AppSec and Software Supply Chain Security: How Do They Go Together?

AppSec and Software Supply Chain security work together

AppSec and Software Supply Chain Security are two terms more frequently used as part of DevOps, as well as when considering how to develop a security strategy. Software supply chain attacks are on the rise and organizations must brace for the strong possibility that their software supply chain will be a target–so much so that Gartner has projected that by 2025, supply chain risk management will be a key success driver for more than 50% of organizations.

But it is not enough to just secure your applications—developers and their organizations must ensure the integrity of the software supply chain as well. Allow us to explain the distinction between the two.

Application security, or AppSec, is the practice of using security software, hardware, procedures and best practices (such as regular testing) to ensure that code is protected from attacks and external vulnerabilities. AppSec is a series of tasks that help create secure software development throughout the entire SDLC.

Typically, a security vulnerability will be introduced into an application during the coding or planning phase. This can obviously be damaging, because unless there is high-level visibility into vulnerabilities and risk, organizations cannot make informed business or operational decisions about an application, such as delivery timeframes and revenue projections.

This makes it nearly impossible to assess the overall security posture of the application portfolio. But as significant as this is, AppSec is just a subset of software supply chain security, which is far more widespread and includes all the components, libraries, tools, and processes used to develop, build, and publish a piece of software.

How AppSec Addresses New Threats to the Software Supply Chain

There are several reasons why supply chain attacks are growing more common, including a broader attack surface due to the increased use of third-party software components and services, a rise in the use of open source, automation, difficulty detecting attacks, and greater sophistication in the types of techniques used.

Thus, you should not underestimate the impact of failing to secure the software supply chain, which historically, was mainly compromised by commonly known vulnerabilities organizations left unpatched. While this tactic is still used by threat actors, “a new, less conspicuous method of compromise also threatens software supply chains and undermines trust in the patching systems themselves.”

Now, CISA notes, threat actors “proactively inject malicious code into products that are then legitimately distributed downstream through the global supply chain. Over the last few years, these next-generation software supply chain compromises have significantly increased for both open source and commercial software products.”

With more organizations relying upon third-party SaaS and IaaS providers, cyberattacks on cloud services will continue to wreak havoc. Cybercriminals will take advantage of misconfigured SaaS APIs to gain access to sensitive data.

This will lead to a domino effect with software code being compromised and impacting countless organizations around the world.

How to Use AppSec to Fight Back Against Software Supply Chain Attacks

To address the challenges of AppSec and the software supply chain, developers must implement a strategy that includes several steps:

  • implementing guidelines for secure coding
  • validating third-party components
  • patching and updating software
  • monitoring programs to enforce software policies
  • automating and orchestrating tools that work in tandem with DevOps pipelines. These include supply chain risk management tools, SAST, and SCA, which scan the software codebase, flag and report the presence of third-party and open-source components and identify known vulnerabilities in these components.
  • Create an SBOM.

Strengthening the integrity of the software supply chain can enhance the security of your applications. It is incumbent upon organizations to establish a supply chain risk management framework, continuously monitor risks, implement least privilege access, and promote a culture of awareness.

About the author: Esther Shein is a longtime freelance tech and business writer and editor whose work has appeared in several publications, including, TechRepublic, VentureBeat, ZDNet, TechTarget, The Boston Globe and Inc. She has also written thought leadership whitepapers, ebooks, case studies and marketing materials.



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