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Top 3 tools to safeguard app dependencies against vulnerabilities

Looking for ways to make managing and securing your app's dependencies easier? Here's a list of must-have tools to and how to configure them.

Apr 3, 2024 • 6 Minute Read

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  • Software Development
  • Security

The world of software development has become increasingly dynamic. Companies are expected to ship frequently and fast without dropping the quality and reliability of their software. The tech industry is in a continuous expansion, and compared just to a decade ago, software is more complex and relies on a vast number of dependencies. These dependencies, whether they be open-source libraries or third-party APIs, have the potential to significantly enhance the functionality and efficiency of software. However, they also introduce a critical vulnerability - the risk of hidden security flaws that can compromise the integrity of applications.

Without updating dependencies, organizations risk exposing critical information, as attackers will attempt to exploit the flaws introduced by dependencies. At the same time, managing dependencies in complex programs is a difficult task, and can lead to decreased productivity and lead time for software engineers.  As a result, a new challenge emerged for software engineers: automating the dependency management

In this blog post, we will delve into three leading tools designed to fortify app dependencies against potential threats: Snyk, Dependabot, and Renovate. Ready? Let’s go!

1. Snyk: A Proactive Approach to Security

What is Snyk?

Snyk is a security platform that specializes in identifying and fixing vulnerabilities in dependencies. It integrates seamlessly into the development workflow, offering real-time scanning and alerting for any security threats.

Key Features

  • Snyk maintains an extensive, regularly updated database of known vulnerabilities.
  • It not only detects vulnerabilities but also suggests fixes and generates pull requests to implement them.
  • CI/CD Integration: Easily integrates with continuous integration/continuous deployment pipelines, enhancing the security aspect of DevOps.

Snyk offers impressive support for a wide variety of languages and package managers. Here's a breakdown:

  • JavaScript/TypeScript: (npm, yarn)
  • Java: (Maven, Gradle)
  • .NET: (NuGet)
  • Python: (pip, Pipenv, Poetry)
  • Ruby: (RubyGems)
  • Golang: (Go Modules)
  • PHP: (Composer)
  • Scala: (sbt)
  • Swift/Objective-C: (CocoaPods)

Why Snyk Stands Out

Snyk's strength lies in its proactive stance on security. It doesn't just alert the developers about potential issues but also assists in resolving them, significantly reducing the time to secure applications.

How To Configure Snyk?

In the following section, we will see how to configure Snyk for your project.


  • A Snyk Account: If you don't have one, sign up for a free account on the Snyk website.
  • Node.js and npm: The Snyk CLI requires Node.js and npm. If you don't have these, you can install them from

Configuration Methods

We will explore two main methods for configuring Snyk: through the command line interface (CLI), or through Snyk integration with various environments.

Snyk CLI

1. Install the Snyk CLI:

      npm install -g snyk

2. Log in to Snyk from your terminal:

      snyk auth

3. Change your working directory to the root of your project.

4. Start the Snyk wizard to guide you through the setup:

      snyk wizard

5. Scan: Finally, test your project for vulnerabilities:

      snyk test
Snyk Integration

Snyk can integrate with your IDE, your Git repo, or with the CI/CD pipelines of your project. 

  • IDE Plugins: Snyk has plugins for popular IDEs like VS Code, IntelliJ, and others. Check Snyk's documentation for installation and usage specifics for your IDE.
  • Git Repositories: Snyk can integrate with GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket, and Azure DevOps. Check the "Integrations" section on your Snyk dashboard for setup instructions.
  • CI/CD Pipelines: Snyk provides integrations with Jenkins, CircleCI, Travis CI, and many more. Check Snyk's documentation for detailed instructions.

2. Dependabot: Automated Dependency Management

What is Dependabot?

Dependabot is a tool that automates the process of updating dependencies in your project. Owned by GitHub, it's particularly effective in keeping software dependencies up to date and secure.

Key Features

  • Dependabot automatically creates pull requests to update dependencies to the latest, secure versions.
  • Developers can configure the tool to suit their specific needs, like scheduling updates.
  • It provides alerts for vulnerable dependencies and suggests updates or patches.

Why Dependabot Is Essential

Dependabot simplifies the maintenance of dependencies through its integration with GitHub, which makes it a convenient choice for many developers.

How To Configure Dependabot?

1. Enabling Dependabot Version Updates

  • Go to the GitHub repository where you'd like to enable Dependabot.
  • Click the "Settings" tab.
  • In the sidebar, click on "Code security and analysis".
  • Under "Code security and analysis", locate "Dependabot version updates" and click the "Enable" button.

