As the first segment of the series, this blog shares a primer on what software supply chains are, why they can lead to security breaches, and how to safeguard them.
The software supply chains integrate organizations, individuals, and systems that develop, produce, and distribute software. Their complexity and moving parts make them vulnerable to security attacks since attackers can exploit weak chain links to access sensitive data or inject malware. Moreover, modern cloud-native applications involve dynamic supply chains with many distributed components, which makes securing software supply chains even more complex.
In a typical software supply chain, there are the following components:
Software supply chain links together and builds upon components at every stage, starting from creation, deployment, management, monitoring, and compliance of software, hence the name Software Supply Chain. Therefore, software supply chains have several functional stages, as shown in Figure-1 below, and each step has the potential for an exploit.
Software supply chain threats include, but are not limited to:
Preventing supply chain security attacks involves implementing various security measures throughout the software development lifecycle, from design to deployment and upgrades. Here are some steps you can take to prevent attacks on your software supply chain:
We should also remember that supply-chain attacks also target service providers. Today, businesses must work with suppliers; however, an attack on a supplier means an attack on the entire industry. As a result, Software Supply Chain Security plays a vital role in the health and operation of an organization.
SBOM (Software Bill of Materials) generators and vulnerability scanners are critical supply chain security tools. Leveraging and integrating these tools with your CI/CD pipelines is crucial for cloud-native containerized environments.
SBOM generators and vulnerability scanners can help organizations better understand the security risks in their software supply chain and take proactive steps to address them. By combining these tools with other security measures, such as access controls, containerization, and secure coding practices, organizations can improve the overall security of their dynamic supply chains and reduce the risk of a security breach or supply chain attack.
There are a bunch of commercial offerings, large enterprises, unicorns, and even some excellent open-source options and open standards available to help you carefully craft your software supply chain security. Here are a few options to consider:
KubeClarity is an open-source project started by Cisco. Panoptica, a commercial SaaS offering from Cisco, also powers KubeClarity. KubeClarity integrates with and features a superset of the functionality offered by other open-source solutions like Trivy, Syft, and Grype. KubeClarity can therefore be an effective tool in your supply chain defense arsenal. We will learn more about it in subsequent blogs.
Putting it all together, a mindmap of the software supply chain summarizes what it is, what it is not, and where it is valuable.
Continuing our series, let’s examine a few case studies of real-world supply chain attacks demonstrating the importance of securing supply chains and the know-how of the right defense strategies and tools.
Pallavi Kalapatapu is a Principal Engineer and open-source advocate in organization.