A Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) is a structured list that provides detailed information about the components, dependencies, and attributes of software used in a particular application or system. It functions as a "parts list" for software, analogous to the bill of materials used in manufacturing and construction industries.
An SBOM typically includes information such as the names and versions of software components, their suppliers or sources, and any associated licenses or vulnerabilities. It helps organizations understand and manage the software they are using or developing, enabling them to identify potential security risks, track software updates, and ensure compliance with licensing requirements.
The main purpose of an SBOM is to enhance software transparency and enable better risk management. With the growing complexity of software systems and the increasing reliance on third-party components, it becomes crucial to have a clear understanding of the software supply chain. An SBOM allows organizations to assess the security posture of their software by identifying known vulnerabilities and dependencies on components with known issues.
The SBOM concept has gained prominence in recent years due to cybersecurity concerns and the need for improved software governance. It supports supply chain security initiatives, vulnerability management, and incident response efforts. It also promotes collaboration and information sharing among software developers, suppliers, and consumers.
Regulatory bodies, such as the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), have recognized the importance of SBOMs and have begun to advocate for their adoption. In May 2021, the U.S. government issued an executive order mandating the use of SBOMs in federal agencies' software procurement processes.
By implementing SBOM practices, organizations can gain visibility into their software assets, mitigate security risks, and improve their overall software development and management processes. It facilitates informed decision-making, enables efficient tracking of software updates and patches, and enhances the overall security and resilience of software systems.