A quick note about software supply chains

Say the word “supply chain” and images of factories and conveyor belts will likely come to mind. A software supply chain is somewhat similar but without the factories and conveyor belts. So. Do you know how your software is made, and where it comes from?

What is a software supply chain?

A software supply chain refers to the code, configurations, dependencies and libraries, Dev/Ops processes, tools, and people used to build and publish software. Code repositories and package managers like Packagecloud are also part of the software supply chain. Given the number of tools involved, keeping up with things manually is challenging. Companies use software and a set of processes to view the components that make up their systems. Software supply chain management lets companies inventory and track items in the supply chain. This helps identify which system components are vulnerable to a cyberattack.  

Software supply chain security

Businesses are operating at a record-breaking pace. As companies hasten their release cycles, vulnerable code sometimes gets into the software supply chain.
Further complicating matters is the widespread use of APIs connecting functionality between external systems. A vulnerability in the API impacts all interconnected systems. Open-source software is another area susceptible to breaches. Developers download packages with the expectation that it is secure, but downloading open-source packages can put the codebase at risk of attack.
Supply attacks can have widespread impacts. For example, phishing attack Nobelium, as identified by Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSITC), impacted 150 governmental and nongovernmental organizations globally before it was detected.

What is software supply chain vulnerability?

Software vulnerabilities are attacks targeting weaknesses in a software supply chain's packages, code, and tools. Hackers exploit these weaknesses to access a company’s systems. Common attacks are:
    • Packages: Package attacks exploit existing weaknesses in the code in the package repository, like Packagecloud, to execute an attack. Another package exploit is called package poisoning. This attack plants malicious code in the packages.

    • Code: Things such as leaking “secrets” in the code, container misconfiguration, and overall poor code quality make code susceptible to attack.

    • Tools: Cybercriminals gain privileged access to CI/CD tools to access the app’s code, the development environment, and processes. As a result, code in the pipeline gets exposed to vulnerabilities.

Software bill of materials (SBOM) aids in detecting threats

An SBOM is an inventory of software components the company uses. Development teams use the SBOM to identify known vulnerabilities quickly. That way, teams can be proactive in updating the software.
A company's software supply chain consists of processes and tools used to build its software. Managing the supply chain through supply chain management software gives companies insight into what’s in the supply chain. This information is critical in helping companies mitigate risk for software security issues.

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