HomeOperationsSecurityHow to create and maintain SBOM in cloud-native applications?

How to create and maintain SBOM in cloud-native applications?

Open-source components are widely used but often not maintained with a strong focus on security. This lack of attention to security details becomes critical when vulnerabilities are discovered. As data breaches become increasingly frequent, every organization needs an SBOM (Software Bill of Materials). Yet, the complexity of cloud environments makes creating and maintaining an SBOM highly challenging. 

Neil Levine, VP of Product at Anchore, elaborates on the need for SBOM and how companies can use Anchore, which has developed a solution that facilitates automated, continuous compliance designed explicitly for cloud-native applications.

Understanding SBOM

An SBOM, or Software Bill of Materials, is a detailed list of the components that comprise a piece of software. SBOM is vital for understanding the security risks associated with the software components, many of which are based on open-source code. SBOMs provide a way to quickly identify and address these security issues by offering an immediate catalog of the components in any software deployment, enhancing the ability to respond to security threats more efficiently.

One of the most prominent examples highlighting the importance of SBOMs is the incident involving Log4j, an open-source logging library. This library contained a severe vulnerability that scored a 10/10 in risk, potentially allowing remote code execution. This vulnerability was significant because Log4j is used extensively across various applications and platforms. The discovery of such a vulnerability led to widespread concern as companies scrambled to determine whether and where Log4j was included in their systems. 

U.S. regulation against cyber risks

The U.S. government has recognized the increasing cyber risks to its software systems through various incidents, which led to issuing an executive order to enhance cybersecurity across federal agencies. This executive order particularly targets vendors supplying software to the government, requiring them to provide detailed documentation, such as Software Bills of Materials (SBOMs), to prove their security credentials. This order primarily applies to companies that sell software directly to the U.S. government. However, the ramifications extend beyond these companies. The goal is to shift some security responsibilities onto these vendors, leveraging the government’s significant purchasing power to enforce stricter security measures.

5 signs an organization needs SBOM

For organizations not directly supplying to the government and possibly underestimating their cybersecurity needs, adopting an SBOM can be critical, regardless of their size or complexity. 

Here are some signs that an organization might need an SBOM:

  1. Use of multiple software components: Small companies use various software, including SaaS services and developer tools. Each can have numerous underlying dependencies, often including open-source components, which might not be directly visible.
  2. Lack of detailed software inventory: A common pitfall is believing you fully understand and control all software within your cloud or network infrastructure without a detailed inventory. An SBOM provides a comprehensive catalog or index of software components, making managing and securing these assets easier.
  3. Emerging security vulnerabilities: New vulnerabilities frequently emerge, particularly in commonly used open-source components. Having an SBOM allows organizations to assess their exposure to these vulnerabilities quickly.
  4. Regulatory and compliance pressures: Even if not mandated by government contracts, regulatory and compliance requirements might necessitate a detailed understanding and documentation of software components, which an SBOM facilitates.
  5. Vendor management: Companies often rely on multiple vendors for software solutions. An SBOM helps track the versions and components used, which is crucial when vendors announce vulnerabilities that might affect different software versions.

Challenges in cloud-native environment 

As the cloud infrastructure evolves with trends like Kubernetes and multi-cloud environments, compliance in the cloud ecosystem faces new challenges. The rapid development pace and complex deployment scenarios typical of cloud-native technologies make traditional compliance methods, which often involved periodic audits, insufficient. Compliance needs to be continuous and integrated seamlessly with the development lifecycle. 

The dynamic nature of cloud-native environments, where software updates are frequent and continuous, demands that compliance checks be integrated into the CI/CD pipeline rather than performed sporadically. Consequently, organizations are moving towards a model where compliance is driven by data collected throughout the software lifecycle. This data includes detailed records like SBOMs, which provide a snapshot of the software components at any given point. This makes responding to new vulnerabilities and compliance requirements easier as they arise.

Automating compliance processes is essential to managing the scale and speed of cloud-native deployments. This involves automatically monitoring and managing compliance standards throughout software development and deployment. There’s also a significant move towards incorporating security and compliance checks early in development, even before software is deployed. Compliance solutions are increasingly designed to integrate with existing tools and workflows within an organization’s tech stack, making adopting without disrupting current operations easier.

These shifts indicate a broader transformation in how organizations approach compliance, aligning it more closely with ongoing security management rather than treating it as a separate or periodic task. This integrated approach is crucial for maintaining the security and integrity of systems in a rapidly changing cloud environment. 

Anchore’s approach to addressing modern compliance challenges in cloud-native environments

Despite the importance of SBOMs, many organizations, especially smaller ones, are still in the early stages of adoption. The process of implementing SBOMs and the standards governing them are evolving. Larger organizations, influenced by directives like the executive order, might be further along. However, the industry is still catching up, highlighting a broader need for better cybersecurity practices across all company sizes.

Anchore provides cutting-edge software composition analysis through open-source and enterprise solutions, catering to security, operations, and development teams. Powered by SBOM, Anchore’s platform and container security offerings simplify audit processes, automate compliance, and enhance the security of the software supply chain. The company uses a data-first strategy before security. Anchore’s platform is designed to automate and integrate compliance into the continuous deployment pipeline, making it easier for organizations to manage the complexities of modern software development. The flexibility of Anchore’s policies allows organizations to adapt quickly to new compliance requirements and emerging security threats.

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