Software supply chain risk management (SSCRM) refers to the process of identifying, assessing and mitigating risks associated with third-party software components and services that are integrated into software products. SSCRM involves understanding the potential vulnerabilities that may arise from these components and taking measures to reduce the risk of exploitation or compromise to the software system or end-users.
Why Software Supply Chain Attacks are Becoming More Common
Software supply chain attacks have become common due to several factors:
- Larger attack surface: The increased use of third-party software components and services in software development has expanded the attack surface for cybercriminals. This means that attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in these third-party components to gain access to the larger software system.
- Rise of open source: The proliferation of open source software has also contributed to the rise of supply chain attacks as attackers can inject malicious code into open source repositories, which can then be used by developers in their software products.
- Difficulty to detect: Detecting supply chain attacks can be challenging since attackers often use legitimate-looking code that may be difficult to distinguish from normal code. This can make it difficult for traditional security measures to detect the attack. Additionally, the attack may not manifest itself until much later, making it even harder to trace back to its source.
- Automation: Supply chain attacks are also becoming more sophisticated through the use of automation. Attackers can use automated tools to scan for vulnerabilities in third-party components and inject malicious code into them. This means that they can quickly and efficiently compromise a large number of software products.
- Evasion techniques: Attackers can evade traditional security measures through techniques such as code obfuscation and encryption. This makes it difficult for security measures to detect malicious code, which can easily slip through undetected.
- Sophistication: Supply chain attacks are becoming more challenging to combat due to the use of advanced malware techniques to change shape. Attackers can use polymorphic malware that can change its code and behavior to avoid detection. This means that even if the malware is detected, it can quickly change its form to evade detection in the future.
Supply Chain Security and DevSecOps
DevSecOps is an approach that integrates security into all stages of the software development process. Adopting DevSecOps practices can help businesses manage supply chain risks by building security into their software development and delivery pipelines.
Continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines are a key component of DevSecOps, as they allow developers to rapidly test and deploy code changes while ensuring that security and compliance requirements are met.
Here are some ways DevOps tools in the CI/CD pipeline can help manage supply chain risks:
- Automating security testing: DevSecOps enables businesses to automate security testing throughout the software development life cycle, including during the development, testing and deployment phases. This can help identify and mitigate security vulnerabilities early in the process, reducing the likelihood of supply chain risks.
- Continuous monitoring: DevSecOps enables continuous monitoring of software and infrastructure, providing real-time visibility into the security posture of the supply chain. This can help identify and respond to security threats quickly and effectively.
- Secure coding practices: DevSecOps encourages the use of secure coding practices, such as input validation, access control and error handling, reducing the likelihood of supply chain risks.
- Risk management: DevSecOps incorporates risk management into the software development process, ensuring that supply chain risks are identified, assessed and managed effectively.
Tools and Solutions to Help Manage Supply Chain Risks
Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM)
SCRM solutions are software tools and services that help organizations manage and mitigate supply chain risks. These solutions provide visibility into the supply chain operations, identify potential risks and enable organizations to take proactive measures to mitigate these risks.
They may include features such as supplier risk assessments, real-time monitoring of supply chain operations, analytics and reporting and incident response planning. SCRM solutions are often available as a service (SaaS) and can help organizations to enhance supply chain resilience, reduce disruption and ensure business continuity.
Software Composition Analysis (SCA)
Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is a software security practice that involves identifying and managing open source and third-party components used in the development of software applications. SCA tools scan the software codebase, detect and report the presence of third-party and open-source components and identify known vulnerabilities in these components.
SCA helps organizations to identify and manage risks associated with third-party components, including license compliance, intellectual property infringement and security vulnerabilities. SCA is an essential component of SSCRM and can help organizations to ensure the security and integrity of the software products they develop and distribute.
Third-Party and Supplier Risk Management
Third-party and supplier risk management software is designed to help businesses manage the risks associated with their third-party vendors and suppliers. This software provides tools and resources to identify, assess and manage the risks associated with third-party relationships.
Here are some features of third-party and supplier risk management software:
- Supplier management: The software provides tools to manage supplier relationships, including supplier performance monitoring, supplier compliance and supplier risk assessment.
- Risk assessment: The software enables businesses to assess the risks associated with their third-party relationships, including financial risks, operational risks and reputational risks.
- Compliance management: The software helps businesses comply with regulations and standards, such as GDPR, HIPAA and ISO 9001.
- Data analytics: The software uses data analytics tools to help businesses identify trends and patterns in third-party data, enabling them to anticipate and mitigate risks.
- Incident management: The software provides tools to help businesses respond to and manage incidents related to third-party relationships, such as data breaches or compliance violations.
Best Practices for Software Supply Chain Risk Management
The following are some best practices for managing supply chain risks.
Identifying Supply Chain Threats and Potential Weaknesses
The first step in managing supply chain risks is to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities in the supply chain. This involves conducting a comprehensive risk assessment that considers all potential sources of risk, including geopolitical factors, natural disasters, cyber threats and other disruptions. The risk assessment should consider the entire supply chain, including all vendors, suppliers and partners.
During the risk assessment, organizations should identify the critical components and services that are essential to their operations. They should also evaluate the potential impact of a disruption to these critical components and services, including the financial, reputational and operational impact.
Establishing a Supply Chain Risk Management Framework
After identifying potential threats and vulnerabilities, organizations should establish a supply chain risk management framework that outlines the policies, procedures and controls required to mitigate these risks. The risk management framework should be aligned with the organization’s overall risk management strategy and should include the following components:
- Risk management policy: This policy should outline the organization’s approach to supply chain risk management and define the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders.
- Risk assessment procedures: These procedures should describe how the organization conducts risk assessments, including the criteria used to evaluate risks and the frequency of assessments.
- Risk mitigation controls: These controls should outline the specific measures the organization will take to mitigate identified risks.
- Incident response plan: This plan should describe the steps the organization will take in the event of a supply chain disruption.
Continuously Monitoring Risks
Once the supply chain risk management framework is in place, organizations should continuously monitor supply chain and third-party risks and take proactive measures to mitigate them. This includes establishing a patching cadence to ensure that all software components are up to date and protected against known vulnerabilities.
Organizations should also implement endpoint security controls, such as antivirus software and intrusion detection systems, to protect against malware and other cyber threats. Network security controls, such as firewalls and access controls, should be implemented to protect against unauthorized access to systems and data.
Web application security controls should also be implemented to protect against web-based attacks, such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting. This includes conducting regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing of web applications.
Promoting a Culture of Awareness
Finally, organizations should promote a culture of awareness among all stakeholders, including employees, vendors, and suppliers. This includes providing risk awareness training to employees, so they understand the risks associated with the supply chain and the steps they can take to mitigate these risks.
Organizations should also communicate their supply chain risk management policies clearly to vendors and suppliers so they understand their obligations and responsibilities in managing supply chain risks. This includes conducting due diligence on vendors and suppliers to ensure they meet security standards and policies.
Managing supply chain risks is a critical task for organizations that rely on third-party vendors and suppliers to deliver goods and services. These risks can arise from a range of sources, including geopolitical factors, natural disasters, cyber threats and other disruptions.
To effectively manage these risks, organizations need to adopt best practices such as identifying threats and potential weaknesses, establishing a supply chain risk management framework, continuously monitoring risks and promoting a culture of awareness.
As we look ahead to 2023, it is clear that software supply chain management will continue to be a priority for organizations across industries. With the increasing complexity of software supply chains and the evolving threat landscape, organizations must remain vigilant in their efforts to identify and mitigate potential risks.