What Is an SBOM and Why Is It Important?

Why is an SBOM Important?

The way companies build software solutions has dramatically changed in the past few years. Now more companies use microservices architecture, as it provides more efficiency, resiliency, and agility, to develop and release apps quickly and more frequently.

This approach has enabled developers to utilize more third-party containers and resources to develop efficiently working applications. It also means that less code of a software tool is managed and owned by an organization directly.

Therefore, getting full transparency into different parts of an application has become difficult, which introduces cybersecurity risk. That’s where an SBOM (Software Bill of Materials) comes into place.

What Does SBOM Mean?

According to the United States Department of Commerce, SBOM should offer a machine-readable, formally structured, and complete list of all the components, including modules and libraries, used/required to build a software solution.

In addition, SBOM should also explain the supply chain relationship between different components, along with their known vulnerabilities. So, in simple words, a software bill of materials offers an insight into the makeup of an application developed using third-party commercial tools and open-source software.

Why is an SBOM Important?

Several high-profile security breaches took place in 2021, including Apache Log4j, Kaseya, and Codecov. These high-level cyber attacks on the supply chain prompted the US government to issue a cybersecurity EO (Executive Order).

This executive order outlines all the guidelines that federal contractors, agencies, and departments, doing business with the US government, need to use in order to secure their software solutions.

The SBOM requirement is also mentioned in these guidelines to ensure the integrity and safety of software tools that the federal government uses. Keep in mind that following SBOM and other EO guidelines is only necessary for organizations linked to the government. 

But according to recent stats, 49% of organizations believe that the software bill of materials makes it easy to monitor different software components for vulnerabilities. 

Therefore, experts suggest that it’s likely to become a de facto baseline. It means, it’ll become the way organizations develop, secure, test, and run their software solutions.

Here’s a list of all the factors that explain the importance of the software bill of materials.

Deeper Transparency

The software bill of materials offers deeper transparency into an application. It allows the business executives to identify and outline all the components used in a system, which helps them ensure that only authorized parts are used, to protect the supply chain.

Improved Security

While organizations use different tools and systems, such as firewalls, encryption tools, and consumer-grade VPN services, to ensure protection, they can come up short when there are unknown vulnerabilities in the system.

SBOM allows developers to determine which parts or components of the system need to be patched, updated, or replaced to mitigate/eliminate security vulnerabilities.

Better Supply Chain Resilience

SBOM can improve the resilience and security of the software supply chain. It allows developers to discover issues earlier in the development process so that they can solve them before they cause any damage.

It increases trust in the software system and minimizes the risk of vulnerabilities being discovered after the system has been deployed.

Less Code Bloat

The software bill of materials can reduce code bloat. It allows developers to have a list of a large number of components or libraries to choose from so that they can select the right component for the right task.

It also helps developers to choose components they are familiar with, which results in less duplication of effort and a more efficient and streamlined codebase. Additionally, it can also lead to faster development times.

Lower Cost

As mentioned above, SBOM can help developers spend less time developing an application. It can reduce the working hours that an organization needs to complete a certain project, which saves time and money.

Final Words on SBOMs

Utilizing the power of SBOM is an excellent way to make sure that each component of your software system is running as intended. It allows you to keep track of the security vulnerabilities of each component of the application to make sure everything is up-to-date and secure.

Software bill of materials also comes in handy when you need to investigate incidents because it outlines all the potential attack vectors. 

While it’s not necessary for an organization that is not currently engaged in business with the government to use SBOM, it can take your organization’s security posture to the next level.


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