Want a True Assessment Of Your Software Risk? Start With Our Guide

Read our guide to software risk assessment

As valuable as software is for business, it’s also a source of continuous risk for organizations. A software risk assessment is essential to address these issues, which can leave an organization vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks, license compliance issues and other problems.

There are four main categories of software risk:

  • vulnerabilities introduced in the software development process,
  • vulnerabilities in open source software,
  • software supply chain security weaknesses,
  • and licensing and other types of non-vulnerability risk.

What Elements Are Included in Software Risk Assessment?

Vulnerabilities can be introduced in the development process for a number of reasons, including that software development teams are focused on completing projects and products into production quickly. Developers don’t deliberately write flawed code, but security can sometimes be an afterthought or not thought about at all.

As long as there’s an emphasis on moving projects along at a fast pace, software flaws can be introduced during the development process. One effective solution to address this to adopt automated DevSecOps as a way to manage vulnerabilities.

DevSecOps introduces cybersecurity controls as early as possible in the software development lifecycle (SDLC), then continues to add controls as needed throughout the process. Cybersecurity becomes a vital part of software development rather than being downplayed.

DevSecOps can lead to more collaboration between the security and development teams, and supports four key components of vulnerability management: discovery, validation, prioritization and remediation. Each of these plays a key role in addressing software flaws that can lead to security incidents.

The next category of risk, vulnerabilities in open source software, is a significant issue for security teams because open source code has become such a big part of the software ecosystem. For organizations to be able to securely use open source software extensively, they need a way to effectively find, prioritize and remediate vulnerabilities automatically.

One solution is to deploy software bill of materials (SBOM), formal, machine-readable records that consist of the details and supply chain relationships and licenses of various components used to create software. SBOMs provide detailed lists of software components, providing a document detailing the history of a piece of software, including sources of the components, the dependencies among the components and other information.

SBOMs are most effective when they’re dynamic, because software and components are not static. By using dynamic SBOMs, teams can be assured that the open source software they’re relying on is secure.

The third category of risk is weaknesses in the software supply chain, a complex environment that provides plenty of opportunities for bad actors to exploit bugs to launch attacks. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) says software supply chain attacks can affect all users of compromised software and have broad consequences for organizations.

As with open source risk, SBOMs are a good solution for mitigating software supply chain risks. Research firm Gartner says SBOMs improve the visibility, transparency, security and integrity of source code in software supply chains.

Another good tool to use is software composition analysis (SCA), which identifies the open source software in a code base and automates the tracking and analyzing of open source software components and their dependencies. Factors to consider when looking at SCA tools include whether they can scan code in the languages used by the development team, identify open source components and licenses and keep up with the latest security vulnerabilities.

Finally, there are non-vulnerability risks such as failure to comply with software licenses. Organizations need to ensure they are in compliance with the licensing agreements they have in place. Compliance means only using those software products and components that are under license, and it requires tracking of software, keeping comprehensive records and knowing the terms of the software licenses in place.

Once again, SBOMs and SCA provide ideal solutions for mitigating risk. By deploying these tools, organizations can help ensure license compliance.

For more details and practical guidance, read our report How to Assess and Address Your Organization’s Software Risk.


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