When product security teams start out, they soon encounter an early challenge: managing a portfolio of legacy software. That means quickly getting a handle on its risks. 

Enter SBOM. The Software Bill of Materials provides a detailed inventory of software components, and enables teams, struggling to stand up everything else, a way to assess and understand the risks associated with each part of their software ecosystem.

Early product security initiatives may adopt a manual approach to creating SBOMs, but that approach soon grows inefficient and unwieldy.

Nevertheless, with those first SBOMs in hand, fledgling product security teams can get things moving. They take on a product portfolio's most critical vulnerabilities even if they often adopt a reactionary approach, so they can get to immediate threats.

That reactionary mode may leave little time to consider how to do things better, when the goal is to just get them done. 

First Passes at the SBOM

Teams can manually create a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM). It's a process that, with enough detail, structure, and discipline, is certainly feasible. Yet, while this method may work, it begs the question of efficiency and scalability in today's fast-paced and complex digital environments.

Creating a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) manually is a journey through a meticulous and structured labyrinth of software components. The first step is defining the scope, which means dissecting your software product or application layer by layer, from the application interface down to the underlying operating system components. Next comes the inventory of components, a task much like cataloging every piece of a vast machinery - every piece of open-source and proprietary code, every library, every dependency, all documented with precise version numbers, license information, and sources.

Each component then requires its own dossier, detailing its name, version, origin, purpose, and any associated license or security concerns. Tracking dependencies follows, a crucial step for untangling the web of interconnections that could become potential vulnerabilities. This process demands not only thoroughness but also a continuous effort to verify and validate, often involving cross-checks with developers and comparisons with public vulnerability databases.

Documenting all this information in a standard format, like SPDX or CycloneDX, is critical for compatibility and practical use. But remember, an SBOM isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it task; it requires regular updates, security reviews, and a comprehensive policy for its creation and maintenance.

You Can Create SBOMs Manually, But Why Would You Want To?

While creating an SBOM manually is a testament to thoroughness and attention to detail, it's a labor-intensive endeavor that engenders the question: In an era where automation and advanced tools like Finite State’s Next Generation Platform are available, offering streamlined, comprehensive, and efficient alternatives, why remain anchored to a manual process?

These advanced tools not only ease the burden but also enhance the quality and scope of the SBOM, making the manual process seem more like a choice of the past rather than a necessity of the present.

Why Consider Automation When Creating SBOMs?

Creating an SBOM manually is labor-intensive and requires meticulous attention to detail. Automation tools can significantly ease this process, especially for larger projects. They can automatically detect and list components, helping maintain the SBOM as the software evolves.

While the manual creation of a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) provides a foundational approach to understanding and managing the components of your software, it can be a daunting and resource-intensive task. This is where the power of automation and advanced technology comes into play. Finite State's Next Generation Platform revolutionizes this process by offering a sophisticated, automated solution.

Leveraging its extensive capabilities, the platform not only simplifies the creation and management of SBOMs but also elevates the depth and breadth of security analysis. The transition from a manual, labor-intensive process to Finite State’s automated, comprehensive approach marks a significant advancement in how organizations can efficiently manage risk across their software supply chain.

How Can Finite State Help You Automate SBOMs?

Using an automated tool like Finite State's Next Generation Platform for creating and managing Software Bills of Materials (SBOMs) offers several key benefits, especially when compared to manual creation and management. Here's how Finite State's platform enhances the process:

  1. Comprehensive SBOM Management: The platform's extended SBOM management capabilities allow for the ingestion and aggregation of data from over 150 external sources. This provides a more complete and accurate representation of the components of your software supply chain.

  2. Unified Risk View: With data aggregated from over 200 sources, security teams gain a unified view of risks, prioritized for effective management. This visibility is crucial for identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities in the software supply chain.

  3. Efficient Generation and Distribution: The Finite State Next Generation Platform generates, collects, visualizes, manages, and distributes SBOMs, significantly streamlining the product security process. This automation saves time and resources compared to manually creating and managing SBOMs.

  4. Integration with Multiple Scanners and Feeds: By ingesting scans from more than 150 scanners and feeds, the platform unifies all defensive tools within the context of your specific environment. This integration ensures that no aspect of the software supply chain is overlooked.

  5. Context-Aware Remediation Guidance: The platform provides remediation guidance that aggregates and reconciles results from all scans, both generated and ingested. This context-aware approach leads to more effective and relevant recommendations for addressing vulnerabilities.

  6. Advanced Software Composition Analysis (SCA): The platform's world-class binary SCA and enhanced SBOM capabilities decompose a product or asset into its many components, facilitating a detailed and focused risk assessment.

  7. Sophisticated Risk Scoring Methodology: With its robust scoring methodology, the platform conveys a product's or system's risk levels. This sophisticated risk prioritization helps in identifying and focusing on the most critical issues.

  8. Support for VEX Formats and Vulnerability Intelligence: The ability to import and export all VEX formats, combined with advanced vulnerability intelligence correlation, ensures that the platform is equipped to handle diverse data formats and provide insights based on the latest threat intelligence.

Finite State's Next Generation Platform automates and enhances the process of creating and managing SBOMs, providing comprehensive visibility, integrated risk management, and context-aware remediation guidance. This approach not only saves time and resources but also ensures a more effective and thorough understanding of your software supply chain's security posture.