Software is a product — and like any product, it is comprised of several unique components that may borrow from open-source code or other third-party components like libraries and frameworks. Additionally, software typically includes a build system that assembles and deploys code changes. Insecure components within this vast chain of development and distribution can introduce vulnerabilities to the resulting software, exposing the developing organization and its customers to high-stakes privacy and security risks.
Deployed software often handles vast amounts of sensitive data, including customer information, financial records and trade secrets. This data is all susceptible to attack from bad actors within your software supply chain — and such a breach can cause financial loss, intellectual property theft and diminished customer trust. But a secure software supply chain can help protect against information security breaches.
Software supply chain security challenges
Numerous players are involved in your software supply chain, so risk management is paramount, especially as threats evolve. Consider that according to Gartner, nearly half (45%) of organizations will experience an attack on their software supply chain by 2025. In this landscape, threat intelligence is critical.
Every software or code change faces specific risks based on its lineage. As such, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to securing your software supply chain. All development teams should adopt common practices like security scanning and mandatory change reviews. Consider these vulnerabilities when you assess the security of your software supply chain.
- Lack of visibility and traceability for libraries and leveraged third-party code. Third-party libraries can unwittingly introduce vulnerabilities that may create opportunities for unauthorized access, tampering and theft. In fact, cybercriminals often exploit open-source libraries because they provide a backdoor through which to introduce malicious code to a launched product. It’s important for companies to check these libraries for vulnerabilities before leveraging them.
- Insider threats. Employees or contractors can abuse their privileges to steal sensitive information, engage in fraudulent activities, or introduce malware or malicious code into connected networks — or compromise security keys. Vetted access control based on the principle of least privilege is a good solution for combating insider threats.
- Emerging technologies. The adoption of developing technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain, have significantly improved efficiency and transparency in software development and deployment — but they’ve also increased the attack surface. These technologies require strong security measures to protect against vulnerabilities.
- Lack of standardized security practices. Different developers prioritize security to varying degrees. In other words, when you rely on third-party code without vetting its security, you’re relying on the best-practices of others. Even if the original developer’s intent is pure, this unreliability is dangerous. Inconsistent security practices can leave gaps for cybercriminals to exploit.
Individual industries offer developers security guidelines on how to deploy and operate code safely. For example, the SaaS industry uses SOC 2 (SOCII) and FedRAMP. The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) founded in 2012 provides another standardized approach to cloud products and services assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring.
Continuous deployment tools prioritize software supply chain security
All organizations reliant on software should embrace an ongoing effort to give developers the tools necessary to identify and patch vulnerabilities quickly and efficiently. Enter continuous deployment (CD), which streamlines the deployment, testing and verification processes while enforcing security practices, enhancing visibility and automating security checks to fortify against vulnerabilities.
Unlike other solutions or development methodologies, CD integrates security testing and code analysis tools into the development pipeline. Static application security testing (SAST) tools examine code for potential security flaws. These automated tools can scan applications for different classes of vulnerability. They include static code scanners, which assess source code and dependencies before the deployment process begins.
Dynamic application security testing (DAST) tools simulate attacks and identify vulnerabilities in running applications. These processes enforce secure coding practices and identify common coding mistakes that could lead to security gaps. Early-stage scanning enables development teams to identify and remediate security issues that may have arisen in the software’s supply chain before it reaches customers.
Dynamic scanners like OWASP, among others, are designed to perform automated penetration testing and analyze a deployed app’s entire envelope — not just its source code. These tools identify security vulnerabilities like cross-site scripting, command injection, insecure server configurations, path traversal and SQL injection.
Organizations can integrate CD tools with monitoring and logging systems to provide real-time visibility into a software’s security status. Furthermore, CD prioritizes intelligent automation to continuously monitor system activities and analyze logs, facilitating prompt detection and speedy mitigation of security incidents or anomalies, potential breaches, unauthorized access attempts and suspicious behavior.
Strengthening collaboration, communication and trust
Finally, CD tools also strengthen collaboration and communication among developers by providing a common understanding of the software’s performance and challenges. Organizations gain:
- Real-time updates on the status of deployments, changes and updates.
- Centralized communication channels and notification features.
- Collaborative workflows, including shared repositories, version control systems and integrated development environments.
- Traceability and auditability features allowing stakeholders to track changes, deployments and modifications, creating transparency that cultivates trust and accountability.
- Shared metrics and analytics offering insight into performance, stability and usage patterns. These shared metrics enable stakeholders to make data-driven decisions, identify areas of improvement and align their efforts.
Keeping software components authentic, secure and free from malicious code is a never ending challenge. Nearly 80% of codebases are open-source, leaving an application’s code at higher risk. Major security incidents like the June 2023 MOVEit hack have highlighted the need for transparent security practices and user confidence in their software’s security. CD tools offer an effective solution to address these security concerns while also expediting and improving the development and deployment process.