Strengthening the SDLC to Defend the Supply Chain

Defensive Strategies for Securing the Software Supply Chain


This is the second blog post of a two-part series addressing key lessons learned from the PyPI security incidents. This blog post focuses on defense strategies for strengthening your security posture against supply-chain attacks. For more information about “typosquatting” and “dependency confusion” attacks, please check out the first blog post of the series.


Supply-Chain Risk Analysis

Part 1 of this two-part blog series outlined how typosquatting attacks were used to compromise the Python Package Index (PyPI). This highlights the current weaknesses of the software supply chain, especially when ingesting open-source components into larger software project. This second blog post presents some defensive strategies to help mitigate supply-chain risks.


Securing software development, especially when using third-party components, requires a detailed supply-chain risk analysis. This process starts with mapping the supply chain to identify all third-party elements. Next, each component is checked for weaknesses against known vulnerabilities databases like the National Vulnerability Database.


After identifying vulnerabilities, they are prioritized based on their potential impact. This allows teams to focus on the most critical issues first. Mitigation measures include updating vulnerable dependencies or finding more secure alternatives to enforce security policies.


Continuous monitoring is essential due to the dynamic nature of software development and the emergence of new vulnerabilities. CI/CD tools with integrated security scanning ensure ongoing assessment of changes and new dependencies. Regular use of software composition analysis (SCA) tools is also crucial for keeping the risk profile updated.


Though integrating these tools and processes into the workflow requires effort and investment upfront, the long-term payoff is a more secure, resilient software supply chain. This is critical for minimizing breach risks and meeting regulatory standards, making the investment in supply-chain security a necessity for modern software development.



Implementation of DevSecOps

Transitioning to a DevSecOps framework involves not just changing tools and processes, but also a significant cultural shift within an organization. It requires development, operations and security teams to collectively take on security responsibilities throughout the software life cycle. This shift, however, comes with both financial and operational challenges.


Financially, moving to DevSecOps means investing in tools that integrate security into the DevOps workflow and training staff to use these tools effectively. These costs depend on the tools' complexity and how widely they are deployed.


Operationally, teams that are used to more traditional work practices may resist the changes involved with integrating security with development and operations. Overcoming this requires changing workflows, improving team communication, and ensuring everyone understands their role in security. This often means ongoing training and updates to policies and strategies.


Despite these challenges, adopting DevSecOps offers significant benefits. It improves software quality by integrating security early in the development process, reducing the risk of breaches and ensuring compliance. This approach not only protects against threats, but also can save costs over time compared to addressing security issues after deployment. Furthermore, a strong security posture can increase customer trust.



Enhanced Dependency Management

Dependency management involves the strategic implementation of tools and practices designed to automate and secure the management of software dependencies. By leveraging these tools, organizations can ensure that only verified, secure packages are incorporated into their projects, thereby mitigating the risk of introducing vulnerabilities through third-party libraries.


How Enhanced Dependency Management Works

Below are some tools and best practices you can use to improve dependency management:


Automated Scanning and Monitoring: These tools continuously scan project dependencies against databases of known vulnerabilities. They alert developers when a dependency is found to be vulnerable or outdated, as well as recommend or even automatically update to a more secure version.


Whitelisting and Blacklisting: Some dependency management tools allow teams to create approved (whitelist) and disallowed (blacklist) lists of packages, ensuring developers only use components that comply with organizational security policies.


Semantic Versioning Enforcement: These tools can enforce policies around semantic versioning—ensuring that automatic updates do not introduce breaking changes without proper review, while keeping security patches up to date.


While the adoption of enhanced dependency management tools and practices may require initial setup and configuration effort, the long-term benefits in securing the software supply chain and maintaining project integrity far outweigh the initial investment. Enhanced dependency management not only streamlines the update process, but also helps protect projects against the introduction of security vulnerabilities, making it an essential practice for modern software development.



Software Bill of Materials (SBOM)

The integration of SBOM tools into the CI/CD pipeline is a pivotal strategy for enhancing software supply chain security. An SBOM provides a detailed inventory of all software components in an application, including open-source and proprietary elements. This comprehensive visibility is crucial for understanding the security, licensing and operational risks associated with each component.


By leveraging SBOM tools within the CI/CD pipeline, organizations can significantly enhance their security posture, reduce compliance risks and make informed decisions about the software components they use. This proactive approach to software component management is an essential element of modern, secure software development practices.



Developer Education and Security Training

Developer education and security training are key to strengthening an organization's defense against cybersecurity threats, particularly from open-source software. By building a culture of security awareness, developers can identify and address risks effectively.


Adopting developer education and security training significantly boosts an organization's resilience. These programs equip developers with the necessary knowledge and tools to handle security risks and promote a proactive approach to cybersecurity. This not only makes developers capable of safeguarding against threats, but also embeds a culture of continuous security improvement. By fostering more educational opportunities, organizations can foster a more proactive security culture.



Zero Trust Architecture for CI/CD Pipelines

Integrating Zero Trust architecture into CI/CD pipelines changes security from focusing on perimeter defense to emphasizing identity and access at every step. This approach scrutinizes every action within the pipeline, from code submission to deployment, ensuring all access is verified and authorized. It shifts the security mindset to one where trust is never assumed and must be constantly validated, whether the request comes from inside or outside the organization.


To achieve this, organizations use specific tools for identity verification and access management, alongside automated enforcement of security policies. These tools are essential for embedding Zero Trust principles into the CI/CD process, making security a fundamental part of software development and deployment.


By adopting Zero Trust, organizations enhance their security posture, making it more proactive and adaptive to new threats. This ensures that security is an ongoing aspect of the development life cycle, maintaining the integrity and reliability of software in a secure manner.




By embracing the comprehensive security measures outlined above, organizations can enhance their defenses against the increasingly sophisticated threats targeting the software supply chain. Optiv champions a layered, multifaceted approach to security that integrates advanced technological solutions, education, process innovation and strong governance. Our stance is not merely reactive; it is about building a proactive, security-first culture within the development life cycle to safeguard the integrity and security of the software supply-chain.


As the digital landscape evolves, so does the sophistication of cyber threats. In this dynamic environment, a strategic partnership with Optiv can provide the guidance and solutions necessary to navigate these challenges successfully. We invite organizations to explore our Secure SDLC and AI/ML security offerings, which are tailor-made to bolster defenses, foster innovation, and drive business success securely.

Jim Canup Headshot
Sr. Practice Manager | Optiv
Jim Canup is a strategic, risk-oriented professional with over 30 years of cybersecurity experience, specializing in application security across a broad range of industries. Canup has a proven track record of implementing and managing various application security programs. His initial roots in software development allow him to understand the unique needs of the development, quality and security roles within an organization. Additionally, Canup has extensive experience working with top-level executives, which gives him a keen understanding of the delicate balance between technical needs and business needs.

Optiv Security: Secure greatness.®

Optiv is the cyber advisory and solutions leader, delivering strategic and technical expertise to nearly 6,000 companies across every major industry. We partner with organizations to advise, deploy and operate complete cybersecurity programs from strategy and managed security services to risk, integration and technology solutions. With clients at the center of our unmatched ecosystem of people, products, partners and programs, we accelerate business progress like no other company can. At Optiv, we manage cyber risk so you can secure your full potential. For more information, visit