The Long Tail Of The Open-Source Software Supply Chain

Moshe Bar is co-founder and CEO of Codenotary. Formerly, he co-established Qumranet (sold to Purple Hat) and XenSource (acquired by Citrix).

In just the final several months, we have witnessed several illustrations of how the software supply chain can be compromised with disastrous and vast-ranging results. And when I say broad-ranging, I necessarily mean that it has an effect on just about just about every corporation and individual. New compromises we’ve noticed crop up incorporate commonly noted external attacks these types of as log4j, which have brought about organizations of all varieties and measurements to scramble, looking not just to mitigate the short-expression outcomes of stability vulnerabilities but also hunting for extended-time period answers on how to level up software package source chain protection.

Even a lot more noteworthy, now we’re also looking at disruption in the software program source chain—without destructive intent—from maintainers of open up-resource software package. For case in point, a developer of a extremely common open up-supply ingredient slipped in some harmless but extremely disruptive code though stating his discontent: “I am no for a longer period heading to assistance Fortune 500s with my no cost operate.”

These recent situations, apart from shining a light on a freshly weaponized course of vulnerabilities by themselves, also spotlight a further urgent problem concerning the depth of penetration of open-supply software program into the world wide program provide chain and how to safe the very long tail of hundreds of thousands of open up-supply computer software parts. These may possibly have come from a solitary “lone wolf” developer or may perhaps have been produced as a volunteer task that is managed by only a handful of people today, or even, occasionally, none at all. Although the code is brazenly obtainable and the initiatives are free of charge to use, most developers probably developed the program to scratch an itch with security as an afterthought.

As that program gets to be a lot more well-known and made use of much more commonly, ordinarily, the code expands to incorporate supplemental characteristics, and only then is attention concentrated on protection, consequently producing the maintainer(s) to do more work—in a lot of situations, devoid of any payment. Offered the relevance of open-source computer software that is in use practically in all places right now and its effects on the total computer software supply chain, it really is clear that the design is terribly broken. We must get started contemplating of alternatives on a broader scale for ongoing servicing and safety.

Open source has constantly been about local community, and it’s time the local community rethinks the worth proposition when it will come to paying these maintainers of the software program on which all people relies upon. Many take donations or sponsorships, so logic states that if you happen to be relying on a individual piece of computer software, “You should not ignore to tip the waiter.” This goes a very long way, supplying maintainers with validation and acknowledgment for their get the job done and—here is the significant part—helping them dedicate the time necessary to be certain their software package is a secure section of the overall program supply chain.

As an industry and as customers of application, we need to ensure the integrity of the program source chain. That starts with great company procedures, such as a reliable, tamper-proof program invoice of products (SBOM), alongside with tracking just about every software package element and exactly where and how it is made use of. That gets us midway to the mission of assuring a safe and sound and secure computer software supply chain. The second part—or the lengthy tail—of assuring the computer software offer chain involves setting up a romantic relationship and payment product for the maintainers of the program that we are all dependent on.


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Stacee R. Grigg

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