Best practices to secure your software supply chain
Software supply chain security has recently garnered major attention across the world, owing to the rise in threat cases within the supply chains of organizations. But what really is this software supply chain security?
First and foremost, what is a software supply chain? A software supply chain includes any vendor within the enterprise network that can directly impact its application coding. It can be any entity starting from source code developers to other code development companies delivering automation functionalities, code deployment environments, and API connections.
Now, talking about the software supply chain security, it is actually the method by which vulnerabilities and security risks are detected, analyzed, monitored and mitigated, within the supply chain of a company. This process also includes compliance issues by third-party software vendors collaborating with that organization.
Why is software supply chain security significant?
In today’s era of open-source software, codebase originally developed by some companies is being used by several others. Reports suggest that an average repository of application codes can drive at least 200 dependencies and more. While this kind of dependency is crucial to the evolution and sustainability of the IT industry and economic growth, it also brings about certain inherent risks. So dependent companies need to scrutinize each source before incorporating any part of the code.
Organizations relying on open-source code invariably increase their exposure to risks, since developers outside their immediate network can also get to access their code in the production environment. So, vulnerabilities like malicious codes, unpatched application upgrades, and malware can easily endanger the information security of the organization. Such exposures offer golden opportunities to cybercriminals to break in through the loopholes unnoticed and gradually spread jeopardy.
While the significance of securing software supply chain keeps soaring, certain best practices can be adopted to go ahead with the task.
What are the best practices to follow?
Going by guidance offered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), some of the most pertinent best practices for software supply chain risk management are
- First, outline and define the overall risk tolerance and strategy for the whole organization
- Incorporate stringent parameters to monitor security threats
- Next, interpret risks and incorporate the matching security requirements into the processes and SDLC
- Make sure to include compliance requirements, privacy, security, and document management in every supplier contract and RFP
- Make sure to familiarize and properly educate all relevant teams and their members about open source software security, development of secure applications and align them with DevSecOps approaches
- Enforce protocols on the process to notify the right stakeholders in case of even seemingly minor breaches posed by vendors. This is critical to consider re-assessments based on the level of risk
- When new vendors are on-boarded, make sure to appoint a particular team or individual from the security team to liaise with them and address any concerns related to security or vulnerabilities
- Formulate stringent measures to regulate, supervise and pre-approve each and every vendor component
- Be very strict with policies that deal with non-compliance issues; one-time non-compliance should be enough to strike out deliverables from vendors which do not comply with your company specifications
- Enforce tight governance on any system that can be accessed by vendors, and data that can be accessed by team members
- Before allowing any software patches or updates, the vendor point-of-contact must confirm zero issues identified during pre-production testing
- Adopting AI to automate as many repetitive tasks as possible, to rule out human intervention to the maximum possible limit. Vendors must also strictly abide by all automation rules and policies set, in such cases
- There must be periodical tracking and auditing processes to ensure that all security measures are functional and in place
- And last but not the least, access to physical devices or systems must always be closely monitored and vendors must always be supervised
Adherence to security best practices can prevent attacks on software supply chains and penalties due to compliance failures. Such negative incidents can easily damage the reputation of companies, lead to heavy loss of revenues, and can even be as extreme as denial of rights to operate a business. The impact of software supply chain security is, therefore, of a much greater magnitude today than ever before.