Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


10:00 AM
Connect Directly
E-Mail vvv

3 Tips For Better Security Across the Software Supply Chain

It may sound look intimidating, but with a few tweaks to tools and processes already in use, it's not hard to get a head start on improving security posture of the software supply chain.

We all know the adage that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, but it's easy to forget that this also applies to the software supply chain. Those who work with government or other highly regulated industries, or have customers that do, have likely been asked before about their software supply chain practices. And if they haven't, they should be prepared to answer when questions come up, because they will. 

Strengthening the security of the software supply chain can look intimidating on top of all of the other responsibilities security and IT teams are tasked with, but with a few tweaks to the tools and processes already in use, it's fairly easy to get a head start on improving security posture. 

Here are three ways to improve and support security in the software supply chain. 

Align Purchase and Management Workflows 
There are two big questions that must be answered first: Which tools and libraries are in use, and where did they come from? It's nearly impossible to properly secure the software supply chain without this knowledge.

Many software projects utilize specialized tools that may be commercially licensed or handled via credit cards or expense reports. While typically lower-volume or -value items get taken care of through the latter, these smaller purchases can become bigger issues later. Everyone validates their tools differently, and as such, the integrity of the supply chain can become compromised.

Although it may be a nuisance to switch payment processes over, it's better long term to ensure that the acquisition of tools and components critical to developers is done through the same purchasing processes as other IT assets. This makes it easier to track who requested and approved purchases and adds the forcing function of vetting each supplier with the same scrutiny. Having this visibility instills more confidence that the right pieces of software or components are acquired.

Tracking shouldn't simply stop at who approved purchase of a tool. If the capability is there, companies should track their developer tool and third-party component use in their asset management system. 

Monitor Developer and Build Machines
Equally important is looking at the machines inside an organization where development work is happening. Developers generally have complete admin access to their machine, even when they're part of the organization's managed computing environment. Build machines, however, are rarely managed, making it difficult to get a full view of the software development environment. 

In order to tighten up the supply chain, teams must change how they manage both developer and build machines. Leveraging system management tools, devices can regularly be audited for the software installed and the processes running on them. With this information, IT can confirm that the development and build work is being done under the expected conditions. 

Another supply chain weakness related to build machines is the use of shared, well-known accounts. It is a good idea to stop this practice and use the existing account directory for authentication to these machines in order to improve logging and security. Privilege management tools are often useful here to allow individuals to assume the role of a build user after logging in as themselves.

Stay on Top of Patching
Once developer and build machines start to have some management processes in place, the next step is ensuring machines are practicing basic security hygiene by ensuring that: 

  • The operating system is fully patched.
  • Antivirus or anti-malware software is installed and running.
  • Definitions and software components are all up to date.

These practices help ensure the integrity of software being built, however, these are not one-time projects. Implementing this correctly may require a phased approach. First, the inventory data can be used to identify compliance issues on developer and build machines and notify the owners. Then, IT can choose to manage updates on a small subset of machines or on a duplicate environment. Finally, IT will likely find they've built enough confidence with the development team that they can actively manage all machines. Through this entire process, it is important to be clear about the expected timeline for bringing machines into compliance with patching and other security standards.

When evaluating supply chain security, IT can be a valuable partner. By continually evaluating the processes and tools used and adapting them to ensure they meet the needs of development organizations, the software supply chain can be tightened up and properly secured. 

These steps are not comprehensive for securing the software supply chain, but they are a way to take advantage of the existing capabilities in an organization and for IT to get started in their journey to increase security.

Related Content:



Register now for this year's fully virtual Black Hat USA, scheduled to take place August 1–6, and get more information about the event on the Black Hat website. Click for details on conference information and to register.

Matthew Lewinski has been developing endpoint management solutions for over 14 years. He is currently a Distinguished Engineer with Quest Software, where he leads DevOps and Security programs for the KACE Unified Endpoint Management business. Matthew has an M.S. in Software ... View Full Bio

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Former CISA Director Chris Krebs Discusses Risk Management & Threat Intel
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  2/23/2021
Security + Fraud Protection: Your One-Two Punch Against Cyberattacks
Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5,  2/23/2021
Cybercrime Groups More Prolific, Focus on Healthcare in 2020
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  2/22/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: "The truth behind Stonehenge...."
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
Building the SOC of the Future
Building the SOC of the Future
Digital transformation, cloud-focused attacks, and a worldwide pandemic. The past year has changed the way business works and the way security teams operate. There is no going back.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-02
Blackboard Collaborate Ultra 20.02 is affected by a cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability. The XSS payload will execute on the class room, which leads to stealing cookies from users who join the class.
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-02
A cross-site scripting issue was found in Apache Ambari Views. This was addressed in Apache Ambari 2.7.4.
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-02
An issue was discovered in app/Model/SharingGroupServer.php in MISP 2.4.139. In the implementation of Sharing Groups, the "all org" flag sometimes provided view access to unintended actors.
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-02
An issue was discovered on LG mobile devices with Android OS 11 software. They mishandle fingerprint recognition because local high beam mode (LHBM) does not function properly during bright illumination. The LG ID is LVE-SMP-210001 (March 2021).
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-02
fastify-reply-from is an npm package which is a fastify plugin to forward the current http request to another server. In fastify-reply-from before version 4.0.2, by crafting a specific URL, it is possible to escape the prefix of the proxied backend service. If the base url of the proxied server is &...