Supply chain poisoning attacks have become increasingly problematic over the last few years. In response, the US federal government and several corporations have changed their approaches to cybersecurity. After the SolarWinds software supply chain attack exposed data from several government agencies, the topic has become essential to cybersecurity experts.
If you’re not a security expert, you might have some understandable questions about the causes of supply chain poisonings and how to solve supply chain poisoning. The following article will address those topics.
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The causes of supply chain poisonings
Supply chain poisoning causes come from snippets of code that get included in software. Most software contains proprietary and open-source components. If any of those components have vulnerable code, hackers can exploit the vulnerabilities to access networks. In some cases, developers mistakenly include vulnerable code that puts users at risk. They might write unique code with vulnerabilities or use an open-source component that contains flawed or outdated code.
It’s also possible for hackers to plant tainted code into a product in hopes that a valuable target purchases and installs the software. That’s what happened with the data breaches connected to SolarWinds. A group of hackers — possibly working with the Russian or Chinese governments — managed to add malicious code to a software product used by federal agencies and several multinational corporations.
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How to solve supply chain poisoning risks
Knowing how to solve supply chain poisonings often involves a multi-pronged approach. The more of these steps you can to your security, the more protection you get from supply chain poisonings.
Know your software vendors
Software vendors are the first line of defense against supply chain poisonings. Only use products that come from reliable companies that understand their roles in how to solve supply chain poisonings. More often than not, that means they will include a software bill of materials (SBOM) with their products.
Only use software that comes with SBOMs
SBOMs give you a list of every component included in a piece of software. A good SBOM will tell you about:
The component’s type of license.
The version of the component used in the product.
The organization that built the component.
The component’s threat level.
Many components contain some vulnerability. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid software that uses these components. You just need to make sure you have security measures in place to prevent hackers from taking advantage of the flaw. Without an SBOM, you don’t know what your software contains. With one, you can make informed decisions about which products to use and how to protect your organization from security risks.
It’s a good idea to only trust SBOMs that meet or exceed the federal government’s minimum elements for a software bill of materials.
Review your software frequently for vulnerabilities
When developers release components, they don’t always know about vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. The flaws don’t get discovered until later, often after a malicious actor uses them to attack a network or database. It could take weeks, months, or years for someone to learn that a software component contains dangerous code. Reviewing your software and SBOMs frequently should help you lower your security risks. It isn’t exactly the best option for how to solve supply chain poisoning, but it does give you an opportunity to take the necessary steps toward remediation.
Always follow best practices for security
Supply chain poisoning makes it possible for unauthorized users to access your network, steal data, hold your data hostage, and commit other crimes. Essentially, it gives them a backdoor into your IT ecosystem. Choosing a reliable software vendor, reviewing SBOMs for vulnerable components, and returning to the SBOMs regularly to find new vulnerabilities lowers your risk of becoming a victim. Even when you know how to solve supply chain poisonings, you can’t eliminate risk. A clever hacker could have infiltrated a developer’s network, added malicious code, and waited for several months before attacking. The more patient criminals are, the more time vendors have to sell software to clients with valuable data.
That’s why you still need to follow best practices for security and security monitoring. Critical strategies include:
Following the principle of least privilege to make it more difficult for hackers to move about your system.
Restricting API access to trusted third-party partners and users.
Training all employees to recognize signs of phishing attempts, social engineering, and malware.
Setting API limits to prevent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
Updating software as soon as developers release patches.
Monitoring your system for any suspicious behavior.
How Packagecloud can help
Packagecloud can help you identify the causes of supply chain poisoning before you push packages to the machines on your network. The platform scans all of your code for known vulnerabilities, supply chain poisonings, and trojan-horse attacks. As security researchers discover more vulnerabilities, they get added to Packagecloud’s list to protect you from the latest security risks.
Packagecloud also improves your security by giving you a hosted repository where you can store all of your packages and maintain control of your code. It’s a simple, low-cost way to avoid public repositories that might have security flaws.
Keep your packages and software supply chain secure by relying on Packagecloud. You can experience its benefits for free by signing up for a trial here.