Bill of Materials for Software: Tracking Your Software Supply Chain

A software dependency graph known as an SBOM allows you to see the components of a supply chain.

In a piece titled “Drawing inspiration from the physical product development process” that was published in December 2021, I already hinted at the possibility that software developers would do the same.

Since then, i’ve been searching for any articles that lend credence to this viewpoint.

In the manufacturing sector, the idea of “bill of materials” or “BOM” is essential. This is a list of the supplies needed to make a tangible good. This ingredient list is helpful for a number of areas of the product’s design, production, and service throughout its useful life.

In the software industry, the concept of a “Software BOM” or “SBOM” is becoming more popular. That is, a complete list of all the parts (libraries, binaries, etc.) Required to create a piece of software.

Describe a BOM.

“BOM” stands for “bill of materials,” which in French is called “logistic nomenclature.”

A nomenclature, also known as a bill of materials or BOM in English, is a tree structure that enables the representation of the interlocking of component articles (also referred to as “child” articles) to create finished products or composite articles (sometimes referred to as “parent” articles). 

The structure of production determines how many tiers there are in a BOM. A BOM might be restricted to a single factory or production shop or used as a virtual object to share needs between manufacturing partners (extended BOM). In other terms, it is the organized inventory of every component that goes into making a product.

Bill of Materials for Software

An executive order sbom structure and content are similar to those of a conventional manufacturing BOM. All the dependencies of a software system that has been put into production are listed or inventoried here:

Open-source systems and libraries obtained from a third party. Their renditions the state of the patches’ application. And their authorization to use.

Leading the pack is the US government

The solarwinds attack, which was detected in December 2020, targeted a number of US government entities as well as a number of private businesses and overseas institutions.

Early in 2020, hackers stealthily gained access to Texas-based solarwind’s networks and corrupted the company’s software. Businesses frequently utilize the “Orion” system to manage their IT resources. Orion is used by 33,000 of Solarwinds’ clients, according to SEC filings.

Whether they’re resolving a bug or including new features, the majority of software vendors send updates to their systems on a regular basis. Solarwinds is no different. 

Solarwinds unknowingly distributed software upgrades to its clients that contained the illegal code as early as March 2020. “solarwinds hack explained,” Business Insider.

A recent executive order from the US government mandates the creation of “SBOM” for any software product created by a subcontractor.

Log4j, December 2021

Only 1% of businesses record their software supply chains.

The majority of computer system administrators had to put in extra effort last year just before the holidays to deal with a serious vulnerability found in the well-known log4j logging package.

The IT world without SBOM looks like this. A great deal of strain and manual labor.

The few participants who managed their supply chains effectively handled the issue with restraint and discipline. They were completely aware of which systems the log4j library was being used on. They fixed their systems while their colleagues were checking dozens of servers!

The fundamentals

A significant problem for enhancing the openness of the software supply chain is the creation and adoption of a single standard for the “Software Bill Of Materials.” For instance, a common format that makes information interchange easier.

The SBOM generation must then be automated. An entirely new SBOM needs to be created for each deployment. Numerous times a day, more and more enterprises are deploying to production. Therefore, it should go without saying that the development of the SBOM occurs during the continuous deployment (CI/CD) process.

Objections to the SBOM?

“Why wouldn’t you want to know what components make up your software systems? What advantages come with not being able to disclose the contents of the program you sell to customers?”

We swiftly lapse into the ridiculous.

It will save you hundreds of hours of effort if you have a current SBOM on hand. Will enable you to have items that are more easily upgraded and safer.

Aside from lowering operating costs, keep in mind employee retention, stress reduction, and a decrease in IT staff members’ feelings of powerlessness regarding systems they don’t understand and can’t get to change or evolve.

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