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Nov 15, 2023
As you begin developing your application to get services in front of your customers, you will notice a lot of processes and contributors are involved—from development to production. All of these processes and people are part of the “software supply chain.”
It goes without saying that your software supply chain plays a crucial role in ensuring your business’s success. However, each stage of that chain is vulnerable to specific security threats that could potentially cause huge damage to your application and overall business. Because of this, each stage is responsible for contributing to the overall security of your product. This blog will dive into the various solutions you can use to make your entire software supply chain secure.
A software supply chain is made up of components, people, processes, and tools involved in the creation, development, distribution, and maintenance of software. It includes all of the steps involved in getting software from the developer’s computer to the end user’s device.
The software supply chain is becoming increasingly complex, as software applications are becoming more and more reliant on third-party components. This makes it more difficult to track and manage the security of the software supply chain.
The software supply chain includes the following components:
The software supply chain is a critical part of an organization’s IT infrastructure. By understanding the components of the software supply chain, you can better protect yourself from security threats.
Your DevOps team can use tools and processes to automate and streamline development; this enables teams to spend less time and effort building and deploying applications. These tools ensure your organization can deliver high-quality software apps that meet end users’ needs and expectations, helping you stay competitive in today’s fast-paced business environment.
However, as mentioned, the entire process is susceptible to security threats. So let’s see what some of these are and how we can go about solving them.
The risks involved in developing an application can have serious consequences—from data breaches to intellectual property theft. Below is a non-exhaustive list of just some of the potential threats software supply chains are susceptible to.
Using vulnerable libraries is a common security risk associated with the software supply chain. Many software applications rely on third-party libraries and frameworks to simplify development and reduce costs. These libraries may, however, contain vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit.
Misconfigurations can occur at any stage of the software supply chain. A misconfigured system can leave apps vulnerable to attacks and compromise their integrity, allowing unauthorized access to sensitive data or leading to data loss.
Credential theft can enable attackers to steal credentials, like usernames and passwords, to gain unauthorized access to systems or applications. Once inside, they may be able to steal sensitive data or disrupt business operations.
Malicious artifacts injected into repositories and deployed to production are becoming a growing concern for software developers and DevOps teams. To compromise software applications or steal sensitive data, attackers can inject malicious code into the software supply chain; this can be particularly challenging to detect, as the code may be injected at any point in the supply chain.
In the past, attackers have exploited these vulnerabilities to cause significant damage. For instance, the Heartbleed bug that affected the OpenSSL library was a severe security vulnerability caused by using vulnerable libraries. Hackers were able to steal sensitive information from the server’s memory, including passwords and user data. The Heartbleed bug impacted many popular websites such as Yahoo, Dropbox, and Tumblr, as well as internet-connected devices like routers and smart TVs.
Another example is when hackers exploited a vulnerability in an outdated version of Inbenta’s chatbot software used by Ticketmaster to automate customer service. This allowed them to access the payment page and steal sensitive information, including customer names, addresses, payment details, and login credentials. Ticketmaster removed the technology and advised affected customers to change their passwords and monitor their bank accounts for any suspicious activity.
As software supply chains have become increasingly complex, effective risk management solutions have become more critical. As a result, various potential solutions have emerged to address the security risks covered above. So let’s dive into some of these.
An SBOM offers transparency into the software supply chain and assists in identifying potential vulnerabilities and security risks. An SBOM is a comprehensive inventory of all software product components, including open-source libraries, third-party software, and proprietary code.
This is especially important considering the fragmented architectures of modern-day cloud applications where several services depend on each other. A security threat on a single service could result in other services being affected.
It also helps your teams track the usage of third-party components and keeps records of any known vulnerabilities in those components so your teams can make informed decisions about which components to use for which services depending on their usage and criticality. In this way, an SBOM reduces the possibility of using vulnerable libraries and other components.
Digitally signing an image file, such as a container image, lets you be certain of that image’s authenticity and integrity. This process helps mitigate software supply chain risks by providing a mechanism to verify that the image was not tampered with during transit or storage.
The same principle applies to signed software packages or patches, which guarantee that the software has not been modified since the signature was applied. By using signed packages and patches, the digital signature can be verified before adding or applying them to your system, providing a secure method for downloading and updating.
In addition, digital signing can help prevent malicious actors from injecting malware or other harmful components into software supply chains. This additionally reduces the risk of credential theft to some extent.
Vulnerability scanning assists teams in identifying and addressing potential security risks in the software supply chain before malicious actors exploit them by continuously scanning software components for known vulnerabilities.
This process involves scanning the code and components of an application and providing a list of security risks based on the results. Some tools also prioritize threats on the list. Your team can then replace the problematic components or build safeguard measures.
Overall, vulnerability scanning improves the security and reliability of software applications by providing visibility into potential risks. This, in turn, enables software developers to take a proactive approach to security and remediate vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.
The model of least privilege can also help address software supply chain threats by limiting access to only the resources required for a user to do their job. This reduces the likelihood of accidental or intentional security breaches, protecting you from credential theft.
This solution works by granting individual contributors in your team access to only those tools and components they need for their role. They cannot access any other component or perform any other action than what their tasks demand.
As a result, even if their credentials were acquired through credential theft, a malicious actor would be contained to the given part of the system to which the individual contributor had access.
While the software supply chain is a complex and necessary component of modern software development, it has security risks. Your dev and security teams can help to ensure the security and reliability of their software apps and services by understanding the potential security threats associated with them—and implementing appropriate risk management solutions.
To protect your data, systems, and customers, it’s important that you consider the security of your software supply chain and mitigate these risks by implementing best practices and security measures as well.
By combining these solutions, organizations can reduce the likelihood of security breaches, minimize the impact of any incidents, and ensure that their software applications are secure, reliable, and performant.
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