Effective SBOM management becomes a critical foundation for software supply chain management and when done properly it prevents SBOM sprawls. The concept of SBOMs has been around for decades now, and every tech company knows of its existence. The big difference today is that it has currently moved front end center — and why is that? Because coding and app creation has slowly transformed into a down-the-rabbit-hole affair. We are ingesting all manner of third-party apps, with their own Bill Of Materials, which we have to incorporate into our platforms, and so forth.
Why do SBOMs matter today?
A software Bill of Materials – BOM- is a listing of all the components, subcomponents, and the quantities of each component needed to manufacture a product — an app. It can also be used to list all the required parts for assembling a product or system.
The Software BOM is an important tool in the tech industry because it helps in estimating costs, reducing lead times, and basically gives consumers a clear idea of an app’s nutritional value. It makes them aware of what they will be ingesting and if they are willing to take the risk with a dodgy component. They are a key part of the software development industry, and, as apps become much more personal, much more embedded into our society, and much more capable of hoarding our data, they also start to serve another function — that of gatekeepers. Of allowing your company to be transparent not only to the public but to the government as to what is in your special sauce, and whether or not something might cause them indigestion.
What is Software Bill of Materials – SBOM – management?
Software Bill of Materials – SBOM – management is the process of managing the procurement, delivery, and inventory of software components. It is a crucial aspect of any software project. Today, software – due to the advent of open-source libraries and third-para code vendors – is a mish-mash affair. Your app’s DNA is a smorgasbord of other codes. You need to know everything about those components, about your “donors”. Each code comes with an SBOM – a profile of its makeup. And each one needs to be managed. Why? Because as you add them into your Frankenstein contraption you’ll need to understand what each one does.
Best practices for creating, managing, and using SBOMs — best SBOM security tips
Let’s take a look at some of the actions and tasks you can do to manage that flood of SBOMs you will inevitably have to face down.
Create a central repository.
Storing and managing SBOMs in a central repository
Your SBOMs need to be stored in a central repository, one that can be accessed from any device.
This solution provides a single point of access to the SBOMs and reduces the chances of human error.
With this solution, employees can work from any location with internet connectivity. It also eliminates the need for multiple copies of the same document in different places.
Support SBOM standards, while also generating and storing a richer set of metadata
The SBOM standard is a metadata industry-wide norm for describing the content of a digital document.
The standard is designed to be flexible and to allow for future expansion. The goal of the SBOM standard is to provide a common framework that allows organizations to share content without having to exchange proprietary formats or data structures.
The use cases for generating and storing richer metadata are varied. They include:
providing an overview of the contents of a document.
supporting search and retrieval.
establishing relationships between documents.
enabling better collaboration between authors.
allowing people with disabilities access to information in digital documents.
Demand an SBOM from everyone — all your vendors and coders.
Aks SBOM documents for all incoming software
The software development industry has been evolving rapidly over the past few decades. It is no secret that it is more competitive than ever before. There are more startups and established companies competing for the same clients, which means that developers have to work harder and smarter than ever before to stay ahead of their competition.
One way to do this is by reducing the time between idea and execution. The Software Bill of Materials – SBOM – document can help developers do just that by providing a list of prerequisite components needed for a given project, as well as any dependencies or other considerations they might need to take into account when developing new software.
Constantly update and generate your Bill of Materials
Generate SBOMs at each step in the development process and for each build
Software build management is a critical part of the software development process. A software build is a set of files, code, and settings that are collected together to form the complete application.
The following steps in the development process can be automated by SBOMs:
Create an SBOM for each release
Create a comprehensive SBOM tagged to each release of a particular piece of software
A Software Bill Of Material tagged to each generation of your app gives you a detailed idea of what was changed in each release. This helps with version control because if any bugs arise or new features need to be added, the developer can easily see what codes were tweaked, and what changes were made in each update.
Apply automation for policy enforcement and alerts
Automation provides a way to enforce policies and alerts without the need for human intervention. It also helps in reducing the number of false positive alerts that are generated. Always try to maximize your SBOM automation.
The use of automation is not limited to policy enforcement and alerts. It can be used for other tasks like generating reports, monitoring the network, etc.
What are SBOM sprawls?
Every code or app we integrate into our codebase has its own SBOM, and every one of their codes has an SBOM, and you have an SBOM, and your vendor has an SBOM, and that app you’re plugged in has an SBOM — see where we are going with this? Over time you’re simply swamped with thousands of Bill Of Materials. Up to your eyeballs trying to stay afloat and make sense of the whole debacle. More and more are generated, more and more flooding downstream into your systems. It’s natural and it’s incredibly frustrating. That is called an SBOM sprawl. And that is why SBOM management is pivotal nowadays.