New Research: SBOMs Are No Longer Optional

IT professionals and software developers should prepare for Software Bills of Materials (SBOMs) to become a regular part of the IT ecosystem, according to new research from the Linux Foundation.

The term, while already known to IT professionals, became more popular in the wake of several software supply chain security crises, including the SolarWinds compromise, the Kaseya-leveraged ransomware attack and the Log4j vulnerabilities.

The non-profit open-source advocacy group’s report, “The State of Software Bill of Materials and Cybersecurity Readiness” revealed that 78% of organizations are expecting to either produce or consume SBOMs in 2022, suggesting that IT and security professionals are interested in more transparency of software components.

Currently, just 47% are producing or consuming SBOMs, reflecting how attitudes toward transparency in the software ecosystem is rapidly changing.

In a statement, Jim Zemlin, the foundation’s executive director, says SBOMs are no longer optional.

“Businesses accelerating SBOM adoption following the publication of the new ISO standard (5962) or the White House Executive Order, are not only improving the quality of their software, they are better preparing themselves to thwart adversarial attacks following new open source vulnerability disclosures like those tied to log4j,” Zemlin says.

The report, the results of a survey of 412 global organizations, found that much of the interest in a detailed analysis of software components comes from those recent federal requirements, as more than 80% of organizations are aware of the executive order, and 76% are considering changes because of it.

According to the Linux Foundation, just 6% of organizations have no plans to consume SBOMs, while 42% plan to consume SBOMs in the next six to 24 months; 28% are consuming SBOMs across a few, some or many segments of their business; and 18% are consuming SBOMs across nearly all segments of their business or have standard practices that include the use of SBOMs.

The research found that 90% of organizations have started their SBOM journey.

The report finds that 10% of organizations have not begun any planning for SBOMs and 14% are in a planning or development phase. Survey participants revealed that 52% are addressing the subject in a few, some, or many areas of their business; 23% are addressing them across nearly all areas of their business or have standard practices that include the use of SBOMs.

This means that, overall, 76% of organizations have a degree of SBOM readiness, the report deduces.

Respondents say SBOMs provide a better approach to addressing reporting and compliance requirements, improve decision-making and help organizations more immediately understand their security exposures.

However, the survey did reveal that the IT industry is concerned with some uncertainties, including industry requirements, the availability of tools to automate SBOM consumption and industry consensus on what an SBOM should contain.

“In order to remove the uncertainty about industry-specific requirements for SBOMs, it requires a coordinated effort by government agencies, industry organizations (including industry-specific Information Sharing and Analysis Centers), and IT vendors and service providers to increase messaging around the SBOM value proposition, tools availability, integration capabilities, DevOps processes and best practices,” the report says.


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