Tuesday, July 16, 2024

How Visibility on Software Supply Chain Can Reduce Cyberattacks

With cyberattacks cropping up in several tech sectors today, there is rightly more focus on monitoring software supply chains in the SDLC than ever before.

When SolarWinds was hacked in 2020, the event sent shockwaves across the software industry.

Although cybersecurity had always been important up until that point, such a high-profile security breach was bound to make people sit up and take notice.

One of the things that made the attack so notable was how long it took to be detected. The dwell time lasted over a year- more than enough time for suspected Russian hackers to steal valuable information from client organizations, including government departments like homeland security, Treasury, Commerce, and State. Private organizations like Deloitte, Microsoft, and Intel were also affected, among many other top names in the tech industry.

Risk management with SBOMs is a highly recommended DevOps practice aimed at mitigating the risks of software supply chain attacks. In this article, we’ll highlight this practice  and examine how visibility for each constituent unit of the software supply chain can reduce the risk of cyberattack.

What is the software supply chain?

Several software development organizations rely on several components for their operations’ efficient, day-to-day running. More often than not, the software is integrated with third-party components and dependencies. Hence, the software product inherently contains the software supply chain of each constituent part.

This network of dependencies allows developers to scale their projects rapidly. However, it puts their software at risk of inherited vulnerabilities from other source codes and processes beyond their direct control.

The software supply chain is a network of plugins, container dependencies, libraries, plugins, binaries, and code. Additionally, the newton includes tools like repositories, code analyzers, logging ops tools, and building orchestrators.

Additionally, the software supply chain includes the human personnel involved in the creation process.

As a result of the scale of operations, it becomes necessary to find ways to identify components of the supply chain- to know where which unit came from, to help isolate potential threats long before they manifest..

To this effect, the Biden Administration has ordered that software organizations and vendors with the federal government as their clients should provide a software bill of materials (SBOM).

Here are the typical components of an SBPM:

●       Open source components

●       Open source licenses

●       Open source versions

●       Open source vulnerabilities

With the present risk and threat of cyberattack, it’s essential to take the right steps to monitor the supply chain and reduce cybersecurity risk.

Here’s how it works:

Scanning dependencies

Open-source dependencies must be scanned and assessed for risk at each stage of the SDLC.

Developers can learn about possible vectors in the supply chain via SCA (software composition analysis to mitigate risks before they move further down the pipeline.

Scan GitHub repositories

GitHub repositories host some of the large code libraries around. As such, monitoring the platform via regular scanning of its repositories is essential.

Users can get real-time notifications that prevent the divulging of certain information. This way, it becomes easy for developers to analyze the source code’s validity.

Use hyperledgers.

To validate your supply chain, it’s essential to asses hyperledger technologies and the place of blockchain technology.

Blockchain technology is a decentralized mechanism. When incorporated into software supply chain analysis, provide a great deal of transparency and helps identify weaknesses in covert attacks.

Use honeytokens

Honeytokens can play the role of data decoys to alert organizations to active hacker threats and vulnerabilities to be assessed and dealt with in real-time.

Honeytokens are excellent as they help you to avoid substantial security risks.

Conduct risk assessment

Timely risk assessments are also a great way to monitor your supply chain and reduce the risk of malicious incursion.

This helps proactively and serves as a means to educate your team and have everyone understand the best supply chain practices. 

Sort out potential fourth-party issues

Supply chain problems do not always have to do with third-party dependencies. Your vendor likely use sub-vendors and subcontractors of their own.

Mitigating this type of risk is tricky. However, certain cybersecurity tools make it possible to scan that pipeline for potential vulnerabilities.

Monitor third-party vendors

Developers should pay more attention to their software suppliers, especially those with special access to the organization’s software assets.

These suppliers should undergo a thorough assessment to ascertain the product’s SDLC has as much integrity as possible.

Monitor developer endpoints

Developer endpoints also require monitoring. Tools like virtual machines, servers, and workstations must be constantly assessed for weaknesses.

You can then set up endpoint protection mechanisms, response technology, and endpoint detection for efficient reporting.

The importance of supply chain visibility

Hackers are beginning to adapt their attack patterns to software. More often than not, the attacks are direct. Enough prodding and probing reveal inherent system vulnerabilities software deployed. Afterward, malware is introduced to exploit the breach.

In time, the malware spreads and extends to component and client software.

In such an instance, there are two methods to counter an attack.

First, enterprises can block known exploits and reduce dwell time for potential hackers.

As such, it’s essential for software developers to integrate SCA and vulnerability testing as early in the SDLC as possible to flag new breaches. The vulnerability scanners search for poorly written code patterns and flag them for your attention.


Before understanding the cybersecurity approach to take, it’s essential to understand the difference between locating software tampering and vulnerability detection.

In the case of the former, the damage is already ongoing, and the software has been significantly altered. On the other hand, vulnerability detection involves locating and isolating breaches before they can become malicious points of entry.

Both approaches are necessary in various instances.

However, it’s essential to protect your pipeline at every stage of the SDLC. More often than not, vulnerabilities are introduced at the early stage, making their way further down the pipeline until the project is deployed. At this point, it’s usually too late to make fixes.

Although hackers continue to be ingenious in their efforts, there are still ways to hinder their activities and keep your software project secure.


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