Securing the Software Supply Chain: A Path Forward for Federal Agencies

With the increasing number of data breaches and cyber threats in the federal space, the software supply chain has emerged as a major vulnerability that needs to be addressed. While recent legislation has been introduced to protect the software supply chain, several government bodies have still fallen victim to prominent supply chain attacks in 2023. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency confirmed that the MOVEit Transfer software vulnerability impacted over 60 million people worldwide, including government agencies, banks, financial services companies, and universities.

To secure the software supply chain, federal agencies must take action. Here are three tips that can help them get started:

Tip #1: Prioritize Software Bill of Materials (SBOMs)
In 2024, federal agencies should focus on implementing Software Bill of Materials (SBOMs). An SBOM is a transparency tool that provides a detailed list of software components, similar to an ingredient list on food labels. By using an SBOM, organizations can assess the risks associated with software components and quickly address vulnerabilities. President Biden’s Executive Order (E.O.) 14028 highlights the importance of SBOMs in enhancing software supply chain security. As supply chain attacks continue to escalate, compliance measures like E.O. 14028 will likely tighten, making the adoption of SBOMs crucial for software maintenance and security.

Tip #2: Emphasize real-time visibility
Real-time visibility into software components is essential for preventing supply chain attacks. Many federal organizations rely on open-source software components, which come with their own risks. Lineaje research reveals that a significant percentage of open-source software components are susceptible to vulnerabilities or security problems. To secure the software supply chain, organizations need to have a clear understanding of the quality and integrity of their software components. Real-time visibility can help identify potential vulnerabilities and maintain a well-secured software supply chain.

Tip #3: Identify the lineage of AI
As the use of AI systems increases, federal agencies must not overlook the security of AI. It’s not enough to defend against threats once AI is operational; security needs to be integrated into the development process from the start. By adopting a proactive approach and addressing vulnerabilities early on, developers can reduce the risk of exploitation. Federal agencies must also assess the lineage of AI applications to ensure that key vulnerabilities were not overlooked during the build phase. Being vigilant in securing AI-based software is crucial in maintaining a robust security posture.

Securing the software supply chain is paramount for federal agencies to protect national security. By prioritizing SBOMs, emphasizing real-time visibility, and addressing vulnerabilities in AI, organizations can enhance their software maintenance and security practices. These steps will help federal agencies stay ahead of emerging threats and ensure the integrity of their software supply chain.

FAQ:

Q1: What is a software supply chain?
A1: The software supply chain refers to the process of developing, testing, distributing, and maintaining software products.

Q2: What is a supply chain attack?
A2: A supply chain attack is a type of cyber attack where malicious actors target vulnerabilities or weaknesses in the supply chain to gain unauthorized access to systems or inject malicious code into software products.

Q3: What is a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM)?
A3: A Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) is a transparency tool that provides a detailed list of software components used in a product, similar to an ingredient list on food labels. It helps organizations assess the risks associated with software components and address vulnerabilities.

Q4: What is the importance of real-time visibility in securing the software supply chain?
A4: Real-time visibility allows organizations to have a clear understanding of the quality and integrity of their software components. It helps in identifying potential vulnerabilities and maintaining a well-secured software supply chain.

Q5: Why is it important to address vulnerabilities in AI?
A5: As the use of AI systems increases, it is crucial to address vulnerabilities in AI to prevent exploitation and maintain a robust security posture. Security should be integrated into the development process from the start.

Related link:
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)