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I have an SBOM, now what?

I have an SBOM, now what?

Just as the food industry tracks the origins and safety of ingredients to ensure product quality, the software industry requires a similar level of oversight and transparency.

Traditionally, software developers, like food producers, relied on internal processes to ensure the integrity of their products. However, analogous to how the food industry embraced regulatory oversight through bodies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the software industry is evolving.

The introduction of software composition analysis (SCA) and software bills of materials (SBOMs) marks a significant shift towards more rigorous, transparent practices.

The rise of SBOMs in particular is ushering in a new era of accountability and security in software development. Let’s delve into what to do with your SBOMs.

Validate your SBOM

An SBOM, inherently machine-readable, is designed to be automatically processed and analyzed. It meticulously lists the components within your software, serving as a critical resource for maintaining transparency and ensuring integrity.

Validating your SBOM goes beyond mere acknowledgment of its contents — it involves a rigorous verification process to ensure each component is accurately represented and up-to-date.

The benefits of SBOM validation include:

  • Transparency: Provides a clear view of all software components, minimizing the reliance on vendor assurances.

  • Streamlined communication: Facilitates effective information exchange among all stakeholders in the software supply chain, enhancing coordination and responsiveness.

  • Audit support: Enables precise tracking of software components, which is indispensable for compliance checks and inventory management.

  • Proactive security: By validating the SBOM, you preemptively address potential security threats by ensuring all components are current and free from known vulnerabilities.

Regular SBOM validation allows you to make well-informed decisions regarding software dependencies, track origins and licensing, and swiftly respond to potential security vulnerabilities, such as those highlighted by incidents like Log4Shell. This proactive approach not only keeps your software secure but also fortifies your compliance with industry standards, ensuring that your software development life cycle (SDLC) remains both efficient and secure.

Implement SBOM management and SCA

Combining SCA and SBOM management illustrates a best-practice approach to secure your software.

SCA tools meticulously scan your software, pinpointing compliance discrepancies and serious security vulnerabilities, particularly in open source and third-party components. This comprehensive scrutiny ensures adherence to licensing and quality standards across the SDLC.

Steps to effectively implement SCA and SBOM management include:

  • Use SCA to validate SBOMs: Utilize SCA tools to reassess the accuracy of your SBOMs. This step is crucial for verifying that the SBOM accurately reflects the software’s current components, which is essential for managing security risks effectively.

  • Cross-check compliance and security: Once validated, use the SBOM to cross-reference and verify the findings from SCA scans. This helps in detecting discrepancies and ensuring both the SBOM and SCA results align, providing a robust mechanism to check for issues in licensing, quality, and security vulnerabilities.

  • Augment SCA scans: Integrate SBOM insights to supplement your internal SCA scans, especially for complex parts of your application stack, such as databases or operating systems. This helps in covering areas that are challenging to assess directly.

With both SBOM and SCA, you gain a holistic view of your software supply chain, which empowers you to proactively manage risks and vulnerabilities. This strategic approach not only ensures compliance with regulatory standards but also secures your software against potential threats.

Integrate your SBOMs

To effectively integrate SBOMs into your SDLC, focus on these streamlined steps:

  • Automate SBOM creation: Integrate SBOM generation directly into your CI/CD pipelines and ensure that SBOMs are updated automatically with each build.

  • Implement quality gates: Set up automated checks within your CI/CD pipelines to scan SBOMs for critical vulnerabilities and licensing issues, preventing non-compliant software from moving forward.

  • Monitor compliance in QA: Utilize SBOMs during the quality assurance (QA) phase to perform detailed security and compliance checks, ensuring that your software meets all regulatory and internal standards before release.

Adopting these practices allows you to use SBOMs as strategic assets in software development, ensuring each release is secure, compliant, and adheres to the best practices in software supply chain security.

Monitor your SBOMs for vulnerabilities

Effective vulnerability management hinges on proactive SBOM monitoring.

Implement these practices to ensure a robust defense against emerging threats:

  • Comprehensive SBOM archive: Maintain an up-to-date archive of SBOMs for all software, especially those in production or delivered to customers. This repository is vital for auditing and accurately tracking software components throughout their lifecycle.

  • Long-term retention: Persistently store SBOMs for each software version as long as they remain in use. This supports compliance and enables swift responses to vulnerabilities.

  • Risk management: Initiate risk management protocols immediately upon discovering a vulnerability, using your SBOM archive as a reference to guide remediation efforts.

  • Third-party SBOM monitoring: Actively monitor third-party SBOMs to enhance responsiveness to zero-day vulnerabilities and software supply chain attacks.

  • Continuous production monitoring: Maintain ongoing surveillance of production software through SBOMs to promptly identify and address vulnerabilities as they arise.

By incorporating these strategies, you enhance your capacity to navigate and mitigate risks effectively, securing each software release and fortifying your defenses against potential high-impact vulnerabilities.

Scale your SBOM management with Sonatype

Simplify SBOM management with Sonatype SBOM Manager. Sonatype SBOM Manager is a powerful tool designed to streamline the cataloging and ongoing monitoring of SBOMs.

By using Sonatype SBOM Manager, you can:

  • Centralize SBOM management: Ingest and manage SBOMs in CycloneDX and SPDX formats.

  • Ensure compliance: Stay compliant with industry standards by managing SBOM creation, storage, and monitoring.

  • Enhance monitoring: Utilize VEX-based management with automated alerts and actionable dashboards.

  • Improve transparency: Provide comprehensive traceability and transparency of your software components.

By integrating Sonatype SBOM Manager into your tech stack, you not only streamline your SBOM processes but also significantly bolster your defenses against evolving threats.

For detailed information on how this tool can transform your SBOM strategy, visit the Sonatype SBOM Manager product page.

Picture of Aaron Linskens

Written by Aaron Linskens

Aaron is a technical writer on Sonatype's Marketing team. He works at a crossroads of technical writing, developer advocacy, software development, and open source. He aims to get developers and non-technical collaborators to work well together via experimentation, feedback, and iteration so they can build the right software.