Home Software Composition Analysis: the Secret Weapon Against Supply Chain Attacks

Software Composition Analysis: the Secret Weapon Against Supply Chain Attacks

A supply chain attack is a type of cyber attack in which an attacker targets a company’s supply chain to gain access to sensitive information or disrupt operations. This can be done by compromising a supplier, vendor, or third-party service provider and using that access to infiltrate the target company’s systems. These attacks can be difficult to detect and prevent because they often originate from outside the target company’s own network.

Examples of supply chain attacks include the SolarWinds hack, in which a Russian hacking group compromised a software company’s updates to gain access to multiple government and private sector networks, and the NotPetya malware attack, which used a compromised software update to spread malware throughout multiple organizations.

In this article, I’ll explain the supply chain risk and show how software composition analysis (SCA), an innovative security tool, can help mitigate it.

Understanding the Supply Chain Threat

Software supply chains are complex systems that involve numerous interconnected entities, and any disruption to these systems can have severe consequences for businesses, consumers, and the broader economy.

Here are some important things to understand about the threat to supply chains:

  • Dependency: Many companies depend on a global network of suppliers and partners to manufacture and distribute their products. Disruptions to any of these links in the supply chain can have a cascading effect on other parts of the chain, leading to delays, increased costs, or even complete shutdowns.
  • Vulnerability: Supply chains are vulnerable to a wide range of risks, including natural disasters, cyberattacks, geopolitical events, and pandemics. The interconnected nature of these systems means that a problem in one part of the chain can quickly spread to other areas.
  • Resilience: Building resilience into supply chains is essential to mitigating the impact of disruptions. This can involve diversifying suppliers and partners, creating redundancy in critical processes, and developing contingency plans for different types of risks.
  • Collaboration: Collaboration and communication among supply chain partners are key to identifying and addressing potential threats. Establishing trust and transparency between partners can help improve visibility into supply chain operations.

What Is Software Composition Analysis and How Does it Help with the Supply Chain Threat?

Software composition analysis (SCA) is a process used to identify and assess the security risks associated with the use of third-party software components in an application. SCA tools scan the application’s source code and dependencies to identify software components and check them against known vulnerabilities and licenses.

SCA enables companies to identify and address any potential security risks associated with using third-party software components and to make informed decisions about which software components to use in their applications.

SCA tools provide various features that can help defend against supply chain attacks, including:

  • Vulnerability scanning: SCA tools scan the application’s code and dependencies for known vulnerabilities and provide detailed information about any found vulnerabilities. This allows companies to identify and fix vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them.
  • License compliance: SCA tools check the licenses of all third-party software components used in an application, ensuring that the company is compliant with any legal obligations associated with the use of those components.
  • Outdated software identification: SCA tools can help identify software components that are no longer supported, allowing companies to avoid using them in their applications.
  • Automatic updates: Some SCA tools automatically update the application with newer versions of software components, ensuring that the application is always up-to-date and protected against known vulnerabilities.

Tips for Adopting Software Composition Analysis

While SCA can be a powerful defensive measure for your supply chain, adopting SCA tools can be a challenge. Here are the best practices to consider to make SCA adoption smoother:

Find a Developer-Friendly Tool

Finding a developer-friendly tool for SCA is considered a best practice for several reasons:

  • Ease of integration: A developer-friendly SCA tool is easy to integrate into the development process, which means that developers can quickly and easily scan their code for vulnerabilities and address any issues that are found. This reduces the time and effort required to perform SCA, making it more likely that developers will use the tool.
  • Clear and actionable results: A developer-friendly SCA tool provides clear and actionable results, making it easy for developers to understand and address any vulnerabilities that are found. This helps developers to fix vulnerabilities quickly and effectively, reducing the risk of a supply chain attack.
  • Automation: A developer-friendly SCA tool offers automation features, such as automatic updates of dependencies, which means that developers do not have to update their code manually. This saves developers time and reduces the risk of human error.
  • Customizable: A developer-friendly SCA tool is customizable, which means that developers can configure the tool to meet the specific needs of their application. This helps to ensure that the tool is tailored to the specific vulnerabilities of the application and provides the most accurate results.

Integrate SCA Directly Into Your CI/CD Pipeline

Integrating Software Composition Analysis (SCA) into the Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline is important for several reasons:

  • Real-time security: Integrating SCA into the CI/CD pipeline means that vulnerabilities are identified and addressed in real-time, before attackers can exploit them. This helps to ensure that the application is always secure and reduces the risk of a supply chain attack.
  • Faster deployment: Integrating SCA into the CI/CD pipeline allows for faster application deployment, as vulnerabilities are identified and addressed before the application is deployed. This helps to ensure that the application is always up-to-date and secure.
  • Cost-effective: Integrating SCA into the CI/CD pipeline is cost-effective, as vulnerabilities are identified and addressed early in the development process before they can cause significant damage. This reduces the costs associated with fixing vulnerabilities and restoring systems after a supply chain attack.
  • Continuous monitoring: Integrating SCA into the CI/CD pipeline allows for continuous monitoring of the application, which means that vulnerabilities are identified and addressed as soon as they are discovered, reducing the risk of a supply chain attack.


In conclusion, supply chain attacks target the weak spot in the chain to inflict damage on all other parties connected to this chain. As a result, successful supply chain attacks can inflict massive damage on many parties, as demonstrated by the SolarWinds attack.

SCA tools can help protect against supply chain attacks by providing a detailed analysis of third-party components and licenses. This level of visibility helps identify vulnerabilities and security issues that might be exploited by supply chain attacks, ensuring developers can fix issues and minimize the attack surface.

Featured Image Credit: Provided by the Author; freepic.com; Thank you!

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Gilad Maayan
Technology writer

I'm a technology writer with 20 years of experience working with leading technology brands including SAP, Imperva, CheckPoint, and NetApp. I am a three-time winner of the International Technical Communication Award. Today I lead Agile SEO, the leading marketing and content agency in the technology industry.

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