Software Supply Chain Security Deconstructed

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Julie Peterson
Sr. Product Marketing Manager

What Is a Software Supply Chain?

A software supply chain is all the code, components, libraries, dependencies, tools, processes, and people involved in developing, building, and publishing a software artifact.

Software is no longer based on code written entirely in house. It consists of an intricate network of people, components, and tools. This includes developers and DevOps; third-party vendors, components, and tools; open source projects; and third-party service providers.

Any compromise or vulnerability in one part of the software supply chain could result in a breach. This, in turn, could lead to the distribution of compromised software to downstream customers, resulting in further security incidents, data loss, and other serious consequences for both end-users and organizations.

What Attack Vectors Exist Within the Software Supply Chain?

The software supply chain includes many diverse attack vectors, including the following:

  • Insecure proprietary code
  • Compromised source control systems
  • Code tampering, including the insertion of malicious code
  • Compromised build systems
  • Commercial third-party software or open source software vulnerabilities
  • Undermined code signing
  • IaC misconfigurations
  • Vulnerabilities or misconfigurations in running software

Because of these threats and more, software supply chain security has become mission critical.

What Is Software Supply Chain Security?

Software supply chain security involves safeguarding the entire software development and deployment process against potential threats and vulnerabilities. 

To secure their organization’s software supply chain, security teams must implement a multi-faceted approach that mitigates risks throughout the entire software development lifecycle.

What Are the Key Components of Robust Software Supply Chain Security?

Secure Coding and Review Practices: Enforcing secure coding standards and conducting thorough code reviews during the development phase minimizes vulnerabilities and reduces the risk of introducing exploitable weaknesses.

CI/CD Security: Implementing secure CI/CD practices to automate code integration, testing, and deployment. This includes using secure CI/CD tools, validating code changes, and ensuring that only verified and secure code is deployed.

Dependency Management: Assessing and managing third-party dependencies mitigates the risk of using vulnerable or compromised libraries. Likewise, regularly updating dependencies and monitoring for security advisories are crucial.

Container Security: Securing containerization processes and implementing best practices for creating, deploying, and maintaining containers securely. This involves regular security scans and addressing vulnerabilities in containerized environments.

Monitoring and Logging: Implementing comprehensive monitoring and logging practices to detect and respond to security incidents promptly. This includes monitoring for unusual activities, analyzing logs, and setting up alerts for potential security threats.

Identity and Access Management: Implementing strong identity and access management controls to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to critical systems and code repositories. This includes using multi-factor authentication and least privilege principles.

Why Is Software Supply Chain Security Important?

The repercussions of a software supply chain breach are far reaching. Exploiting just one weakness opens the door for threat actors to steal sensitive data, disrupt businesses, and take control of systems. In addition, software supply chain attacks allow threat actors to further perpetuate attacks to many more downstreams customers.

When software supply chain attacks compromise downstream customers, the consequences can be significant. In the SolarWinds attack, threat actors compromised the software build process, leading to the distribution of a malicious update. This gave attackers access to sensitive data of numerous organizations, including US government agencies and large enterprise corporations. SolarWinds faced significant fines and loss of brand reputation as a result of this attack. Litigation against SolarWinds for this breach is still ongoing.

Given the seriousness of the consequences, security professionals are investing more resources than ever to protect their software supply chains. 

Unfortunately, agile development practices and the demand for rapid deployment can sometimes be at odds with releasing secure code. So how can organizations maintain agility while improving the security of their software supply chains?

How Can Organizations Secure Their Software Supply Chains?

Organizations can assess and enhance the security posture of their software supply chain in several ways. They can shift security left, foster a security-aware culture, and embrace cutting-edge tools.

Controlled Shift Left

Shift left refers to the practice of addressing security vulnerabilities earlier in the SDLC when they are easier and less costly to fix. The goal is to address issues sooner, before they become deeply embedded in the codebase. 

The problem with shift left is that many developers feel that vulnerabilities have been simply thrown over the fence. They are not given the correct context or data to successfully remediate issues. This unfairly places the burden of security onto developers without giving them the tools to succeed.

That’s where the concept of controlled shift left comes in.

Controlled shift left fosters collaboration between security and developer teams. While security teams remain laser focused on reducing the impact of vulnerabilities, they’re acutely aware of the impact that fixing defects has on developers. 

Under this model, security and development work together to find, rollout, and maintain solutions that provide actionable context so that developers can easily fix issues. Organizations benefit from a more resilient software supply chain without slowing developer velocity. 

Build a Strong Security Culture

Security is a team sport, and that’s not just a rally cry. Security teams can’t do it alone. Developers are key to creating and deploying secure code. Unfortunately, 76% of security professionals find implementing a culture of collaboration between security and developer teams challenging.

So how do you build a strong culture of security? Commitment must start at the top. Leadership must make security a priority. Leadership is then responsible for rolling out clear policies and guidelines, offering consistent and engaging training on secure coding best practices, and encouraging ownership and accountability. 

Adopt the Right Tools

To ensure software supply chain security, the right tool is essential. Too many organizations rely on a hodge-podge of tooling that don’t even begin to cover a fraction of software supply chain attack vectors. Not only do these tools leave gaps, but the noise generated by alerts creates a new problem for security and developers: understanding what is really important in terms of risk.

Fortunately, there’s a solution. Application Security Posture Management (ASPM). ASPM is purpose-built platform for developer security that can integrate with your existing tools or replace them altogether. 

An ASPM platform provides visibility, prioritization and remediation of vulnerabilities across the entire SDLC. With ASPM, security and development teams gain the visibility, prioritization, and remediation required to reduce the risk of a software supply chain attack.

By consolidating all your AppSec tools on to one platform, you can lower costs both in the form of licensing fees and in the personnel required for day-to-day management. It’s no wonder that 92% of security leaders have plans to consolidate their security stack to one platform over the next 12 months.

How Can Cycode Help?

Cycode is an ASPM that offers complete visibility, security, and coverage across the software supply chain. Get a clear view of your risk posture and consolidate your stack using Cycode’s native security scanners, or plug into third-party security tools via our click-and-connect platform.

Created by developers to ensure controlled shift left, Cycode’s security-first, developer-friendly platform eliminates alert fatigue and simplifies prioritization and remediation for security, engineering, and DevOps teams throughout the software development lifecycle.

Want to secure your software supply chain? Book a demo to learn more now.