endorctl" | sha256sum -c;
      if [ $? -ne 0 ]; then
       echo "Integrity check failed";
       exit 1;
      fi
    - chmod +x ./endorctl
    - if [ "$DEBUG" == "true" ]; then
        export ENDOR_LOG_VERBOSE=true;
        export ENDOR_LOG_LEVEL=debug;
      fi
    - if [ "$CI_COMMIT_REF_NAME" == "$CI_DEFAULT_BRANCH" ]; then
        export ENDOR_SCAN_AS_DEFAULT_BRANCH=true;
        export ENDOR_SCAN_DETACHED_REF_NAME="$CI_COMMIT_REF_NAME";
      else
        export ENDOR_SCAN_PR=true;
      fi
    - ./endorctl scan ${ENDOR_ARGS}
  rules:
  - if: $ENDOR_ENABLED != "true"
    when: never
  - if: $CI_COMMIT_TAG
    when: never
  - if: $CI_COMMIT_REF_NAME != $CI_DEFAULT_BRANCH && $ENDOR_FEATURE_BRANCH_ENABLED != "true"
    when: never
  - if: $ENDOR_ALLOW_FAILURE == "true"
    allow_failure: true
  - if: $ENDOR_ALLOW_FAILURE != "true"
    allow_failure: false

Implementing baseline scans

One of the common concerns software development teams have when adopting preventative controls is ownership of issues. Often, software has accrued significant technical debt, or new vulnerabilities arise that don’t directly impact their changes. Security teams want to have all known issues addressed while the development teams are focused on fixing issues or delivering core business value. They can’t be hindered each time a new issue impacts their entire code base.

To prevent new issues from entering the environment, security teams sometimes set policies that may break the build or return a non-zero exit code that can fail automated tests. This creates friction as there is no context around what changes a developer is responsible for versus what technical debt exists in a codebase on that day.

Establishing a baseline of what issues already exist in a software project and what issues may occur because of new updates is crucial to enabling preventative control adoption.

Accelerating preventative control adoption with CI baselines

The high-level steps to establish and measure policies against a baseline scan are as follows:

  1. Establish a baseline scan of your default branch or any other branch that undergoes regular testing
  2. Integrate baseline scans into your automated workflows
  3. Evaluate policy violations within the context of the branches to which you routinely merge

Implementing baseline scan into your program

Development teams often have different delivery strategies. Some merge changes to a default branch. Others merge to a release branch that is then released to their environment. While these strategies differ across organizations, a baseline scan must exist to measure against attribute ownership.

To establish a baseline scan, your team must perform regular scans on the branch to which you merge. This often means that you scan each push of your default branch to monitor your environment and you test each pull request using the --pr and --pr-baseline flags.

The --pr flag is a user’s declaration that they are testing their code as they would in a CI pipeline. The --pr-baseline flag tells Endor Labs which git reference to measure any changes.

For this example, we will use the default branch as a merging strategy. In this strategy, you’ll want to scan the default branch on each push event to re-establish your baseline. You’ll also want to establish your CI baseline as the default branch.

The following GitHub workflow illustrates this strategy:

name: Endor Labs Scan
on:
  push:
    branches: [main]
  pull_request:
    branches: [main]
jobs:
  scan:
    permissions:
      security-events: write # Used to upload sarif artifact to GitHub
      contents: read # Used to check out a private repository but actions/checkout.
      actions: read # Required for private repositories to upload sarif files. GitHub Advanced Security licenses are required.
      id-token: write # Used for keyless authentication to Endor Labs
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    steps:
      - name: Checkout Repository
        uses: actions/checkout@v3
      - name: Setup Java
        uses: actions/setup-java@v3
        with:
          distribution: 'microsoft'
          java-version: '17'
      - name: Build Package
        run: mvn clean install
      - name: Endor Labs Scan Pull Request
        if: github.event_name == 'pull_request'
        uses: endorlabs/github-action@v1.1.1
        with:
          namespace: 'example'
          pr: true
          sarif_file: 'findings.sarif'
          pr_baseline: $GITHUB_BASE_REF
      - name: Endor Labs Reporting Scan
        if: github.event_name == 'push'
        uses: endorlabs/github-action@v1.1.1
        with:
          namespace: 'example'
          pr: false
          sarif_file: 'findings.sarif'
      - name: Endor Labs Testing Scan
        if: github.event_name == 'pull_request'
        uses: endorlabs/github-action@v1.1.1
        with:
          namespace: 'example'
          pr: true
          sarif_file: 'findings.sarif'
      - name: Upload findings to github
        uses: github/codeql-action/upload-sarif@v3
        with:
          sarif_file: 'findings.sarif'