The Biggest Risks to the Software Supply Chain

An image of a circle with a lock in the middle. Read about software supply chain risks

Software supply chain risks is an increasingly hot topic because attention to the supply chain has grown in recent years.  Its importance has naturally attracted the attention of hackers, so protecting the software supply chain is paramount. A 2023 software supply study found that organizations recognize, and have been impacted by, software supply chain security threats.

The survey also found that nearly 90% of technology professionals detected significant risks in their software supply chain in the last year. Some 88% of survey respondents recognized that software supply chain security is an enterprise-wide risk, but only six out of 10 felt their software supply chain defenses were up to the task.

Unfortunately, there are several cyberattack risks such as those inherent in working with unverified source code, importing third-party dependencies/open source software from public repositories, CI/CD pipelines and other build processes, and public-facing distribution systems.

In short, developing software on systems connected to the internet is a risky proposition. Software vendors such as SolarWinds, Codecov, and Kaseya have all been targets of supply chain attacks, underscoring the need for better software supply chain security.

The Software Supply Chain Risks to Know About Now

 As these and other high-profile attacks demonstrated, some of the biggest risks to the software supply chain include:

  1. Known vulnerabilities in third-party software such as open source and commercial software that offer hackers an exploitable point of attack. Many of these are known and publicly tracked in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposure(CVE) list.

A Software Component Analysis (SCA) solution can be used that identifies the SBOM of a given code or artifact and associates it with known CVEs, mostly by cross-referencing the metadata of the identified software to public CVE databases. This requires sufficient information and a robust database to be able to make and automate risk-based decisions. Automated SCA scanning in all repositories and components ensures that your entire software supply chain is protected against known vulnerabilities and operational risks.

  1. Unknown or zero-day vulnerabilities caused by errors, poor encryption, and potential memory corruptions. Continuous SCA scanning can help flag any new CVEs that affect production software. A dynamic SBOM will also quickly alert development teams to a vulnerability’s significance so it can be mitigated or remediated.
  2. Misconfigurations or operating system issues can broaden the attack surface. Often, these are the result of human error rather than malicious intent.
  3. Malicious code, trojans, spyware, viruses, backdoors, and malware. Intentional threats can be a challenge to find since they are often masked to appear as a component that has already been validated.
  4. Third-party suppliers, partners, and service providers are all part of the modern software ecosystem. They also present a risk to the software supply chain because they provide services and applications used in the development process. These dependencies subject your code to possible sources of risk. To help mitigate this, vulnerabilities should be disclosed in contractual agreements.

A comprehensive security posture requires complete vigilance, from the developer’s IDE all the way to production, as well as enforcing consistent risk assessment and mitigation processes throughout the SDLC.

There’s no denying the many benefits that software supply chain risk management software can bring–among them enhanced visibility, increased efficiency, reduced costs, increased compliance, and the ability to leverage real-time data. But the security solutions you use to protect the software supply chain must be comprehensive and enable development teams to take action on a large scale. They must also operate as a single source of truth consistently across your organization and be fully integrated with your DevOps tools.

Learn how Rezilion can help your organization more effectively management software supply chain risks by booking a demo of the platform today.

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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