2. Creating the Configuration File (dependabot.yml)

Create a new file named dependabot.yml in the .github directory at the root of your repository. If the .github directory doesn't exist, you'll need to create it.

Here's a simple example for a node project to get started:

      version: 2
  - package-ecosystem: "npm"  # Replace with your package ecosystem (e.g., "maven", "bundler")
    directory: "/"            # Location of package.json file
      interval: "daily"       # Update check frequency


I'd highly recommend watching Daniel Krzyczkowski's course, "Implementing and Managing GitHub for DevSecOps," to find out more about Dependabot and DevSecOps in general.

3. Renovate: Comprehensive Dependency Updating

What is Renovate?

Renovate is an open-source tool designed to handle dependency updates automatically. It supports a wide range of programming languages and package managers.

Key Features

  • Offers customizable scheduling for updates.
  • Provides detailed configuration options to control how dependencies are updated.

Why Renovate?

Renovate's versatility and extensive language support make it a go-to tool for projects with a diverse tech stack. Its robust configuration options cater to complex project requirements.

How To Configure Renovate?


  • For hosted platforms like GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket, you'll need to install the Renovate app for your platform.
  • If you prefer to host Renovate yourself, you'll need to follow their self-hosting setup instructions.

Basic Setup

1. Create a file named renovate.json (or renovate.json5, .renovate.jsonc) at the root of your project.

Here's a minimal configuration example:

    "extends": ["config:base"] 


The extends option allows you to start with Renovate's recommended default settings.

2. Commit your renovate.json file and push it to your repository. This will trigger Renovate to start managing your dependencies.

Customizing Renovate

Renovate offers extensive customization through its configuration file. Here are some of the important aspects you can control:

  • Define which package managers you want Renovate to manage (e.g., npm, maven, pip).
  • Renovate can work with a multitude of languages and package managers.
  • Set how frequently Renovate should check for updates (e.g., schedule: daily)
  • Control how Renovate groups updates into pull requests.
  • Set up rules for Renovate to automatically merge certain updates.

Here's an example of a more extensive configuration:

  "extends": [
      "config:base",       // Start with Renovate's recommended defaults 
      ":semanticPrefixFixDepsChoreOthers", // Automerge fix, chore, and other non-breaking updates
      ":enableRenovateDashboard" // Enable Renovate's dashboard (if installed)
  "packageRules": [
      "matchUpdateTypes": ["minor", "patch"], 
      "groupSlug": "minor-patch"  // Group minor and patch updates together
      "matchPackageNames": ["lodash", "axios"], // Example packages
      "rangeStrategy": "pin"  // Pin these dependencies to exact versions
      "matchDepTypes": ["devDependencies"], 
      "enabled": false // Disable updates for dev dependencies (optional)
  "timezone": "Europe/London",  // Set your timezone for scheduling
  "schedule": ["before 10am on Fridays"], // Check for updates on Friday mornings
  "gitAuthor": "Renovate Bot <[email protected]>", // Customize commit authorship



We've seen three potential tools that can help you manage the dependencies of your software automatically. It is important to keep in mind that these tools cannot change your app code to make it compatible with a new version of a dependency. If the developers of a library decide to make breaking changes to their code, you would still need to spend time to adjust your app and ensure compatibility with the new version. 

However, many software providers usually create versions that are backwards compatible, which means that the tools we've just explored can handle updates without human intervention. An important aspect is to develop a robust set of tests that would guarantee that the quality of your app will not be affected. 

If you liked this article, make sure to check out my Pluralsight courses, which deal with other cybersecurity-related topics and techniques worth learning about. 

Don't make security an afterthought!

Security threats continue to increase in number and sophistication, with AI now being used to both create and defend against attacks. These attacks are costly, with the average data breach in 2023 amounting to $4.45 million. Pluralsight has what you need to build the foundational skills, roles, and readiness your teams need. Pluralsight’s security content and hands-on learning options were designed by security professionals, for security professionals

Give your organization a fighting chance with content authored by industry experts who have real-world experience in both offensive and defensive security. Click here to learn more about boosting you and your team's cybersecurity skills. 

Laurentiu Raducu

Laurentiu R.

Laurentiu is the founder of, a company providing top-tier tech consulting services. He is a tech polymath with an insatiable appetite for learning and sharing knowledge, authoring courses that have helped over 100k students become better technologists. When he is not developing and testing software, he enjoys being outdoors, running, or playing chess.

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