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Strategies To Identify Software Supply Chain Risks

Software supply chain attacks have now become more rampant over the past couple of years. SolarWinds data breach ruined chaos on the supply chain is considered to be the biggest attack in recent times across a legion of industries.

From this, we have seen the impact a well-harmonized attack can make on a software supply. Other third-party data hacks, like Home Depot, Target, and NotPetya events, made it abundantly clear that securing the supply chain should be a foremost preference for security professionals.

The SolarWinds data breach showed how essential it is to safeguard your supply chain –– and how effortless it is for a mere group of hackers to make just a single attack into incidents that affect thousands of institutions.

With the predicted expense of data breaches touching around $3.86 million, organizations can not bear to let this occur anymore, not to themselves, neither their partners nor the supply chain they rely on.

They should take mandatory measures to alleviate the risk conferred by their third-party resources. To monitor the issues associated with these attacks we need to analyze strategies to reach the bottom of software supply chain risks.

Endless monitoring, established on security ratings, is an immensely competent tool that aids organizations to secure themselves and safeguard the software supply chain wholesomely. Software supply chain management is the key to understanding the risks associated with dealing with particular vendors.


Vicious attackers aim to look for the weak link in an organization’s security posture. Usually, this starts with a company’s software supply chain.

There are many reasons for this.

First, even though periodic security investigation, institutions usually don’t have knowledge of their vendors’ security controls. Although organizations have the ability to request certain due diligence documentation. Documents such as SOC reports control framework certifications (think of ISO, PCI, NIST, etc.) give some comfort, however being able to review and come to an appropriate judgement takes time and experience. These judgments only show a point-in-time snapshot of a vendor’s security posture, which isn’t adequate in today’s ever-evolving hazardous environment. Second, some organizations are administering hundreds of vendors which makes it absurd to perfectly weigh each vendor’s potential for attack.

Attackers have the understanding of these challenges, so, rather than targeting an institution’s network, they target its software supply chain partners. They find a vulnerability in a vendor’s software advancement or update cycle and put code into the software. Even only one particle of vicious code can have more than huge destructing effects all over that vendor’s entire ecosystem. SolarWinds became a victim of this, in fact, probably occurring currently in another institution’s network, since research shows there occurs one cyber attack every 39 seconds.


Why is there a demand for a supply chain among attackers? One reason is that it is an always-spreading attack surface. Businesses, specifically in an online society, are interlinked like never before. Almost all of them use a large number of apps and mostly from inside vendors.


Having said all that, institutions need to be catching on to what NIST’s (National Institute of Standards and Technology) ideology on software Supply Chain Risk Management is. In common words, the agency asks for assessing, identifying, and alleviating the risks linked to the disrupted and interlinked being of IT/OT service and product supply chains and looks after the complete life cycle of a system that includes distribution, design, maintenance, development, acquisition, and destruction as supply chain risks and vulnerabilities that purposely or unintentionally harm an IT/OT service or product at any level.

But as mentioned above, institutions say they know the risks, still, they are not making software supply chain risk management a priority.


Software supply chain risks management can also be done by monitoring its risks. Since security ratings are hugely potent, managers can keep flags on their vendors’ security aspects. This makes it very convenient to audit when a security valuation falls below a contracted verge. For instance, if during the basic contract phase an institution mentions a borderline security rating of 650, and if a vendor’s rating decreases from this number, managers of security can have a serious discussion with the partner to talk about the ways to boost their risk levels.

Institutions can use these results to make major decisions. Companies may conclude not to work with vendors with below-average security ratings, citing an elaborating cyber security risk. Or, they may prefer to partner with vendors with mid-level risk and discuss with them the ways to increase security rating.

Whatever the scenario is security administrators will have a good impression at the beginning of the relationship of the category of risk the third-party will announce to their institutions. That brings them ahead of the whole scenario before the contract of partnership even starts.


Every software these days is gathered with almost up to 90% of the final code which comes from a mixture of third parties and open source. An institution that doesn’t learn, and test, what’s actually inside that code is inviting for supply chain risks. And one should not consider this time-consuming, manual, or laborious doing as automated tools are there to help you accomplish it more precisely, accurately, and speedily.


That report, stationed on analysis within the Building Security In Maturity Model (BSIMM) community among software vendors and claimants, advises the below-mentioned list for venerating software suppliers. Those vendors must be able to create evidence of the following:

  • A well-written secure software development life cycle (SDLC).

  • Artifacts displaying that the actions mentioned in the SDLC happen as expected.

  • Personal discussions with the software security administrator manifest a high level of information about software security actions and technology.

  • The presence of a full-time software security group (SSGA documented process that ensures security defects get fixed.

  • A third-party review of software security results and efforts.


Lastly, The director of a company i.e value chain security, Emile Monette, mentioned a collection of supply chain software security techniques he put together from numerous sources in its programs, and others.

They add:

  • Product assurance

  • Software composition analysis

  • Secure software development life cycle

  • Malformed input (“fuzzy”) testing

  • Static analysis

  • Validation of security measures

  • Dynamic analysis

  • Known malware analysis

  • Remote access

  • Third-party penetration testing

  • Chain of custody

  • Software bill of materials (BOM)

  • Supplier management

  • Insider threat management

  • Counterfeit avoidance and mitigation

  • OEM purchasing

  • Use of commercial standards

  • Supplier cyber security

That is a huge list and it goes on, and still, if you do all of the above-mentioned things still there is a chance of imperfection. However, it will put you closer and that’s almost enough to take attackers’ eyes away from you.


The major objective of software supply chain risk management (SCRM) is to make sure that cyber-attacks will not endanger operational purposes.

Accomplishing this target demands a focus on downsizing the popularity of software glitches that can be overburdened to get unauthorized access, modify or steal technical data and software programs or insert malware.

Security for application software is now getting heightened commercial debate; however, for a couple of reasons, it is not extensively practiced. Some attempts to determine criteria for a security assessment of commercial software products.

A natural cutback of software errors that could disturb product security is necessary. With day-by-day developing malware sophistication and system complexity, contractors cannot expect that upgraded product support is enough.

Contracts for system integration or development must incorporate requirements for Software supply chain risk management, and achiever’s criteria of selection for all of such contracts should include supply chain risk as well as supply chain and the capabilities of threat mitigation.


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