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Software Procurement Risk

The software is used extensively in the modern industries to perform both internal and external services. Initially, several organizations developed the software themselves; but as the technology has evolved, they have come to depend more on procuring software from outside suppliers. The following is some of the reasons that trigger the organizations to increase the procurement activities of their business:

  • Access difficulty to find technical skills
  • Enhance service levels
  • Create flexibility
  • Utilize mature methodologies and process of providers

Beyond these benefits, software procurement comes with some notable risks. In detail, it is not centrally driven or governed by laws & regulation which necessitates the enclosure of security requirements in procurement. The security attentions during software procurement are vital to ensure that risk related to software security is addressed effectively. It is vital to address the software supply chain risks with the practical solutions. The blog aims to highlight the challenges at software procurement process and recommends practical solutions.

What Are The Challenges Involved In Software Procurement ?

The followings are some of the challenges that make the secure software procurement more complex:

  • There are no well-established operating mechanisms, which can monitor, administer and drive security-oriented factors in software procurements against the ever-changing landscape of the threat.
  • There is lack of adequate testing infrastructure to test as well as certify the software based on security standards. In addition, there is no existence of the use of advanced testing techniques. Moreover, there is some limitation in the sense of comprehensively testing procuring software from a security perspective. Most organizations perform only the configuration testing after procurement.
  • Due to lack of mandatory and well-accepted standards as well as guidelines issued, the software procurement policy and SDLC adopted and administrated by the organization lacks wide security coverage. In addition, the organization’s security requirement related to software procurement isn’t standardized.
  • Generally, the security specification and requirements are driven by the vision and security understanding of the project team. Hence, there is a possibility for malware insertion in software and sensitive data leakage.
  • Security policies of most of the organizations don’t mandate the use of validated, approved and certified software products; hence, it increases the concern of using non-genuine and counterfeit products.
  • There are no matured well-defined processes for vulnerability and threat management as well as organizational knowledge management with current enhancing security issues.
  • The software update, change management practices and patch installation aren’t well-defined and strictly followed.
  • There are problems associated with ownership of software documentation and source code for customized solutions.
  • Most vendors are not providing proper after-sales technical support.
  • As the security requirements aren’t discussed and added in the planning and requirement phase, it requires being addressed at the high-level in contracts, RFPs, etc.

Risk Associated with Insecurely Procuring Software

Because of the above-mentioned reasons, software procurement includes the vulnerabilities for security risks. This software becomes more attractive to the attackers since it is simple to break the COTS package rather than breaking a complex code. In addition, the components of this software generally manage essential information and link to more systems. The following is some of the possible security attacks.

  • System Modification Attacks

The insecure software can open the door for system modification attacks. This attack occurs when a hacker exploits the security vulnerability in the system and modify the settings in the target system. An attacker who takes over the system control can execute countless malicious actions, including virus installation, trapdoor establishment, account details alteration either by disabling legitimate use or offering illegitimate access, data corruption, sensitive details theft and software installation to track activities and report usage details.

  • Invasion of Privacy Attacks

The software from vendors includes the data from the convenient place and their security, including encrypted form and access control is critical to ensure. The entire directory and databases include their own security models – don’t depend on the OS security. The interaction of these two is often underestimated. This circumstance raises the possibility of an invasion of privacy attacks that involves access to private information such as financial related information, customer identification information, and system numbers.

  • Denial Of Service Attack

The software from a non-genuine vendor also initiates the DoS and DDoS attacks. Though this software is not involved in attacks like SYN floods, it remains central to software level floods.

Learn more about Dos Attack

How To Mitigate Software Procurement Risk ?

Key recommendations that support to implement a secure software procurement strategy are as follows:

  • Implant security requirements within the vendor contracts and RFPs. Organizations require being practical in establishing demand for secure software by forming secure procurement governance model that includes contract negotiation and vendor selection to standardize security in the procurement process.
  • Obtain a trusted software security assessment. Still, a true assessment of third-party software seems to be difficult because of inability to evaluate source code, as well as the high effort and cost needed to perform manual code reviews. Hence, find out an independent service provider for testing.
  • Set security thresholds for third-party software to quantify abundant risk and compensating controls that require determining acceptable range of risk. The organization can leverage the security ratings to determine which software is secure enough to be acquired and which third-party software require remediation by the supplier before accepting.
  • Purchase products only from the vendors who have passed security verifications. Establish enterprise vendor management to ensure that they are purchasing software only from the validated vendors.
  • Assume the entire procuring software is insecure until verified otherwise. Before accepting software, run tests, and observe how it is performing and examine how files are created as well as handled in the normal and abnormal circumstance. One can also consider performing fault injection tests.
  • Monitor the changes and adjust the security strategy correspondingly.
  • Security is not the consideration only at third-party software acquisition and installation because things can change as time passes. For example, the software becomes outdated against new attacks. Hence, proper continuous monitoring is essential throughout the software lifecycle.

Hope the information presented in this section provided you an idea about the software procurement risk. The procurement team in the organization should stay one step ahead of these risks and take immediate adequate action to handle disruptions.

Herman McCargo

Herman is a Microsoft Certified Security Engineer and Cybersecurity Specialist. He’s been in the technology field for over 20 years and has expertise working with the most critical technology infrastructures. He has a deep understanding of cyber risks, threat mitigation and prevention, and overseeing infrastructure.