Snyk Review

Scans our thousands of dependencies every time we build and rechecks them daily, making us aware of what's going on

What is our primary use case?

Our use case is basically what Snyk sells itself as, which is for becoming aware of and then managing any vulnerabilities in third-party, open-source software that we pull into our product. We have a lot of dependencies across both the tools and the product services that we build, and Snyk allows us to be alerted to any vulnerabilities in those open-source libraries, to prioritize them, and then manage things.

We also use it to manage and get visibility into any vulnerabilities in our Docker containers and Kubernetes deployments. We have very good visibility of things that aren't ours that might be at risk and put our services at risk.

Snyk's service is cloud-based and we talk to that from our infrastructure in the cloud as well.

How has it helped my organization?

We are a business that sells services to other businesses. One of the things that we have to sell is trust. As a small company, we've had to go quite a long way to mature our development and security processes. We've been ISO 27001-certified for a while and we got that very early, compared to the life cycle of most businesses. But that's because when we're talking contracts with customers, when we're talking information security reviews with customers, it's really powerful to be able to say, "We have Snyk, we use it in this way." A lot of the questions just go away because people understand that that means we've got a powerful and comprehensive tool.

Certainly, from a finding-of-vulnerabilities perspective, it's extremely good. Our problem is scale. We have something like 7,000 dependencies in our code and we could go and check those ourselves, but that would be a huge waste of time. Snyk's ability to scan all of those every time we build, and keep a running status of them and recheck them daily, is extremely valuable for making us aware of what's going on. We've wired Snyk up into Slack and other things so that we get notifications of status, and that's useful.

It has reduced the amount of time it takes to find problems by orders of magnitude because it's scanning everything. Without the tool it would be horrific; we just couldn't do it. It takes seconds for a scan to run on each of our libraries and so that's an amazing performance improvement. Compared to having nothing, it's amazing.

In terms of developer productivity, because of the way that our development community works, they're pulling in third-party libraries. So they worry less about the choice of the third-party library, but it could inform them that there's a risk, and then they then have to take action. We probably spend more time securing our product, but get a more secure product, which is actually what we want.

Overall, knowing what the risks are, and being able to make considered judgments about those risks, means that we are much more comfortable that our product is secure. And when there are high-risk issues, we're able to take action very quickly. The time to resolution for anything serious that is discovered in downstream libraries is dramatically reduced, and that's really useful.

What is most valuable?

The core offering of reporting across multiple projects and being able to build that into our build-pipelines, so that we know very early on if we've got any issues with dependencies, is really useful.

We're loving some of the Kubernetes integration as well. That's really quite cool. It's still in the early days of our use of it, but it looks really exciting. In the Kubernetes world, it's very good at reporting on the areas around the configuration of your platform, rather than the things that you've pulled in. There's some good advice there that allows you to prioritize whether something is important or just worrying. That's very helpful.

In terms of actionable items, we've found that when you're taking a container that has been built from a standard operating system, it tends to be riddled with vulnerabilities. It's more akin to trying to persuade you to go for something simpler, whether that's a scratch or an Alpine container, which has less in it. It's more a nudge philosophy, rather than a specific, actionable item.

We have integrated Snyk into our software development environment. The way Snyk works is that, as you build the software in your pipelines, you can have a Snyk test run at that point, and it will tell you if there are newly-discovered vulnerabilities or if you've introduced vulnerabilities into your software. And you can have it block builds if you want it to. Our integrations were mostly a language-based decision. We have Snyk integrated with Python, JavaScript Node, and TouchScript code, among others, as well as Kubernetes. It's very powerful and gives us very good coverage on all of those languages. That's very positive indeed.

