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FAQ & Best Practices on

Software Supply Chain Security

Software supply chain security is the practice of protecting and securing all elements involved in the software development process.


In an interconnected digital world, software supply chains—processes that convert initial code into final software products—are complex and potentially fraught with security risks.

Threat actors often exploit vulnerable points in these chains, leading to serious consequences like data breaches or service disruption.

It's crucial for organizations to understand these risks and secure their software supply chains effectively.

But what is it, why is it important, and how does it relate to the Software Bill of Materials (SBOM)?


What is software supply chain security?

Software supply chain security is the practice of protecting and securing all elements involved in the software development process, including third-party services, open-source libraries, internal development tools, and deployment environments.

This concept goes beyond the scope of traditional application security. It ensures the integrity and confidentiality of your software products from inception to end-of-life.

But what exactly is a software supply chain?

A software supply chain encompasses all activities and entities involved in the creation, delivery, and maintenance of a software product. This includes the ideation and design, coding, testing, deployment, and maintenance stages of software development.

It also involves various entities such as software developers, third-party service providers, open-source libraries, internal development tools, and deployment environments.

Ensuring the security of this supply chain goes beyond the scope of traditional application security. It aims to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of your software products from inception to end-of-life by mitigating potential risks in all components of the supply chain.

Solarwind example

One of the most notable examples of a software supply chain attack is the SolarWinds incident.

In this case, malicious actors compromised the update mechanism of SolarWinds' Orion software, a network monitoring tool used by numerous organizations worldwide.

This compromise allowed the attackers to distribute malicious updates to Orion customers, leading to a significant breach affecting several high-profile organizations. 

Software supply chain security v.s. application security

While software supply chain security and application security might seem similar, they cater to different aspects of software protection.

Application security focuses on the security of software applications from malicious attacks and threats, focusing primarily on the code and features of the software application.

On the other hand, software supply chain security involves ensuring the security of the entire development and distribution process.

It focuses not only on the software application but also on the various components and parties involved in its creation and maintenance. This includes open-source components, third-party vendors, and internal development practices.

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Why are software supply chain attacks trending?

Software supply chain attacks are on the rise due to the interconnected nature of modern software development.

As organizations increasingly depend on third-party software and open-source libraries, attackers see an opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities in these components to gain unauthorized access to systems or data.

Also, a successful supply chain attack can have a ripple effect, affecting multiple organizations that use the compromised component. This large-scale impact makes supply chain attacks particularly appealing to sophisticated threat actors.

📚 Related: Why do SBOMs Matter?


Software supply chain risks

Open-source risks

Open-source software has become a fundamental part of modern software development due to its cost-effectiveness, high quality, and flexibility.

However, its public nature can attract malicious entities. Problems can arise when there is inadequate tracking of open-source components used in applications, leading to potential security vulnerabilities.

For instance, outdated libraries might have known security flaws exploited by hackers. A detailed understanding of open-source licenses and diligent tracking of open-source components can help manage these risks.

Third-party vendor risks

Many software products today leverage third-party vendors, services, or APIs. While these third-party integrations can enhance the functionality of your software, they also introduce potential security vulnerabilities.

If these vendors suffer a security breach, it can have severe implications for your software supply chain, leading to data loss or leakage, compliance issues, and reputational damage.

Internal development risks

The development practices within an organization also present potential risks to the software supply chain. These include insecure coding practices, lack of adequate testing, poor version control, and inefficient patch management.

Proper training, the implementation of secure coding guidelines, and robust testing and quality assurance procedures can mitigate these risks.

📚 Related: How we Mitigated the log4j Vulnerability

Best practices for software supply chain security

  1. Implement secure coding practices: To mitigate internal development risks, your development team should adhere to secure coding practices. This involves writing code in a manner that minimizes the introduction of security vulnerabilities.

  2. Establish vendor risk management practices: You should regularly assess the security posture of your third-party vendors. This can involve periodic audits, performance monitoring, and ensuring that vendors comply with your organization's security requirements.

  3. Adopt open-source software management practices: When using open-source components, it's crucial to track and manage their usage. This involves maintaining an inventory of open-source components, understanding their associated licenses, monitoring for security vulnerabilities, and keeping them updated.

  4. Leverage software bill of materials (SBOMs): An SBOM is a comprehensive record of the components, dependencies, and metadata within a piece of software. An SBOM aids in identifying, tracking, and managing open-source components and vulnerabilities within the software supply chain.

  5. Continuously monitor and patch vulnerabilities: Continuous monitoring for vulnerabilities and efficient patch management is critical to securing your software supply chain. This includes monitoring for new vulnerabilities in your software and its components, assessing their impact, and patching them in a timely manner.

📚 Related: 5 Software Supply Chain Security Best Practices



Understanding and managing the risks in your software supply chain is crucial to your organization's overall cybersecurity posture.

Implementing best practices, leveraging tools, and continuous monitoring can significantly enhance your software supply chain security.

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What is software supply chain security?

Software supply chain security refers to the measures and practices implemented to protect software in development, production, and distribution phases from threats and attacks. It focuses on ensuring the security of third-party components, open-source libraries, and external dependencies that are part of the software supply chain.

How to improve software supply chain security?

Improving software supply chain security involves several steps, including thorough inventory and tracking of all software components and dependencies (creating a Software Bill of Materials, or SBOM), regular security assessments, implementing secure coding practices, vulnerability scanning and patching, and using automated tools to monitor the security of the supply chain continuously.

What are the main threats to software supply chain security?

The main threats include insertion of malicious code, exploitation of existing vulnerabilities, use of out-of-date or unsupported components, and lack of visibility into third-party or open-source components.

What role does a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) play in software supply chain security?

An SBOM provides a comprehensive inventory of all software components and dependencies, making it a crucial tool in maintaining software supply chain security. It helps in tracking components, identifying vulnerable or outdated elements, and ensuring compliance with security standards and regulations.

How does DevSecOps contribute to software supply chain security?

DevSecOps, the practice of integrating security into every phase of the DevOps lifecycle, plays a crucial role in enhancing software supply chain security. By automating security checks and assessments, encouraging collaboration between development and security teams, and promoting a 'security as code' mindset, DevSecOps can significantly improve the security posture of the software supply chain.



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