Software Supply Chain Security Concerns in Java applications

Software Supply Chain Security Concerns in Java applications

As organizations transition from traditional infrastructures to the cloud, the importance of examining software supply chain security becomes increasingly critical. The need for cyber resilience is on the rise, and the task of safeguarding applications and networks from vulnerabilities and malicious threats is more important than ever.

Your role in securing the software supply chain is as crucial as adding features to the applications themselves. The software supply chain encompasses several processes: development, production, and maintenance. By securing the code, tools, processes, dependencies, and the users who use these technologies, you are actively contributing to the security of Java applications. This guide will equip you with the knowledge to address the top software supply chain security concerns for Java applications. 

Importance of Software Supply Chain Security 

The software supply chain powers crucial processes, communication networks, infrastructure controls, and applications that govern how businesses operate, including how users utilize resources. Software is no longer confined to traditional applications, and its use cases are diverse and varied, extending even beyond the boundaries of digital infrastructure, such as in the case of IoT devices, smart homes, cloud services, and critical systems. 

Software development integrates third-party components, libraries, and modules, many of which are sourced from open-source repositories. Without a secure software supply chain, attack vectors can multiply, and adversaries can compromise the security and integrity of every component, endpoint, and the entire ecosystem. 

Let’s explore a few examples of how software supply chain security attacks impacted organizations: 

  1. SolarWinds Backdoor Attack

    The SolarWinds case is a prime example of software supply chain security compromised in modern application development. Attackers targeted the IT infrastructure monitoring software and installed a backdoor to gain admin-level access to networks. This attack affected many high-profile clients, such as Microsoft, Intel, Homeland Security, and even the State Commerce and Treasury. The SolarWinds attackers took advantage of trusted systems with privileged access to gain unauthorized entry. 

  2. Codecov Build Error 

    CI/CD integration is a process where the software is automatically tested before its deployment into the pipeline. It is a fundamental phase of the software development lifecycle (SDLC) and streamlines the entire application development process. In January 2020, attackers exploited a built-in error in the Codecov software and obtained Docker image creation credentials. They used it to hijack the program and transform it into a real Trojan horse. Since Codecov was used in multiple continuous integration (CI) environments, they could siphon off hundreds of credentials from Codecov users and gain access to many secure systems. The company wasn't aware of the data breach and detected it months later when it was too late. 

  3. Log4Shell Open-Source Vulnerability 

    Apache Log is a widely used open-source library in the Java ecosystem. A vulnerability was exposed as a Proof of Concept (PoC), and attackers could conduct Remote Code Execution (RCE) on it by using certain versions of its package. Any connected services could be exploited, and it affected major platforms like Amazon Web Services and VMware. 


Software Supply Chain Security Concerns in Java Applications 

The following is a list of the critical software supply chain security concerns in Java applications: 

  1. Dependency Management 

    Java software applications can include both transitive and direct dependencies. Securely managing your software dependencies is the essence of good supply chain security. Lack of visibility into components is one of the primary supply chain security concerns in Java Applications. You may consider implementing standards like CycloneDX or generating an SBOM (Software Bill of Materials) for your Java application to get detailed insights, licensing information, discover dependencies, and more. 

  2. Git Commit Authenticity 

    Protecting your Git commits is one of the best ways to enhance the security of your Java apps' supply chain. Modern software development has become highly distributed and dynamic, and multiple team members collaborate and contribute to various projects. Tracking commits made to GitHub repositories and securing them is a must. You can implement strong access controls, code review processes, and digital signatures for managing commits. This will eliminate unauthorized code manipulation and help maintain the authenticity and integrity of your Java application's source code.

  3. Vulnerability Scanning Vulnerability scanning is a core practice that organizations are implementing nowadays to enhance software supply chain security. Finding out that an application hasn't been updated or that regular patching is lacking can negatively impact your software's supply chain security.  You can significantly enhance your software supply chain security by using your SBOM code as input for your vulnerability scanning and regularly scanning your Java applications. These practices, along with verifying users on networks and checking these apps' authentication/authorization mechanisms, will help you stay one step ahead of potential vulnerabilities. 

  4. Artefact Integrity 

    Performing licensing checks and reducing the attack surface of your Java applications can improve artefact integrity. One effective strategy to enhance artefact integrity is to use digital signatures and verification techniques. During the application build, you can use e-signing tools for your JAR files and container images. These tools can also generate verifiable metadata; the SLSA Framework is a great way to generate provenance attestations and enhance your Java applications' supply chain security. 

    Malicious actors won’t be able to compromise your components or Java applications when you use them.

  5.  Kubernetes Software Supply Chain Security 

    Implementing the best Kubernetes cluster management practices is essential to enhance software supply chain security. Many organizations use Kubernetes to handle container orchestration and deploy containerized workloads and applications. CI/CD pipeline weaknesses and inconsistent policy enforcement are two common challenges in Kubernetes software supply chain security. Many companies experience slowed or delayed deployments due to Kubernetes security concerns. Other critical issues include a lack of automation, audits, insecure IaC templates, version control vulnerabilities, and weak container images. Most often, these issues overlap, and one of the best ways to combat them is by leveraging trusted content.  

    Ensure the authenticity and integrity of sensitive data to tighten application and platform security. This will help organizations derive the best value from these services, and it is crucial to incorporate SBOMs into their multifaceted software supply chain security strategy. 



  6. Access Management and Patching 

    Organizations fail to patch applications and systems regularly, which introduces numerous vulnerabilities. To secure your software supply chain, apply automated patching for deployments. Installing the latest security updates and ensuring that applications are kept up-to-date is essential. Test out your patches in a controlled environment before pushing them to production. That way, you can eliminate many bugs and ensure your applications function smoothly and error-free. Good patching ensures business continuity and minimizes disruptions. 

    Access management is another area to look into. Threat actors often exploit privileges and cause lateral movement. Implementing the principle of least privilege access for all your Java applications is recommended. Enforcing the least-privilege access prevents unauthorized access to app resources, and your strategy should include building a Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA). 



Do you have complete visibility of your Java applications, dependencies, and their components? Can you trust your vulnerability scanner and the results of your audits? Does your organization apply regular patching and updates? Are your Git commits on track and not being manipulated without your knowledge?  

These are some of the questions you should be able to answer when developing your Java software supply chain security strategy. Software supply chain attacks won't stop anytime soon, so it's vital to upgrade their security strategy and ensure you keep up with the latest threat trends. By adapting to emerging challenges and staying vigilant, you can ensure the continued success of your Java applications and ecosystems. 

If you are new to Java development, working with Java experts and enhancing application security is a good idea. You can hire remote Java developers or build offshore development teams to work on different projects without compromising performance, availability, and integrity.  

To make the most of your software supply chain strategy today, contact Clarion Technologies. 


Vinit Sharma, a seasoned technologist with over 21 years of expertise in Open Source, cloud transformation, DevSecOps strategy, and software architecture, is a Technical Architect leading Open Source, DevOps, and Cloud Computing initiatives at Clarion. Holding certifications as an Architect and Business Analyst professional, he specializes in PHP services, including CMS Drupal and Laravel, contributing significantly to the dynamic landscape of content management and web development.

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