/jul 20, 2023

SBOM Explained: How SBOMs Improve Cloud-native Application Security

By Natalie Tischler

A staggering 96% of organizations utilize open-source libraries, yet fewer than 50% actively manage the security vulnerabilities within these libraries. Vulnerabilities are welcome mats for breaches from bad actors, and once they've entered your system, the impact can be colossal. A software bill of materials (SBOM) is an important tool for managing the security of open-source software. Here we will explore how SBOMs help organizations understand what’s in their applications, ensure regulatory compliance, and manage overall risk.  

Where Do SBOMs Fit in Your Application Security Program?

Think of an SBOM as a magnifying glass that allows you to get a closer look at what goes on in your cloud-native applications. SBOMs provide a detailed view of open-source components that developers and security professionals can use to understand the security of third-party libraries and dependencies used in an application. With that information, teams can create cyber hygiene campaigns against known vulnerabilities revealed from the SBOM.  

You can generate an SBOM with a fundamental layer of any cloud-native application security program: Software Composition Analysis (SCA). Veracode SCA scans open-source dependencies for known vulnerabilities and makes recommendations on version updating. It’s able to determine direct and indirect dependencies, offer remediation guidance, and actively manage license risk. Plus, it’s easy to integrate into your pipeline through a simple command-line scan agent, and you get results delivered in seconds (or you can use the same agent directly in your IDE and get feedback even earlier). 

How Do SBOMs Contribute to Application Security?

SBOMs also provide necessary visibility and clarity into how up to date the open-source inventory of your software is. It empowers teams to take an active approach in managing security posture and taking corrective action where necessary. In this context, SBOMs provide an efficient and effective way for you to take the necessary steps towards maintaining a secure cloud-native application ecosystem. 

A huge benefit of having a mature application security program is maintaining compliance with the ever-evolving regulatory landscape. Regulation around securing the software supply chain has increased (and become even more urgent due to events like Log4j), and SBOMs make it easy for organizations to have a clear picture of the components in their software supply chain. Plus, SBOMs can also be used to verify license compliance. 

What are the Best Practices for Using SBOMs? 

To maximize the effectiveness of SBOMs, it is essential to follow best practices when creating and managing them. Here are three simple best practices that are crucial for those who are adopting SBOMs. 

Pick the right format for you

There are different SBOM specifications in the marketplace today. The Veraode SCA SBOM API will return a response with your SBOM in CycloneDX JSON format, which is one of the approved formats for compliance with the 2021 U.S. Executive Order

Assign the right person in charge 

Identify who will be responsible for managing SBOMs within your organization. This could be a dedicated team member or group of team members who are familiar with your organization’s application security policies and processes. Keep in mind that SBOMs are useful for both development teams and security practitioners. 

Use a platform with easy integration into developer workflows 

Strengthening security without disrupting developer productivity is the sweet spot of a mature application security program. It's important to utilize a platform that provides SBOM API integration so that it can easily be embedded into the developer’s workflow. This integration allows developers to automate certain aspects of component management and SBOM maintenance, resulting in improved efficiency and accuracy. 

Maturing Your Application Security Program with SBOMs 

Modern applications are built from hundreds of components and libraries, making it difficult to track them all. With the widespread use of open-source components and software license restrictions for commercial offerings, keeping your application secure has become a challenge. Some of the best practices here can proactively help your team to manage your AppSec posture with accuracy. To try out Veracode SCA first-hand, schedule a demo with our team.

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By Natalie Tischler

Natalie Tischler believes in a world where software is built secure from the start. She writes content for Veracode that focuses on empowering harmony between Security and Development teams.