A Quick Guide to SBOM Formats


A software BOM is no longer just a fad and a trend, but in many cases a requirement. Industry and most likely your regional government require them. Your stakeholders, your vendors, your suppliers, and even your consumers now want to know what ingredients you’re cooking up their programs – everyone, given today’s high-risk cyber ecosystem, is more than tired of who they’re sleeping with. . Or in your case, what software they rub against. In this article, we’ll give you a quick recap of what a software BOM is, and then we’ll focus on the 3 industry standard SBOM formats.

What are SBOMs and why are they essential to your risk management?

The term “software bill of materials” was coined by IBM in 1978. A software bill of materials – SBOM – is a list of all the components required for a software product. It is also known as an inventory list or parts list. Your software is made up of, well, different software – we’re talking about in-house coding, licensed/purchased top-tier code, and free open-source coding. Each has its inherent failings, characteristics and vulnerabilities.

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An SBOM contains information about the type and quantity of each component, its revision number, version, and vendors. The SBOM is used to keep track of components. Not only do the people who interact with your software know its ingredients, but ultimately you need to know it too. Why? Well, for several reasons. For example, for updates. Open source components should be continuously updated to mitigate cybersecurity risks and incorporate new tools. If you don’t know what version you have included in your product, you don’t know what vulnerabilities it has and what patches the company that produced it may have offered over the years.

SBOMs are becoming an essential part of vulnerability management because they help identify and assess vulnerabilities in IT infrastructure. They also help monitor network traffic for suspicious activity, detect malware and spyware, and provide other security services such as intrusion detection.

At their core, they are data structure invoices that define software components and their relationships to each other. It provides an up-to-date inventory list that anyone can access and use – and as it’s written – through SBOM formats – in common industry-wide language, anyone within your ecosystem and outside of it can understand her.

What are SBOM formats?

SBOM formats are a set of standards that allow organizations to store, share, and transfer information about the software they use. These formats are used in many industries, such as healthcare, finance, and government.

The format includes information about the software used, what components it has, how it is used, who uses it, and when it was last updated. This data can be collected by various methods, including self-reporting or by scanning the network for installed software.

These formats were created to standardize how organizations manage their software inventory and usage. They also allow for easier collaboration between different agencies and departments that may use different types of systems.

There are several ways to produce them – including the very popular Excel sheet – but the industry has nevertheless adopted 3 SBOM formats.

Software Package Data Exchange – SPDX.

Software Package Data Exchange -SPDX – is a set of guidelines for the open exchange of software package information. It is an initiative of the Linux Foundation, with the support of major technology companies, to create a standard format for publishing and sharing license information.

The idea behind SPDX is to make it easier for companies to share their license information in a standardized way. The goal is to remove some of the barriers that can prevent collaboration between organizations and individuals, as well as remove the need for costly data conversion processes.

In recent years, there has been an increase in patent litigation, which has led to an increase in the need for standardization in software licensing. SPDX makes it easy for companies to identify how a company’s intellectual property rights are protected and what type of license it offers.

The SPDX SBOM format is a great way to find out what you have and if you are violating its use.


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The CycloneDX SBOM Format solution is unique because it was created from the ground up with this goal in mind: to be a BOM format and serve a multitude of use cases.

Software identification – SWID – Marking

Software Identification – SWID – Tagging is the process of marking an application with a unique identifier that can be used to identify the application and its corresponding version. This can be done by adding a tag to the executable file or adding it to the installer metadata.

SWID marking is important for software developers because it helps them track their software through distribution channels and identify pirated versions. It also helps them identify and fix bugs that might have been introduced in their release.

Choosing the right SBOM format is right for you

There’s no rule of thumb – frankly, some small businesses can get away with a Google Spreadsheet. The important thing is to create an easy to share and understand SBOM that end users and customers can take advantage of – that is transparent and structured. Each has its quirks and characteristics, and each in its own way can be used for different end uses, such as software as a service. It all depends on your business, your bandwidth, and the level of technical expertise you employ.

The SBOM format ecosystem will evolve as SBOM adoption and maturity continue to grow. We will see innovations from these projects as well as potential new SBOM formats come into the fold. While there is some debate over which format might be superior, the need for transparency and security in the software supply chain becomes non-negotiable as malicious actors rapidly increase their use of this attack vector.


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