Security Solutions

4 mins

Software Bill Of Materials: Achieve Total Asset Visibility

Sasja Storms
Sasja Storms
Head of Customer Success

An organization’s IT stack is unlikely to be some sort of digital monolith. Instead, modern businesses make use of many different digital tools, all of which interact with one another. This means that an organization’s business continuity often relies on multiple technical components - all of which need protection against cyber threats. But how can you have an adequate defense if you aren’t entirely sure what all these components are? That’s why you need a Software Bill of Materials.

What is a Software Bill of Materials?

A Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) is an inventory of all the components and software dependencies connected to a particular application. An SBOM should cover all components - both proprietary and open source - to ensure complete software transparency. 

With modern software libraries depending on an increasing number of third-party components, SBOMs have come to play an important role in cybersecurity, enabling organizations to gain a better understanding of their software supply chain, as well as any vulnerabilities contained within them. 

As well as a list of components, SBOMs also contain the origins of those components as well as relevant licensing details. As a result, organizations can ensure that their software components comply with legal and licensure requirements. And, crucially, by breaking down applications by component, SBOMs make it easier for companies to systematically check their software against known vulnerabilities so safeguards can be put in place before cyberattackers strike. 

The benefits of implementing an SBOM

In today’s world of complex technology stacks and ever-changing threat landscapes, SBOMs have become increasingly popular for several reasons:

  • Identify threats: By outlining all the components within the IT stack, organizations are granted clarity over what solutions they use and where security risks may reside.
  • Improve vulnerability management: By coming up with an inventory of your software components, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to prioritize the risks posed by each vulnerability you identify. This brings order to your remediation process.
  • Streamline collaboration: SBOMs aren’t just about security. By listing components, an SBOM can help different teams to identify new opportunities for collaboration.
  • Speed up compliance: SBOMs include license and origin details, which make it easier for businesses to ensure that applications meet all the necessary compliance demands, whether legal or industry-specific. 

SBOM challenges

While the benefits of SBOMs are numerous, they aren’t always the easiest to implement. Some common challenges include: 

  • Standardizing your SBOM: There are multiple formats for the creation and sharing of SBOMs. It’s up to individual organizations to decide which standard is best for their needs based on the level of detail they require.
  • SBOM integration: An SBOM is just one element of an effective security program. Organizations must ensure that any SBOM is integrated with both software development and cyber defense controls.
  • Maintaining accuracy: Today, technological change happens quickly. To ensure SBOMs are not outdated, businesses must constantly update their inventories, which could take up a lot of time and other resources.
  • Privacy concerns: If SBOMs are being shared externally, businesses must be careful to ensure that they are continuing to meet privacy demands across their software supply chain and not sharing sensitive information without consent.
  • Getting everyone onboard: Because SBOMs include third-party components, it is essential that all parties within a particular software supply chain are willing to adopt an SBOM and its standards.

Making SBOMs part of your security strategy

In light of a fast-moving threat landscape, new legislation has been launched mandating that organizations adopt an SBOM. The legislation, which varies by industry and region, includes regulations like the Executive Order on Improving the Nation's Cybersecurity in the US, the EU’s GDPR, and other sector-specific directives.

In order to meet these regulations and enjoy the many security benefits that SBOMs provide, organizations should make use of an External Attack Surface Management solution to provide valuable assistance in identifying externally exposed assets and comprehensively understanding the technologies in use. This approach enables organizations to proactively monitor their external attack surface, stay informed about potential risks, and effectively manage their cybersecurity posture.

Hadrian can build an SBOM of your external facing assets and provide visibility of any vulnerabilities they contain. Hadrian goes beyond CVE database lookups by actively testing and detecting OWASP Top Ten issues and many other weaknesses. We discover and inventory internet-facing assets, monitor dynamic environments, and conduct assessments in real time across your entire software supply chain.

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