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The Importance of SBOMs in Managing IoT Software Security

Written by Miguelito Balba

October 31, 2023

Building with open-source software is essential for many IoT developers. Open-source software provides a wealth of pre-built components that save developers time and effort. However, open-source software can also introduce security risks.

One way to mitigate these risks is to use software bills of materials (SBOMs). An SBOM is a list of all the software components used to build a software product, including their versions and dependencies. SBOMs can be used to identify and patch vulnerabilities, as well as to enforce security policies.


Benefits of using SBOMs to manage IoT software security

There are several benefits to using SBOMs to manage IoT software security, including:

  • Improved visibility: SBOMs provide visibility into an IoT device’s software components. This visibility can help to identify and mitigate security risks.
  • Reduced risk of vulnerabilities: SBOMs can identify and patch vulnerabilities in IoT devices. This can help to reduce the risk of security breaches.
  • Improved compliance: SBOMs can help organizations to comply with security regulations. For example, the US Executive Order 14028 requires federal agencies to produce SBOMs for all software they acquire or develop.


Statistical data on IoT security risks

According to a report by the Ponemon Institute, 60% of organizations have experienced an IoT security breach. An IBM report also found that the global average data breach cost in 2023 is $4.25 million.


How to use SBOMs to manage IoT software security

There are a few key steps involved in using SBOMs to manage IoT software security:

  1. Generate an SBOM for your IoT device. There are several different ways to generate an SBOM. Some tools can automatically generate an SBOM based on your source code. Other tools require you to manually create the SBOM.
  2. Review the SBOM for vulnerabilities. Once you have generated an SBOM, you can use it to identify vulnerabilities in your IoT device. There are a number of different tools that can scan SBOMs for vulnerabilities.
  3. Patch vulnerabilities. Once you have identified vulnerabilities in your IoT device, you can patch them by updating the affected software components.
  4. Monitor the SBOM for changes. You should monitor your SBOM for changes on a regular basis. This will help ensure that you are aware of any new software components being added to your IoT device and identify any vulnerabilities that may be introduced.


SBOMs for container images

SBOMs can also be used to manage the security of container images. Container images are packages of software that include everything needed to run a software application in a container. SBOMs for container images can be used to identify and patch vulnerabilities in container images. This can help to reduce the risk of security breaches when containerized applications are deployed.

SBOMs are a valuable tool for managing the security of IoT devices and container images. By using SBOMs, organizations can improve their visibility into the software components that make up their IoT devices and container images, identify and patch vulnerabilities, and enforce security policies.

If you are developing IoT devices or containerized applications, I encourage you to start using SBOMs to manage their security. Several different tools and resources are available to help you get started.

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