Hello open source supply chain security fans! A lot has happened with Syft and Grype in the last couple of months, so I want to share some of the new features and improvements we’ve been working on. If you’re not familiar with Syft and/or Grype, here are the details: both tools are open source, and maintained by Anchore.

Syft is our Software Bill of Materials generator. It scans container images and filesystems and makes an inventory of contents including files and software packages. Grype, in turn, takes that information and analyzes it for vulnerabilities from a variety of sources including the GitHub Advisory Database, the National Vulnerability Database, and others.

Syft and Grype development happen at a rapid pace and I want to share a couple of recent improvements. 

Syft Performance Improvements

In Syft 0.71, released early February 2023, we spent some time focusing on improving scanning performance. If you use Syft to scan large, multi-GB images or big directories, you will definitely see some improvement. These improvements are passed through to Grype as well, since Grype uses Syft under the hood to extract the list of packages needing to be analyzed for vulnerabilities. In one of our tests, we saw the time for a scan operation that took six minutes before optimizations only take 23 seconds after. If you scan large images or containers, make sure you are up to date on Syft because you will probably see big improvements.

Syft Binary Detection

Syft gained new capabilities in version v0.62.3 released in late 2022: this version introduced a way to scan and detect binary packages for common open source components, so we can detect things like embedded copies of Apache HTTP Server or PostgreSQL that might not have been installed using a package manager.

Our development community quickly started adding new classifiers for a lot of different open source components, including Python, PHP, Perl, and Go runtimes, Redis, HAProxy, and others. It’s pretty easy to extend the binary detection mechanism for new things, so if you want to learn how to add a new classifier, let us know and we can point you in the right direction.

Good First Issues

Are you interested in contributing to Syft or Grype? We would be happy to have you. We’ve labeled some issues in GitHub with “Good First Issue” if you want to look for something to start with. If you want to talk about a possible implementation or ask questions to help you get started, you can find the developers on Slack or join the community meeting once every two weeks on Thursday at noon Eastern Time.

Good First Issues for Syft

Good First Issues for Grype

Developers: smaller binaries and improved build times

Finally, we’ve made some changes to the dependencies we are using, which has resulted in significantly smaller binary sizes for both Syft and Grype, along with improvements to our build and release process. We now have the ability to get changes released much faster – from PR to release, the pipeline is less than 30 minutes instead of hours.

Thank you to everyone who contributes to and helps our team advance Syft and Grype for the open source community. We're excited about the future of open source software security and hope that you are too.