Organizations and businesses have an increasing integration rate of applications and technologies. At least, even traditional businesses need a professional email service. Of course, an application helps businesses in many ways, from simple tasks like sending an email to complex processes like marketing automation. Cybercriminals look for loopholes within this software supply chain and proceed to inflict harm. So, you must learn ways to secure software supply chain used by your business or organization.  Below, we will discuss the meaning of a software supply chain, the common weaknesses, and how you can secure them.

What is a software supply chain?

The meaning of a software supply is quite simpler than people perceive it to be. Yes, the name sounds like a complex technology term. With a proper explanation, you would be interested in finding out about the software supply chain of your business and how to secure it. A software supply chain consists of many components, such as plugins, proprietary and open-source binaries, libraries, code, and configurations.

The components also include code analyzers, compilers, assemblers, security, monitoring, repositories, and logging ops tools. It extends to the processes, the brand, and the people involved in making the software. Computer companies like Apple make some parts by themselves, and they get some parts from other companies. For instance, the Apple M-series chip is made by Apple, while Samsung supplies its OLED panels. Like certain software, it is built using multiple codes, developers, configurations, and many other things. All the processes and components required to produce and distribute software are called a software supply chain.

What is software supply chain security?

Now you know the meaning of software supply chain, the protection of software from being overrun by cybercriminals is known as software supply chain security.

If hackers access the software used by a business or an organization, many things could be damaged as a result. Therefore, securing the components of your software from cyber attacks is necessary. Recently, most software isn’t built from scratch. It is a combination of your original code with other software artifacts. Since you don’t have much control of a third-party code or configuration, there might be vulnerabilities. But you need software, don’t you? Therefore, software supply chain security should be a very fundamental responsibility of your business. Data breaches and cyber-attacks have a long history, mostly involving a weak link in the software supply chain.

In 2013, 40 million credit card numbers and the details of more than 70 million customers were compromised on Target. Target had to pay about $18.5 million for this single event as a settlement for the cyber attack. Investigations showed the hackers gained access with the login credentials of a refrigerator contractor. You could see that the weak link that the cybercriminals exploited was the refrigerator contractor’s login credentials. According to a study by Venafi, about 82% of CIOs said the software supply chain they had in their company and organizations was vulnerable.

Techmonitor also reported that attacks on open-source software packages increased by 650% in 2021. Stats like this show the importance of securing your software supply chain from being exploited by cybercriminals.

Why are software supply chains vulnerable to cyber attacks?

Initially, you learned how a software supply chain contains components from custom codes to developers. Within these interconnected systems of technologies, cybercriminals look for security loopholes. When they find a loophole within the components, they exploit it and get access to the data. Aqua Security, a cloud-native security company, released a report in 2021 which showed that 90% of businesses and organizations were at risk of cyber attacks due to faulty cloud infrastructure.

Cloud infrastructure is virtual equipment used for software operation; it is part of a software supply chain. When hackers gain access to a cloud infrastructure, they can inject bugs and malware into it. The vulnerability of software supply chains also comes from the code bases. A code base is a full version of the source code typically stored in a source control repository. As reported by Synopsys, about 88% of organizations’ code bases contain vulnerable open-source software.

What are the software supply chain’s most common weaknesses?

Outdated Technology

When technology becomes outdated, growth in the number of security vulnerabilities becomes obvious. Using outdated technology on your software supply chain could mean a window for cybercriminals to gain access and steal data. A software supply chain with an updated technology version has lesser security vulnerabilities.

Flaws in software codes

Data exploitation will occur when cybercriminals spot a programming mistake in your software supply chain. A major factor that gives hackers and cybercrime agents a lead in their attack is when they see a flaw in a software code.

Software Provider Vulnerabilities

Many businesses use one software provider to carry out activities in their organization. For instance, many businesses depend on password management services to store passwords. Cybercriminals can easily inject malware into the application and wait for installation by a business. Usually utilized during cyberattacks, such loopholes are usually the fault of parent software providers.


Whaling is similar to phishing. The major difference is that whaling involves employees, while phishing targets a much larger audience. In the process of whaling attacks, cybercriminals send emails to employees posing as notable personalities in the company. With such emails, an unsuspecting employee can easily reveal credentials and information that should be kept private. Employees targeted for whaling attacks are usually the big guns of a company or organization, such as a manager or CIO (chief information officer).

Flawed IaC templates

IaC (infrastructure as codes) allows the creation of configuration files containing your infrastructure specifications. However, when there’s a flaw in any IaC templates, there are higher chances of your business or organization having a compromised software supply chain. A good example of the effects of a flawed IaC template was the version of OpenSSL that led to the Heartbleed bug. A very bad effect of a flawed IaC template is that the chances of a developer detecting it during the provisioning process are low.

VCSs and CI/CD weaknesses

VCSs (version control systems) and CI/CD are major components of a software supply chain. The storage, compilation, and deployment of third-party libraries and IaC modules are based on VCSs and CI/CDs. So if there’s any misconfiguration or weaknesses in any of them, cybercriminals can easily use that opportunity to compromise software supply chain security.

How to secure a software supply chain

Create a network air-gap

Air-gaping means that external devices connected to your network of computers and systems are disconnected. Sometimes, cybercriminals use external connections to attack a software supply chain. By air-gaping, the possibility of attack through that window is eliminated. 

Scan and patch your systems regularly

Software supply chain compromises often thrive on outdated technologies and broken codes. Regular updates will ensure that no technology within your software supply chain is outdated.

Have complete information on all the software used by your business

To have a clear idea of which system of software to patch, scan or update regularly, you need complete information on the applications used by your organization. With this information, you can schedule applications that need regular checks and updates and those that need monthly updates.

Sensitize employees

Employees are also elements and targets of breaches within an organization or company. When an employee is sensitive to how to use multi-factor authentication and other security practices, they won’t fall for cybercriminals.

Wrapping Up

A software supply chain contains an interconnected system of technologies, including custom codes and developers of software. From several reports, there has been an increasing rate of software supply chain breaches. Above, we discussed the causes of software supply chain security and the best practices you can apply to mitigate such compromises.

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