Why Does a Secure Software Supply Chain Matter?

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The production or manufacturing process of a product includes inputs from many teams and companies. It goes through a supply chain which means that the production is not dependent on a single component, but multiple parties are involved. Software, similarly, has a supply chain that involves contributions from third parties. The security of the software supply chain is an essential issue, and hence SCA tools are often applied to counter this problem. Read on to learn more about a software supply chain and why its security matters. 

What is a Software Supply Chain?

A supply chain generally refers to everything that goes into delivering a product. Software development has become a very integral part of today’s fast-growing technological world. Softwares require multiple tools in order to reach its completion. These tools may include libraries, code, other components, and contributions from various teams and organizations. It can be anything involved, from the initial stages of development to the final distribution of the software. The supply chain encompasses the code and packages included at the time of the build and also the environment or infrastructure used for its final execution. 

Why Should a Software Supply Chain Be Secure?

A software supply chain has a third-party involvement, which means there can be security risks associated with it. There are multiple dependencies in all stages of software’s supply chain, which means there are security concerns involved, be it the initial piece of code or the final product that is to be distributed. 

The software depends on several open-source codes. Hackers mostly target the open-source components so they can intrude into the supply chain. The use of open-source dependencies also implies that the functionalities can be from different sources, and it is quite possible that there can be vulnerabilities in the code that a software developer may not have written himself. The involvement of a number of open-source developers also means that several developers access the code, so there is an increased chance of attacks. Your software may depend indirectly on a code that is prone to attack; hence it is possible that the security risk is not exploitable at one point in time, but it may likely harm your software in the future. 

Furthermore, an attack on the software does not only affect the developer but the entire supply chain is affected. The consequences can sometimes be unsolvable or very complex. Attackers can take control of the entire system and execute instructions on the customer’s devices remotely. This does not only harm a few customers, but all related organizations that may be using the software can be greatly affected. 

Supply chain security is also of significance because attackers use various ways and methods to harm the software. Examples of a few known attacks include SolarWinds, CodeCov, XCodeGhost, etc. Attacks can be targeted at any component of the chain. Security risks in the software supply chain can also mean that the attackers can access the private information of the software users.

A secure supply chain matters as hackers have now started making attacks on components that are a part of the initial stages of the chain. This largely influences the workflow and impacts the supply chain elements downstream. This way, software end-users are more open to cyber-attacks, and their information becomes more vulnerable.  

Moreover, malicious software can be incorporated into the software at any stage. This gives attackers a direct gateway into the software. This way, they can also exploit the trust that companies share amongst themselves. For example, a new software update can have malware injected into it. If users from another company begin using the updated version, they can unknowingly utilize the malware, giving backdoor access to cyber attackers into the customer’s account. 

How to Solve Security Issues in the Software Supply Chain? 

It is critical to understand why security is relevant to the supply chain. Therefore, there have been attempts to resolve these security issues. Software Composition Analysis tools are employed to counter this problem. The software is analyzed to determine what components are involved. The decision to distribute software is consequently made depending upon the analyses and the observation of related data. 

Users can utilize software composition analysis (SCA) tools to assess and manage open-source components in their applications. In addition, companies and developers use SCA tools to verify licenses and identify vulnerabilities in open-source components of their applications.

Ending Note 

Developers and individuals involved in the software supply chain must strictly monitor the chain and manage the dependencies. It is necessary to understand the risks involved and the vulnerabilities that the software may be subject to and then work accordingly by obtaining security patches.