Understanding your business applications’ components helps you quickly identify risks and security incidents. Software bills of materials (SBOMs) provide this visibility by explaining application components and supply chain relationships. However, companies must develop a system for effective SBOM management.
With the right tools, companies can generate, store, search and retrieve data about potential security issues. A central database and policy-based rules can help your organization respond to zero-day exploits. Learn why managing SBOMs is critical to incident response, and explore the best practices for storage and management.
Standards for SBOM Management
Following a U.S. executive order in 2021, federal agencies developed SBOM standards . A software bill of materials details each component of an application, including open-source libraries, plug-ins and extensions. It also provides the version number, licensing and patch status among other high-level and granular details.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said, “A new SBOM should be created for every new release of a component. Changes to components require corresponding changes to SBOMs to be valid.” To acquire and maintain government contracts, software vendors must provide SBOMs. In the private sector, software bills of materials play a key role in cybersecurity preparedness, including risk management and incident response.
SBOMs and Your Incident Response Plan
When facing a major vulnerability, time is critical, and businesses must quickly identify impacted applications. However, as seen with the Apache Log4j incident, companies may not know a breach affected their seemingly unrelated applications. Software bills of materials document code sources and relationships, including open-source code. This information, combined with SBOM tools, reduces the chances of exploits going unnoticed. Indeed, SBOM management is essential to your incident response plan.
SBOM software lets you search for vulnerable components in your application stack and determine which employees, services and databases use them. Some assign a risk level score to each affected application in real time, triggering policy-based workflows and tasks. By automatically alerting affected teams, remediation efforts can begin immediately.
SBOM Storage and Management Best Practices
Beyond SBOM generation, organizations must be able to use them to identify vulnerabilities when facing a zero-day exploit. InfoWorld recommends developing “processes to store and manage SBOMs” and “workflows that enable you to quickly access and search that data.”
Key components of SBOM management include:
- A central database for storing all SBOMs
- Support for multiple SBOM formats
- The ability to search the centralized repository
- A way to compare software bills of materials
- The capability to import SBOMs from third parties
- A system for collecting component-level SBOMs
In addition, your centralized system should be capable of handling multiple SBOMs for each application release, build and stage. Your organization gains visibility across your entire software supply chain with the right processes and tools.
Managing SBOMs Is Nonnegotiable
Companies simply can’t afford to be in the dark about their software’s components, as it’s only a matter of time before one or more of your business applications are affected by a zero-day exploit. Crafting an SBOM management strategy allows your business to stay ahead and handle the influx of SBOMs from software providers. The Migus Group specializes in helping enterprises manage vendor relationships and reduce risks from cyber threats. Contact us to explore solutions for managing SBOMs and protecting your organization.
Jessica Elliott is a business technology writer specializing in cloud-hosted and cybersecurity services. Her work appears in U.S. News, Business.com and Investopedia.
- The White House — Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity
- National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) — SBOM FAQ
- InfoWord — Why SBOM management is no longer optional