IT management company SolarWinds, more than a year and-a-half after it was discovered that popular software was compromised via a malicious update, has unveiled a new secure software development process in a move to make the company a model for enterprise software security.
SolarWinds’ “Next-Generation Build System” includes both new software development practices and technology designed to strengthen the integrity of the build environment, including a parallel build process in which development of software takes place through multiple secure duplicate paths to establish a basis for integrity checks.
According to the company, the software development and build process improvements were made over the past year in response to the SUNBURST attack, a compromise of the company’s software build environment in which alleged Russian state-sponsored hackers inserted malicious code into a spring 2020 update to the SolarWinds Orion platform.
The malicious entity used that malicious update as a backdoor into the networks of several highly sensitive government and private sector networks, resulting in one of the most sophisticated cyberattacks on the U.S. in history.
To help the rest of the IT industry adapt, the company is releasing components of its new build system as open-source software, as the build process SolarWinds used at the time of the supply chain attack is “common throughout the technology industry.” The hope is that other organizations benefit from SolarWinds’ learnings and help establish a new secure software development standard, the company says in a press release.
According to SolarWinds, its new secure software development process includes four key tenants of its “Secure by Design” strategy, including building only short-term software build environments that self-destruct after completing a specific task.
In addition, the company is ensuring that its build products can be made deterministically so any newly created byproducts will always shave identical, secure components.
The process also includes creating software development byproducts such as data models, in parallel, to establish a basis for detecting unexpected modifications to the software.
SolarWinds will also leverage detailed records and track every software build step for compete traceability and permanent proof of record, per the company’s announcement.
The company’s new software development strategy comes as cybersecurity experts anticipate more attempts to compromise the software supply chain and leverage widely used tools to move laterally and compromise downstream organizations.
To combat those threats, SolarWinds CEO Sudhakar Ramakrishna says technology companies need to communicate transparently and collaborate to protect the industry’s shared cyber infrastructure from advanced threats.
“Our Secure by Design initiative is intended to set a new standard in software supply chain security via innovations in build systems and build processes,” Ramakrishna says in a statement. “We believe our customers, peers, and the broader industry can also benefit from our practices.”
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