We've got 320-something projects — those are the different packages that use Snyk. It could generate 1,000 or 2,000 vulnerabilities, or possibly even more than that, most of which we can't do anything about, and most of which aren't in areas that are particularly sensitive to us. One of our focuses in using Snyk — and we've done this recently with some of the new services that they have offered — is to partition things. We have product code and we have support tools and test tools. By focusing on the product code as the most important, that allows us to scope down and look at the rest of the information less frequently, because it's less important, less vulnerable.

From a fixing-of-vulnerabilities perspective, often Snyk will recommend just upgrading a library version, and that's clearly very easy. Some of the patching tools are a little more complicated to use. We're a little bit more sensitive about letting SaaS tools poke around in our code base. We want a little bit more sensitivity there, but it works. It's really good to be able to focus our attention in the right way. That's the key thing.

Where something is fixable, it's really easy. The reduction in the amount of time it takes to fix something is in orders of magnitude. Where there isn't a patch already available, then it doesn't make a huge amount of difference because it's just alerting us to something. So where it wins, it's hugely dramatic. And where it doesn't allow us to take action easily, then to a certain extent, it's just telling you that there are "burglaries" in your area. What do you do then? Do you lock the windows or make sure the doors are locked? It doesn't make a huge difference there.

What needs improvement?

One of the things that I have mentioned in passing is because we have a security team and we have the development team. One of the things that would make the most difference to me is because those two teams work independently of each other. At the moment, if a developer ignores a problem, there's no way that our security team can easily review what has been ignored and make their own determination as to whether that's the right thing to do or not. That dual security team process is something that I'd love to see.

Other than that, there is always more work to do around managing the volume of information when you've got thousands of vulnerabilities. Trying to get those down to zero is virtually impossible, either through ignoring them all or through fixing them. That filtering or information management is always going to be something that can be improved.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using Snyk for about 18 months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is pretty good.

We've had two challenges over the two years we've been using Snyk. One was the size of our projects in our JavaScript world. It meant that some of the tests would fail through memory issues. They've done a lot of work on improving that, and we have found some workarounds. 

Sometimes, because we're talking out to Snyk services, our pipelines fail because the Snyk end isn't running successfully. That doesn't happen very often, so it hasn't been a major impact, but there have been one or two cases where things didn't work there.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The solution is scalable, absolutely. We plan to increase our usage of Snyk. As we grow, every developer will be put into it. Everything we build, all of our development, is using Snyk as the security scanning tool.

How are customer service and technical support?

Snyk's technical support is very good. We haven't used it much. I've engaged with customer success and some of the product managers and they're really keen to get feedback on things. 

We have had one or two things where we have talked to support and they have been very positive engagements.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We were small enough that we didn't have a previous solution.

How was the initial setup?

The deployment was easy. When we were first evaluating Snyk, our automation engineer got a test account, installed it, and built it into our development pipelines without needing any support at all from Snyk. It was one of the more interesting sales engagements. They sent us an email, but we got it up and going and were using it in its trial mode without needing any assistance at all. That's clearly a demonstration of that ease of integration.

Working end-to-end, it took a couple of days for one person to get it wired up.

We followed the Snyk recommendations. We built a container that takes the Snyk service, and we run that in our build-pipeline. It dropped in very easily because of the way we were already operating.

In terms of developer adoption, we had to mandate it. So everybody uses it. It's built into all the pipelines. Generally, it's pretty good. The engineering team has 17 people and pretty much everybody is using Snyk as part of that. I don't think security is necessarily at the forefront of everybody's minds, and we're working on that. Snyk has helped.

We have a very complex infrastructure so the only challenge with Snyk is that it tells us a lot of information. They're pretty good at managing that, but you still have to take action. It's very good for knowing things, but it's also pretty good at being able to work out how to focus your attention.

That volume of information, where you get lots of things that are not important or not critical, tends to create a little bit of "blindness" to things. We're used to Snyk tests failing, alerting us to things that we're choosing to ignore at that moment because they're not fixable. That's one of the interesting challenges, to turn it into actionable information.

What was our ROI?

