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How does dependency-check work?

Dependency-check works by collecting information about the files it scans (using Analyzers). The information collected is called Evidence; there are three types of evidence collected: vendor, product, and version. For instance, the JarAnalyzer will collect information from the Manifest, pom.xml, and the package names within the JAR files scanned and it has heuristics to place the information from the various sources into one or more buckets of evidence.

Within the NVD CVE Data (schema can be found here) each CVE Entry has a list of vulnerable software:

  <entry id="CVE-2012-5055">

These CPE entries are read “cpe:/[Entry Type]:[Vendor]:[Product]:[Version]:[Revision]:…”. The CPE data is collected and stored in a Lucene Index. Dependency-check then use the Evidence collected and attempt to match an entry from the Lucene CPE Index. If found, the CPEAnalyzer will add an Identifier to the Dependency and subsequently to the report. Once a CPE has been identified the associated CVE entries are added to the report.

One important point about the evidence is that it is rated using different confidence levels - low, medium, high, and highest. These confidence levels are applied to each item of evidence. When the CPE is determined it is given a confidence level that is equal to the lowest level confidence level of evidence used during identification. If only highest confidence evidence was used in determining the CPE then the CPE would have a highest confidence level.

Because of the way dependency-check works both false positives and false negatives may exist. Please read How to read the report to get a better understanding of sorting through the false positives and false negatives.

Dependency-check does not currently use file hashes for identification. If the dependency was built from source the hash likely will not match the “published” hash. While the evidence based mechanism currently used can also be unreliable the design decision was to avoid maintaining a hash database of known vulnerable libraries. A future enhancement may add some hash matching for very common well known libraries (Spring, Struts, etc.).