Unlocking the Power of Transparency: Why Your Enterprise Needs a Software Bill of Materials Now

With 20 years in the trenches of information security, I’ve had a front-row seat to the evolving landscape of cyber threats and vulnerabilities. One concept that has been gaining traction recently, and is absolutely critical for any organization to understand and implement, is the Software Bill of Materials (SBOM). In this blog post, I’ll cover what an SBOM is, why it’s essential, incidents that make its adoption urgent, and actionable steps for enterprises to start implementing it.

What is a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM)?

A Software Bill of Materials is essentially an inventory of all software components within a software product, akin to a list of ingredients for a packaged food product. It provides comprehensive details on each software component including its source, version, and other relevant metadata. Typically, it covers:

  • Open-source libraries
  • Commercial libraries
  • Custom code components
  • External APIs and services
  • Runtime environments

Why is SBOM Needed?


Imagine deploying a network of devices or servers running software whose inner workings you are largely unaware of. It’s a black box; you don’t know what’s inside, and thus, you don’t know what vulnerabilities lie within it.

Compliance and Governance

Regulations are catching up. Initiatives like GDPR, CCPA, and other data protection acts are increasingly requiring organizations to be transparent about their software’s composition for compliance reasons.

Faster Incident Response

In case of vulnerabilities, an SBOM allows you to quickly identify affected systems and components, helping you to patch them efficiently.

Supply Chain Integrity

Supply chain attacks are on the rise. In 2020, the SolarWinds attack compromised more than 18,000 organizations globally. SBOM helps in tracing the origin of every component, aiding you in establishing the integrity of your software supply chain.

Past Incidents Highlighting the Need for SBOM

Data speaks louder than words. Let’s take a look at some past incidents that make SBOM an imperative rather than an option.


The SolarWinds attack affected governmental organizations and corporations alike. Had there been an SBOM, tracing the compromised component would have been faster and more accurate.


Remember the Heartbleed vulnerability that exploited the OpenSSL cryptographic software library? An SBOM could have helped organizations identify which of their systems were using the vulnerable version of OpenSSL, leading to quicker remediation.

Equifax Breach

The 2017 Equifax breach, which exposed the data of 147 million Americans, happened due to a vulnerability in Apache Struts. A complete SBOM would have enabled quicker identification and patching of the software.

How Can Enterprises Start their SBOM Journey?

Conduct an Inventory

First and foremost, you need to know what you’re working with. Generate a list of all software products running across your network, both commercial and custom-built.

Choose SBOM Tools and Standards

SBOM generation can be automated through tools like SPDX (Software Package Data Exchange), CycloneDX, and others. These tools support different SBOM formats and standards like JSON, XML, etc.

Integrate with CI/CD Pipelines

For agile organizations, integrating SBOM generation within the CI/CD pipeline will keep the SBOMs updated as new versions of software are rolled out.

Vendor Assessment

Require your software vendors to provide an SBOM. This practice is becoming an industry standard, and it’s essential for maintaining supply chain integrity.

Regular Audits

A periodic review of your SBOMs can help you stay abreast of any changes and understand your risk profile.

Ending Note

The adoption of SBOMs isn’t just a passing trend; it’s a necessity in today’s cyber landscape. With the growing complexities of software and the increasing sophistication of cyber-attacks, understanding the ‘ingredients’ of your software isn’t just nice to have, it’s a must. The SBOM may very well be the unsung hero that could save your organization from becoming another statistic in the annals of cybercrime history.

So, don’t wait. Embark on your SBOM journey today and fortify your enterprise in a world where cyber threats are ever-present but not always visible.

Stay safe, stay vigilant.

Disclaimer: The data and opinions expressed in this blog are based on my experience in cybersecurity and do not represent the views of any organization.

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