In an era marked by escalating cyber threats and a seismic shift towards digital dependence, the integrity, transparency, and security of software supply chains have never been more vital. The widespread adoption of Software Bill of Materials (SBOMs) has emerged as not only a critical response to these challenges but also in strategic alignment with the President's new cybersecurity agenda, key regulatory directives, and growing corporate governance focus.
The recent Biden-Harris 2023 Cybersecurity Strategy heralds a profound realignment in how we approach cybersecurity, placing the responsibility firmly on the shoulders of software producers and recognizing SBOMs as a cornerstone of modern digital risk management. This follows a series of directives, from Executive Order 14028 to OMB memorandums, all pointing towards the pivotal role of SBOMs in enhancing transparency and fortifying security across sectors.
Software Bill of Materials (SBOMs) provide:
- Visibility into the components used in software, firmware, and open-source applications.
- Transparency into applications similar to the way food labels provide an ingredients list.
- Accountability to a software supplier’s code security practices, dependence on legacy software, vulnerabilities, and foreign influence.
- Defense against software supply chain attacks which were previously impractical to monitor.
The urgency to adopt SBOMs is not only driven by regulatory pressures but underscored by a favorable financial landscape. A compelling business case is emerging, with evidence of substantial savings offsetting 33% to 55% of relevant IT security spend. The business case unveils a staggering $40 billion challenge in the software supply chain. Coupled with potential sector-specific incentives and strategic capital treatment under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), investments in SBOMs offer organizations a rare convergence of risk mitigation and financial reward.
Who should be aware of SBOMs?
From utilities to healthcare, the call for SBOMs is resonating across industries, embodied by initiatives such as the North American Energy Software Assurance Database (NAESAD). There is a shared recognition that SBOMs are essential to identifying, analyzing, and resolving potential software-related risks within the supply chain, especially in vital domains like operational technology (OT), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), cloud, and critical IT software.
Despite this growing consensus, challenges remain. The path to feasible and sustainable SBOM adoption demands collective action, strategic investments, and industry-wide collaboration. The National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) in its 2023 Director’s Handbook emphasizes the necessity of using SBOMs in designing and deploying technology securely, signifying an evolving governance focus on this critical issue.
In conclusion, the adoption of SBOMs is not a matter of choice but an imperative. As our digital ecosystem becomes increasingly intricate and susceptible to sophisticated threats, SBOMs offer a potent solution that aligns with national strategy, satisfies regulatory compliance, and presents an attractive financial opportunity. The time to act is now, for the security of our digital future depends on the decisions we make today.