What’s The Difference Between Software Supply Chain Security vs SCA?

Software Supply Chain Security vs SCA

Protecting the software supply chain is now a major organizational priority. Two weapons in the arsenal to help protect against data breaches and digital attacks are software supply chain security and software composition analysis (SCA). Here’s a look at Software Supply Chain Security vs SCA.

The world today runs on software and ensuring it is reliable and secure can be a dicey proposition. Mistakes can be made, whether in purchased or proprietary software—and especially in open-source software.

The use of open source continues to grow, and even though it provides multiple benefits, including faster time to market, lower development costs, and more opportunities to innovate, if an organization lacks visibility into the open source components it uses, security teams cannot effectively mitigate and remediate those vulnerabilities. Let’s look at Software Supply Chain Security vs SCA and how these two tools can help.

The Nuts and Bolts of Software Supply Chain Security

Software supply chain security is an umbrella term that encompasses all the steps taken to ensure the security and integrity of the entire software development life cycle from start to finish.

As the term “chain” implies, there can be multiple people, processes, and technologies used to create, distribute, and maintain software. Beyond internal stakeholders, there are also external partners and suppliers involved in the supply chain who provide resources and services to complement the process of software development and distribution.

Third-party software components either come right from vendors or from centralized registries and repositories.

Attackers can compromise the security of the software supply chain by:

  • Exploiting bugs or vulnerabilities in third-party components
  • Compromising a third party’s development environment and injecting malware
  • Creating fake, malicious components

The goal of supply chain security is to detect and mitigate these and other threats stemming from the use of third-party components. Those other threats could also include targeting humans as a means of getting to the supply chain system. The SolarWinds supply chain attack was one of the most prominent social engineering attacks. So it’s incumbent upon cyber leaders to prepare for those as well.

SCA: Open Source’s Best Friend

By contrast, SCA is a technology whose purpose is to identify any compromised open source in a codebase so teams can manage their exposure to security and license compliance issues.

This is key because multiple organizations use open-source components, so if one flags a vulnerability, it could potentially impact the security of other organizations using the same component.

Then the SCA tool maps that inventory to a list of current known vulnerabilities. Some SCA systems provide continuous monitoring and alerts for vulnerabilities reported after an application deploys.

Other benefits of SCA are that it reliably detects and maps known open-source vulnerabilities that cannot be discovered by other methods; it provides a full accounting of all open-source components being used; and it monitors for new vulnerabilities that are discovered.

Using Software Supply Chain Security and SCA For Defense

To ensure the overall security and reliability of all software, organizations must implement robust security controls and practices to protect the software supply chain throughout the SDLC. SCA plays an important role in the process because it helps organizations understand the list of components used in an SBOM to develop their applications.

This will help increase user confidence in the security and reliability of the software.

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