We had a lot of information security audits and we found that Snyk enabled sales because they weren't being blocked by InfoSec issues. That means that it probably paid for itself with the first customer deal that we were able to sign. We were able to show them that we had Snyk up and working really quickly, which was great. 

In terms of other metrics, it's slightly harder to measure, because it's allowing us to prevent problems before they become issues. But from a commercial engagement point of view, it was well worth it, very quickly.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It's good value. That's the primary thing. It's not cheap-cheap, but it's good value. We managed to build a package of features that we were able to live with, in negotiation, and that worked really well. We did a mix and match. We got single sign-on and some of the other things.

The Kubernetes, the container service, versus the source-code service, for us, as a cloud deployment, was well worth it. The ability there has been really useful, but that's clearly an extra cost.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

There are other tools that can perform some of the functions Snyk does. We did some analysis of competitors, including Black Duck Synopsys and Veracode, but Snyk was clearly the most hungry and keen to assist, as a business. There were a lot of incumbent competitors who didn't really want our business. It felt like Snyk clearly did want to do the right thing and are continuing to improve and mature their product really fast, which is brilliant.

Snyk, was at a good price, has very comprehensive coverage, and as a company they were much easier to engage with. It felt like some of the other competitors were very "big boys." With Snyk we had the software working before we'd even talked to a sales guy, whereas with other solutions, we weren't even allowed to see the software running in a video call or a screen-sharing session until we'd had the sales call. It was completely ridiculous.

What other advice do I have?

My advice is just try it. If you've got a modern development pipeline, it's really easy to wire up, if you've got somebody with the right skills to do that. We found with a development community, it's really easy to build these things. Get on with it and try it. It's really easy to trial and see what it's telling you about. That's one of the great upsides of that model: Play with it, convince yourself it's worth it, and then talk to them about buying it.

It's hard to judge Snyk's vulnerability database in terms of comprehensiveness and accuracy. It clearly is telling us a lot of information. I have no reason to doubt that it is very good, but I can't categorically back that up with my own empirical evidence. But I trust them.

I don't get the sense there are many false positives from Snyk, and that's a very positive thing. When it tells us something, it's almost certainly a real issue, or at least that a real issue has been found somewhere in the open-source world. 

What is always harder to manage is to know what to do if there is no resolution. If somebody has found a problem, but there is no fix, then we have a much more interesting challenge around evaluation of whether we should do something. Do we remove that library? Do we try and fix it ourselves, or do we just wait? That process is the more complicated one. It's less of a false positive issue and more an issue of a real finding that you can't do anything about easily. That can sometimes leave you ignoring things simply because there's no easy action to take, and that can be slightly dangerous.

The solution allows our developers to own security for the applications and the containers they run in the cloud, although that's still something we're working on. It's always a challenge to get security to be something that is owned by developers. The DevOps world puts a lot of responsibility on developers and we're still working to help them know; to have better processes and understand what they need to be doing. We still have a security oversight function who is trying to keep an eye on things. We're still maturing ourselves, as a team, into DevSecOps.

As for Snyk's lack of SAST and DAST, that's just another one of the tools in the toolkit. We do a lot of our own security scanning for application-level or platform-level attacks. We have pen tests. So the static application is not something that we've seen as particularly important, at this point.

Snyk is an eight out of 10. It's not perfect. There are little things that could clearly be improved. They're working on it as a company. They're really engaged. But the base offering is really good. We could also use it better than we are at the moment, but it's well worth it. It's brilliant.

The biggest lesson I have learned from using this solution is that there is a big gap between thinking your software is safe and knowing what the risks are. Information is power. You don't have to take action, but at least you are informed and can make a considered judgment if you take it seriously. That is what Snyk really provides.

The ethos of Snyk as a company is really positive. They're keen to engage with customers and do something in a slightly different way, and that younger, hungrier, more engaged supplier is really nice to work with. They're very positive, which is good.

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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