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SIG Open Source Health Quality Model 2024: Guidance for producers


Contemporary software development heavily relies on open source third-party dependencies. Dependencies reduce the burden of spending precious resources to implement tedious but important features, with the benefit of relying on a wide community support that takes care of the maintenance effort.

Nevertheless, using third-party open source dependencies also comes with challenges and risks: daily, new security issues (vulnerabilities) found in third-party packages might lead to exploits by malicious actors. The nature of open source software development also comes with the risks of lacking support, restrictive license usage, and more.

Since 2021, SIG utilized the Open Source Health capability to assess the risks involved by using third-party open source dependencies. While the risk assessment provided precious initial indication to stakeholders, it did not provide how such risks compare with the market. SIG’s Open Source Health Quality model has been developed to fill this gap, adopting similar benchmarking methodologies used in other SIG Quality models.

This document outlines guidance and provides explanation to software producers about the measurement method of SIG applied to open source third-party dependencies used in software products. For the measurements SIG considers, the threshold measurement values are provided for scoring at the level of 4 stars.

Throughout this document, the terms “package” and “dependency” refer to third-party open source dependency integrated and used by a software product.

Model Definitions

The SIG Open Source Health Quality Model measurements are performed on third-party open source dependencies.

Elements of a dependency that contribute to the measurements in the Open Source Health Quality model are:

As such, for each of the above SIG has associated a property, that is captured by a metric. The rest of this document outlines the details and thresholds for each of them.

Guidance for producers

For each measurement, the values provided are the ones necessary to achieve a 4-star rating. Minor variations in percentages or measurements could produce small variation in the resulting ratings.

Note that these values are meant as guidance for software producers, and are not meant to be strictly applicable, nor as a representation of what SIG considers a best practice. For more reference on what SIG considers best practices on Open Source health, please refer to our workflows page.

More in general, producers should strive to reduce risks measured by the SIG Open Source Health Quality Model properties as much as possible.


Security vulnerabilities in open source dependencies pose a significant threat to software integrity and security. The transparency of open source development, while advantageous, makes code vulnerable by potential exploitation. Code vulnerabilities in third-party open source dependencies can lead to severe consequences, such as data breaches, or compromised system functionality.

For the evaluation of the vulnerabilities property, the software product’s third party vulnerable dependencies are categorized according to the CVSS v3 qualitative severity rating. CVSS is the industry de-facto standard for communicating the characteristics and severity of vulnerabilities. It is developed and maintained by the NIST.

To score a 4 stars rating for this property, a producer should aim to have at most moderate-risk vulnerabilities.

Dependency Freshness

Maintaining the freshness of third-party dependencies not only helps product security but also ensures its future-proofness. Third-party open source dependency upkeep is a crucial activity for several reasons, and this job is oftentimes postponed as not deemed necessary, or for lack of resources. Consequences linked to lack of continuous dependency refresh might lead to risks not only related to the security of a software system (older dependencies are oftentimes vulnerable, for example), but also with maintenance (a minor release update in a third party dependency is less resource intensive than a major release update).

For the evaluation of the freshness property, SIG determines how much a dependency is out-of-date by measuring how long a newer version has been available.

To score a 4 stars rating for this property a producer should aim at having:

License use

Incorporating third-party open source dependencies in software products automatically assumes accepting the license that comes with it. With incompatible or restrictive licenses, software products might expose themselves to legal risks. Such restrictive licenses may conflict with the end-user, with the distribution method, or the business model, and failure to comply with licensing terms can lead to legal repercussions.

Note that the information provided regarding the licenses used by third-party open source dependencies and associated risks is for general informational and risk evaluation purposes only. SIG is not a legal entity, and as such the content does not represent legal advice. Doubts or concerns about the legal implications of specific licenses should be consulted with the legal department of one’s organization or from a qualified legal professional. The accuracy and applicability of legal information can vary and may require personalized legal guidance. SIG disclaim any liability for actions taken based on this information.

For the evaluation of the license property, SIG measures the risks associated with a dependency license. A brief, non-exhaustive outline of licenses associated with open source dependencies, and risks evaluation, is in the table below:

Risk Non-exhaustive example of licenses
Critical risk AGPL (GNU Affero GPL)
Medium risk GPL (GNU General Public License), Mozilla, CC-BY-ND
Low risk LGPL (GNU Lesser GPL), CDDL, Eclipse
No risk MIT, BSD, Apache

To score a 4 stars rating for this property, a system should have at most four dependencies associated with low-risk licenses.


Adopting third-party open source dependencies with an active support community is important, as it significantly influences the reliability and effectiveness of e.g. security patches, and timely issue resolutions should it be needed. When a dependency starts to lack support, thus maintenance, known vulnerabilities may never get addressed, and compatibility issues may arise with natural software evolution. The absence of community-driven updates compromises the future-proofness of the dependency.

For the evaluation of the activity property, SIG determines a dependency latest release date.

To score a 4 stars rating for this property a producer should aim at having:


Effective third-party open source dependency management is crucial for software development. Utilizing package managers streamlines most of the operations around third-party dependencies, as they typically offer an efficient, centralized version set-up, simplify dependency resolution, and reduce risks of compatibility.

On the other hand, managing dependency manually increases the risks of errors, version mismatches, or multiple versions of the same dependency used at the same time in different parts of a software product.

For the evaluation of the management property, SIG measures unmanaged third party open-source dependencies.

To score a 4 stars rating for this property, a system should have at most 4.2% unmanaged dependencies.

Contact and support

Feel free to contact SIG’s support department for any questions or issues you may have after reading this document, or when using Sigrid. Users in Europe can also contact us by phone at +31 20 314 0953.