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A software bill of materials (SBOM) is a structured list of components and dependencies that make up a software application or system. SBOMs include information such as the names and versions of all the components, the relationships between them, and their license and vulnerability information.
The evolution of SBOMs can be traced back to the increasing complexity of software applications and growing concerns about software supply chain security. For example, as software applications have become more complex and reliant on third-party components, it has become more difficult for developers and security teams to track and manage dependencies between the components.
Several high-profile security incidents, such as the SolarWinds hack, have emphasized the need for greater visibility and accountability in software supply chains. This has led to increased interest and adoption of SBOMs as a means of enhancing software security. In fact, the U.S. government is pushing for SBOMs, and they could become a leading element of third-party risk management monitoring and reporting in the near future.
This post examines how SBOMs apply to third-party risk management, reviews recent standardization efforts, and provides best practice recommendations to get started.
SBOMs have several applications in third-party management, including:
As the complexity of software applications continues to grow, it is essential that organizations have a clear understanding of their software components and their associated risks. SBOMs provide a structured way to achieve this visibility and accountability.
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While SBOMs have been around for some time, their adoption has grown as cybersecurity threats and regulations have necessitated more proactive approaches to managing third-party risk. The future of SBOMs in third-party risk management looks promising as more organizations recognize the importance of managing software supply chain risk. In fact, there are already initiatives underway to require SBOMs for certain types of software. Here are two examples:
One challenge with the adoption of SBOMs is the lack of standardization. Currently there are a few different industry standards for SBOM.
Overall, the choice of SBOM format may depend on the specific needs and requirements of the organization or industry using it, as well as the tools and systems being used to generate and consume the SBOM data. This increases complexity for third-party risk teams and technologies as they may need to consume, interpret and analyze multiple formats.
Regardless of the complexities involved, the use of SBOMs is expected to increase. As their use becomes more widespread, it is likely that they will become a standard part of third-party risk management practices. Organizations will be able to use SBOMs to identify vulnerabilities in third-party software and take proactive steps to mitigate those risks. In addition, regulators may require organizations to provide SBOMs as part of their compliance requirements. Here are some recommendations for considering the SBOM as a component of third-party due diligence:
By incorporating these recommendations into your third-party due diligence process, you can ensure that your organization can effectively manage the risks associated with third-party software components.
At Prevalent, we support SBOM files as evidence within the due diligence process. For more on how we can help you incorporate SBOMs into your TPRM program strategy, request a demo today.
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