DevOps Supply Chain Security: A Case for DevSecOps

DevOps Supply Chain Security: A Case for DevSecOps

DevOps supply chain security is becoming another use case for DevSecOps as enterprises seek innovative solutions to secure this attack vector. 60% of the 2021 Anchore Software Supply Chain Report considers securing the software supply chain as a top or significant focus area. DevSecOps gives enterprises the foundational tools and processes to support this security focus.

Anatomy of a Software Supply Chain Attack

A software supply chain is analogous to a manufacturing supply chain in the auto industry. It includes anything that impacts your software, especially open source and custom software components. The sources for these components come from outside an organization such as an open source software (OSS) project, third-party vendor, contractor, or partner.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has a concise and easy-to-understand definition of software supply chain attack:

A software supply chain attack occurs when a cyber threat actor infiltrates a software vendor’s network and employs malicious code to compromise the software before the vendor sends it to their customers. 

Many organizations see increased value from in-house software development by adopting open source technology and containers to build and package software for the cloud quickly. Usually branded as Digital Transformation, this shift comes with trade-offs rarely highlighted by vendors and boutique consulting firms selling the solutions. You can get past these trade-offs with OSS by establishing an open source program office (OSPO) to manage your OSS governance.

They do not limit these risks to criminal hacking, and fragility in your supply chain comes in many forms. One type of risk comes from single contributors that could object morally to the use of their software, like what happened when one developer decided he didn’t like President Trump’s support of ICE and pulled his package from NPM. Or unbeknownst to your legal team, you could distribute software without a proper license, as with any container that uses Alpine Linux as the base image. 

Why DevSecOps for Software Supply Chain Security?

DevSecOps practices focus on breaking down silos, improving collaboration, and of course, shifting security left to integrate it early in the development process before production. These and other DevSecOps practices are foundational to secure cloud-native software development.

Software supply chain security in the post SolarWinds and Codecov world is continuously evolving. Some of the brightest minds in commercial and public sector cybersecurity are stepping up to mitigate the risks of potential software supply chain attacks. It’s a nearly impossible task currently. 

Here are some reasons why DevSecOps is a must for software supply chain security:

Unify your CI/CD Pipeline

The sooner you can unify your CI/CD pipeline, the sooner you can implement controls, allowing your security controls to shift left, according to InfoWorld. Implementing multiple controls across multiple systems is a recipe for disaster.

Unifying your CI/CD pipeline also gives you another opportunity to level set current tool standards, but you can upgrade tools as necessary to improve security and compliance.

Target Dependencies in Software Code

A DevSecOps toolchain gives you the tools, processes, and analytics to target dependencies in the software code coursing through your software supply chain. Less than half of our software supply chain survey respondents report scanning open source software (OSS) containers and using private repositories for dependencies.

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect solution to detecting your software dependencies. Thus, you need to resort to multiple solutions across your DevSecOps toolchain and software supply chain. Here are some traditional solutions:

  • Implement software container scanning using a tool such as Anchore Enterprise (of course!) at critical points across your supply chain, such as before checking containers into your private repository
  • Analyze code dependencies specified in the manifest file or lock files
  • Track and analyze dependencies that your build process pulls into the release candidate
  • Examine build artifacts before they enter your registry via tools and processes

The appropriate targeting of software dependencies raises the stature of the software bill of materials (SBOM) as a potent software supply chain security measure. 

Use DevSecOps Collaboration to Break Down DevOps Supply Chain Barriers

DevSecOps isn’t just about tools and processes. It also instills improvements in culture, especially for cross-team collaboration. While DevSecOps culture is a work in progress for the average enterprise, and it should be that way, focusing a renewed focus on software supply chain security is cause for you to extend your DevSecOps culture to your contractors and third-party suppliers that make up your software supply chain.

DevSecOps frees your security team from being the last stop before production. They are free to be more proactive at earlier stages of the software supply chain through frameworks, automated testing, and improved processes. Collaborating with the security team takes on some extra dimensions with software supply security because they’ll deal with some additional considerations:

  • Onboarding OSS securely to their supply chain
  • Intaking third-party vendor technologies while maintaining security and compliance
  • Collaborating with contractor and partner security teams as a player-coach to integrate their code into their final product

Structure DevSecOps with a Framework and Processes

As companies continue to move to the cloud, it’s becoming increasingly apparent they should integrate DevSecOps into their cloud infrastructure. Some pain points will likely arise, but their duration will be short and their payoffs large, according to InfoQ.

A DevSecOps framework brings accountability and standardization leading to an improved security posture. It should encompass the following:

  • Visibility into dependencies through the use of automated container scanning and SBOM generation
  • Automation of CI/CD pipelines through the use of AI/ML tools and other emerging technologies
  • Mastery over the data that your pipelines generate gives your technology and cybersecurity stakeholders the actionable intelligence they require to respond effectively to technical issues in the build lifecycle and cybersecurity incidents

Final Thoughts

As more commercial and public sector enterprises focus on improving the security posture of their software supply chains, DevSecOps provides the framework, tools, and culture change that can serve as a foundation for software supply chain security. Just as important, DevSecOps also provides the means to pivot and iterate on your software supply chain security in the interests of continuous improvement.

Want to learn more about supply chain security? Download our Expert Guide to Software Supply Chain Security White Paper!