SCA and SBOM: What’s the Difference?
What’s the difference between an SBOM and SCA tools? Allow us to explain.
Software bill of materials (SBOMs) have been garnering a lot of attention as of late, especially since the 2021 Biden Administration executive order mandating that organizations doing business with the government provide a detailed inventory of all components that make up an application to improve cybersecurity.
Even though SBOMs have existed for a long time, there has not been widespread usage in the software industry, and it is a process whose time is long overdue to help mitigate third-party risks in the software development lifecycle.
SBOM & SCA: Partners in Crime
Also entering the mainstream is software composition analysis (SCA), an automated toolset that identifies, analyzes and manages open source software. SCA tools can generate an SBOM and automate parts of the risk evaluation process.
Think of an SBOM as generating a broad swath of information about every library, module and component in the application process—both open source and proprietary. In addition to security benefits, SBOMs are useful for tracking open source licenses on various software components. They become even more useful when they are dynamic and update the list every time a change is made during the SDLC.
SCA automates the discovery of open source vulnerabilities, licenses and potential risks. It is often used within DevSecOps pipelines and takes tracking to the next level. SCA does this by providing visibility into components and generating a more granular list of everything that is actually used by scanning your code directories for packages. Those packages are then compared against online databases to match them with known libraries.
When SCA is used early in the software development process, developers are better equipped to choose more secure components at the outset. This helps speed the development process by minimizing the need to do ongoing security assessments.
Why Organizations Adopt SCA
Although needs will differ by organization, security experts say there are three main features to look for in an SCA offering:
- A tool that won’t deliver too many false positives and integrates well with the developer ecosystem. Developers want to spend as little time as possible triaging or fixing licensing and security issues.
- A tool that integrates into the existing CI/CD pipeline and does not require developers to leave systems they are familiar with.
- A tool that offers policy engines so developers can do things like filter, approve/deny and identify specific vulnerabilities.
Organizations are now recognizing the value of using SCA tools to take advantage of SBOMs “to provide digestible reports of components for security use cases,” according to KPMG. Then those reports can be shared around the wider organization through a centralized versioning repository.
The benefit is that a variety of teams can now utilize the content within the SBOM in their workflows in areas including app security, threat intelligence, the security operations Center (SOC), supplier security, developers and internal audit teams, the firm notes.
Use an SCA tool to generate an SBOM and start gradually – deploy the SBOM among development teams first for security purposes to make sure the knowledge base is being used effectively, and ask for stakeholder feedback, KPMG advises. Then make any necessary refinements before making the SBOM available to the rest of the organization.
While separate and distinct, aligning SCA with SBOM helps teams mitigate the risk of vulnerabilities in the software supply chain.
Learn About Rezilion’s “More than SCA” Difference
Whether you’re new to SCA or considering a change to what you’re currently using, the differences between Rezilion’s SCA and its competitors are clear. No other solution offers full visibility into the third-party software in your dev environment, an 85% reduction in patching work, automated remediation and 5x the savings on costs.