OWASP Dependency Check Maven Plugin – a Must-Have

I have to admit with a high degree of shame that I didn’t know about the OWASP dependency check maven plugin. And seems to have been around since 2013. And apparently a thousand projects on GitHub are using it already.

In the past I’ve gone manually through dependencies to check them against vulnerability databases, or in many cases I was just blissfully ignorant about any vulnerabilities that my dependencies had.

The purpose of this post is just that – to recommend the OWASP dependency check maven plugin as a must-have in practically every maven project. (There are dependency-check tools for other build systems as well).

When you add the plugin it generates a report. Initially you can go and manually upgrade the problematic dependencies (I upgraded two of those in my current project), or suppress the false positives (e.g. the cassandra library is marked as vulnerable, whereas the actual vulnerability is that Cassandra binds an unauthenticated RMI endpoint, which I’ve addressed via my stack setup, so the library isn’t an issue).

Then you can configure a threshold for vulnerabilities and fail the build if new ones appear – either by you adding a vulnerable dependency, or in case a vulnerability is discovered in an existing dependency.

All of that is shown in the examples page and is pretty straightforward. I’d suggest adding the plugin immediately, it’s a must-have:


It’s not all roses, of course. People on reddit complained that while the plugin caches stuff locally, it can still slow down your build significantly. So it is a good idea to exclude it from your general build and run it nightly in your CI system, and/or in your deploymenet pipeline.

Now, checking dependencies for vulnerabilities is just one small aspect of having your software secure and it shouldn’t give you a false sense of security (a sort-of “I have my dependencies checked, therefore my system is secure” fallacy). But it’s an important aspect. And having that check automated is a huge gain.

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