Modern programs use different external components while developing and providing consumers with software. Not only startups do this, but big companies and a large number of software development organizations rely heavily on third-party libraries and tools to create their systems. These libraries and tools are referred to together as the software supply chain.

All programs that rely on a component are affected when that component is compromised and this poses a threat to all the data. When there is a flaw in the supply chain, attackers then take advantage of this flaw to enter malicious codes.

There have been some known software supply chain attacks in recent years, with 62% affected organizations. Some of these include the 2020 SolarWinds breach, Pipe Mon, Asus, and the Kaseya assault. Likewise, if there is no proper measure to combat software supply attacks, the attack might skyrocket. According to a survey in 2022, approximately 70% of affected organizations lacked adequate security policies for using open source.

Now you see how critical having a software bill of material is. Therefore, in this article, we’ll look at why it is crucial to have a software bill of materials.

Why Do We Need A Software Bill Of Materials?

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Maintaining a software bill of materials is one of the ways to reduce risks in the software supply chain. An SBOM contains code’s open source, third-party components used in developing software. Not only that, but SBOM also includes the license types for each component, the versions of the components included in the codebase, the status of their components, tools used in building each of the software, and other build scripts. All these will make vulnerability detection easy and swift.

Just like other industries, softwares are constructed from code snippets and subroutines sourced from various sources, including open-source. According to Tidelift, Open source and other third-party components are commonly used by developers today, and 70% of a program may contain code built by someone else.

A typical application comprises 106 components and even if only one of these components has a flaw, without an SBOM, it will take a whole lot of time to identify which of these components is vulnerable to attacks.

SBOM keeps track of materials for increased security. Because the company doesn’t use JBoss, an administrator might assume there’s nothing to worry about, not knowing that another program they rely on might be using the insecure collection code and is vulnerable. The serialization bug in Apache Common Core is a good illustration of how such issues can go unnoticed.

Attackers are now paying greater attention to the upstream components because exploiting a library vulnerability grants them access to more victims than concentrating on just one application.

Administrators can obtain access to the components used in applications and find any potential licensing or security issues using a software bill of materials. Administrators can also utilize the list to spot-check supplier code and apps to get a precise picture of potential vulnerabilities and flaws and quickly deploy patches.

SBOM enables earlier detection and mitigation of risky systems or source code that violates licenses, which enables businesses to manage risk. It also encourages secure software development methods by allowing developers to examine the code they are incorporating into their creations thoroughly.

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Knowing precisely which components make up your software can help you see clearly what level of risk this particular bill of materials introduces into your environment when it operates. Furthermore, because new vulnerabilities are found every day, the risk factor can change whether or not something in the software bill of materials changes.

By adopting the SBOM, software licensing governance can be strengthened. Every software is accompanied by a license that specifies its acceptable uses and methods of distribution. There may be a wide variety of licenses for the separate code components that make up a complete program in a supply chain.

Business that distributes the application is required by law to abide by the licensing. It is impossible to comply with these laws without a software bill of materials.

There are various benefits of SBOM. Combating supply chain attacks is one of the top reasons. During the production process, an attack on the supply chain occurs when someone tampers with components or suppliers to tamper with the end product. Organizations can make sure that all the components in their codebase are from reliable sources by employing a software bill of materials.

Organizations require a software bill of materials to produce software that complies with legal standards. All federal agencies must utilize an SBOM as the standard for developing, testing, protecting, and using their software applications, according to the Executive Order that President Biden signed in May. Any entity wishing to conduct business with the federal government must comply with this order.

Organizations can keep track of all the components in their codebases by maintaining an SBOM. An inventory list that needs to be manually updated by a person who is knowledgeable about each component or a software bill of materials developed to monitor all the components in a codebase can be used to achieve this.

How Can An SBOM Be Created?

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The creation of an SBOM can be done in various ways. Developers can produce an SBOM as part of their CI/CD pipelines’ build phase. A plugin or SBOM generation tool for a particular programming language is required.

A second option is to employ an SCA tool. SCA tools often attempt to examine your application’s dependencies and provide an SBOM file that checks for risks and open source license breaches.

Finally, creating an SBOM from a Docker container may be viable. Some technologies can generate or partially build a desired SBOM file in the new “containerized” software development world.

Conclusion

An SBOM has a lot to offer regarding security, compliance, and managing the numerous components of each application’s license agreement. There are several benefits of the SBOM for your organization. SBOM helps to guarantee adequate protection and up-to-date information.

Using SBOM, companies may better monitor zero-day vulnerabilities in their applications by connecting their component inventory with cyber threat intelligence streams. They can then correct them before seriously jeopardizing the integrity of their software.

Due to the transparency of SBOMs, the entire software supply chain is more transparent, exposing flaws and vulnerabilities and this will help in reducing the risks of supply chain attacks.

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