In 2020, the Federal government’s infrastructure as well as some of the biggest and most cutting-edge businesses, were compromised by the SolarWinds supply chain hack. The hack gave attackers unmatched access to some of the best-protected data in the world. It proved that every organization, no matter how big or well-funded it is, is susceptible to cyber-attacks.
To carry out their operations, organizations rely on digitally interconnected technologies, but they have limited insight into risk outside of what the vendor freely gives. For businesses to completely understand the risk associated with their software, they must have visibility into its design.
The software bill of materials (SBOM), which gives customers control over their software security, can be used to provide this transparency. What is an SBOM, exactly?
The attacks raise concerns about how much is known about “trusted” software, which is used regularly and forms the core of business operations. President Biden responded by issuing an executive order (EO 14028) to strengthen national security. It advised businesses and federal organizations to work together to improve cybersecurity.
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What does a digital signature actually mean?
As the name suggests, a digital signature is an electronic version of the traditional paper and pen signature. It makes use of an advanced mathematical technique to confirm the reliability and accuracy of digital communications and documents.
It ensures that a message’s contents are not changed while it is being sent, which aids in preventing the issue of impersonation and tampering in digital communications. Since their introduction, digital signatures have become a cryptographic standard.
Workings of Electronic Signatures
Digital signatures are created using public-key cryptography, also referred to as asymmetric cryptography. A public key technique like RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) generates a pair of mathematically related keys by creating two keys, one private and one public. One of the basic principles that underpin digital signatures is hashing.
Regardless of input size, it efficiently turns data into a fixed-size output. Hash functions, which are essentially algorithms, are used to achieve this, and the end result is referred to as a hash value.
A hash value generated by a cryptographic hash function acts as a user-specific digital fingerprint. Similar to how each person’s fingerprint is different, different input messages will result in different hash values.
Digital signatures are the primary application of public key cryptography’s (PKC’s) two cryptographic keys that mutually authenticate each other.
Data pertaining to the digital signature is encrypted by the signer with a private key, and the signer’s public key is required to decrypt that data. Receivers can use this to verify that the sender is trustworthy and that the data they are receiving is accurate.
Users regularly lose their private keys, just as they would their actual keys, making managing public key infrastructure expensive and challenging. Certificate Authorities (CAs) act as reliable third parties and offer digital signatures by accepting, validating, issuing, and maintaining digital certificates.
CAs help to stop the production of fake digital certificates. Additionally verified is the trust service provider (TSP). A TSP is a natural person or business that verifies digital signatures for an organization and then reports the findings.
The Benefits of an SBOM that is Digitally Signed
A checksum, which is a lengthy string of letters and numbers signifying the sum of a piece of digital data’s precise digits that may be compared to find errors or alterations, is included in a signed software bill of materials cyber security. A sort of digital fingerprint is a checksum.
It frequently checks for redundancy (CRC). In digital networks and storage devices, changes to raw data are detected using an error-detecting algorithm and a verification function. All signatories are bound by the procedures and actions stated in the bill since a digital signature is designed to be a validated and secure method of verifying transaction authenticity – once signed, a person cannot claim otherwise.
Having an Unsigned SBOM: Problems
An unsigned SBOM cannot be validated because one of the digital signatures’ main purposes is verification. Think of it like a contract: if the parties do not sign it, it cannot be enforced. Similarly to that, an unsigned SBOM is just that—an unsigned document for which your consumer cannot hold you accountable.
Future problems may arise as a result of an unsigned SBOM endangering the security of your company. A signed SBOM no longer provides protection for anything, and data and information can now be moved around or copied anywhere. An unsigned SBOM loses one of its main goals, accountability because changes can be made to it without having any negative effects on the creator or client.
Improve Cybersecurity Using SBOM
One of the best ways for enterprises to guarantee the security and accuracy of their data and processes is through the use of SBOMs. By encouraging transparency among software suppliers, clients, and developers, they also established a precedent for the sector.
Organizations can safely inform partners of operational specifics during the contracting process if standards are in place. Organizations will be more successful in identifying errors, vulnerabilities, and zero-day threats as SBOMs become more widespread. The worldwide adoption of the Software Bill of Materials is unquestionably a success for software supply chain security.
Using VEX to Make Your SBOM More Usable
Vulnerability A security alert called Exploitability eXchange (VEX) tries to highlight the exploitability of vulnerabilities in the context of the product where they are found. The results of a vulnerability scan on the majority of modern applications could reach hundreds or thousands.
Only about 5% of all known vulnerabilities may be used in an attack. It’s also crucial to understand that exploitability is almost never a singular issue.
Most frequently, an exploitable issue arises from a complicated use-case of interdependent open-source libraries, modules, and the code that uses them.
Unless you change your application and run a fresh SBOM to describe it, the inventory represented in a BOM is typically static. The vulnerability information is far more mutable and dynamic. You can modify your VEX data without creating and maintaining additional BOMs if your VEX data is provided as a separate list.