Software bill of materials serves an important purpose for any organization with software attached to its product. SBOM is inevitable, except if an organization wants its software to be overrun with security threats and vulnerabilities.
However, some SBOM minimum requirements are considered during its creation; neglect of these requirements is unacceptable. On the other hand, considering these factors gives an organization extensive data on what makes up the software they use.
So in this article, you will get informative insights on the minimum elements required in creating a software bill of materials (SBOM).
What is a Software Bill of materials (SBOM)?
A software bill of materials (SBOM) is a descriptive list of data about all the elements affiliated with software. All the information in this software bill of materials starts from the production of such software to its current state.
You could compare the software bill of materials to the ingredients you may find in a fruit juice drink; you will find ingredients such as citric acid, orange flavor, and preservatives. The same applies to software which is made up of many things, such as licenses, dependencies, files, and many other elements.
Each element mentioned has vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit to get into software. So the reason why SBOM is created is to give an organization visibility of the weaknesses of their software and how they can prevent cyber attacks from manipulating such software.
SBOM minimum requirements are created to give organizations a standard of what should be contained in the data.
SBOM Minimum requirements
The data fields are the first form of data that should be contained in SBOM; the data fields are mostly non-technical information about software. The suppliers’ names, the creator of the software, information about the data components, unique identifiers, and the software version.
The data field is important in an SBOM as it gives insights into the relationship between all the components that make up the software. When this data is available on the SBOM, an organization can easily track down any malfunctioning element of the software.
Software bill of materials (SBOM) is a physically stressful activity; an organization will struggle to keep up with creating SBOMs when done physically.
In consideration of this, SBOM should have the feature of being generated automatically so that it will be consistently created. For SBOM to be generated automatically, it must be machine-readable. CycloneDX, SWID tags, and SPDX are the standard formats in which SBOM documents should be created to be machine-readable.
Practices and Processes
The last critical requirement for creating any software bill of materials is information regarding its generation and updating.
It is expected that detailed information should be prepared regarding how the SBOM was created and its distribution and access practices.
Minimum Requirements for Data Fields
● Manufacturers Name
The name of the software creator should be contained in the data fields, and it can be the name of a specific individual or organization.
● Name of the Component
The original name of the software should be included in the data fields, followed by some of the renames or aliases of the software.
● Relationship Between Dependencies
The data field should contain detailed information about how the software components are related.
● Software Version
The software version should be included in the data fields, containing all the updates the software underwent. Note that the software bill of materials (SBOM) is updated at every software update.
● Creator of SBOM
The name of the person or organization who created the software bill of materials should be included in the data fields.
● Other Unique Identifiers
This refers to other information about the software, excluding the name and version of the software — Any other unique thing that differentiates the software from others.
Minimum Requirements for Automation Support
The minimum requirements for automation are mostly based on the format in which the SBOM document is presented. The three major formats the SBOM has to present must be machine readable to ensure its automation.
SWID tags, CycloneDX, and SPDX are the three major formats in which the SBOM should be presented if it must be machine-readable.
Minimum Requirements for Practices and Processes
● Distribution and Delivery
This requirement was given for practices and processes to ensure that the SBOM is distributed and delivered quickly. Note that this requirement does not specify the days or weeks at which SBOMs should be distributed or delivered.
An SBOM is expected to provide all the necessary information about the transitive dependencies of the software.
● Accommodation of Mistakes
SBOMs are not perfect, although they are designed to reach near perfection — So customers need to understand that SBOMs aren’t perfect even when automated.
It is a general recommendation by most international bodies that a software bill of materials should be generated anytime the software is updated.
● Access Control
The person who writes an SBOM is expected to specify terms of access control whenever they decide to limit the access of an SBOM to some users.
SBOMs are very important, but they must be created following certain rules and standards, including the SBOM and format information.
The minimum requirements for creating SBOMs extend to creating data fields, the ability to support automation, and practices and processes.