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Security professionals unprepared for escalating software supply chain attacks

By Shannon Williams
Thu 29 Jul 2021

New research has revealed 80% of IT security professionals and developers are not confident in their ability to defend against a supply chain attack – despite overwhelmingly agreeing that more are on the way this year.

Venafi unveiled the findings of a global survey that evaluates the impact of the SUNBURST, CodeCov and REvil attacks on how development organisations are changing their approach to securing software build and delivery environments. The survey evaluated the opinions of over 1,000 information security professionals, developers and executives in the IT and software development industries.

According to Venafi’s survey, respondents nearly unanimously agree (97%) that the techniques and procedures used to attack SolarWinds software development environment will be reused in new attacks this year.

Despite this certainty, there is no alignment between security and development teams on which team should be responsible for improving security in the software build and distribution environments. 

For example, when asked who is primarily responsible for improving the security of their organisation’s software development environments, 48% of respondents say their security teams are responsible and 48% say their development teams are responsible.

“While the SUNBURST attack on SolarWinds was not the first of its kind, it was certainly one of the most serious so far,” says Kevin Bocek, vice president of security strategy and threat intelligence at Venafi. “

SUNBURST made it absolutely clear that every organisation must take urgent, substantive actions to change the way we secure software build pipelines," he says. 

"The only way to reduce these risks is to dramatically improve the security of the development pipeline and the software it delivers. 

"However, if we can’t even agree on who us responsible for taking these actions it’s pretty clear that we aren’t even close to making meaningful changes," Bocek says.

"Anyone hoping this problem has been addressed is kidding themselves.”

Additional survey findings survey include:

80 percent of respondents say they are not completely confident in their organisation’s ability to defend against attacks targeting software build environments. 
69 percent of developer respondents believe developers are responsible for the security of their organisation’s software build process. However, 67% of security respondents believe it is the security team’s responsibility.
When asked who should be responsible for the security of their organisation’s software build process, 58 percent of security respondents say it should be their responsibility and 53% of developer respondents say it should be theirs. Just 8% of all respondents suggested that responsibility should be shared.

“As these survey results clearly show, most organisations have not made it clear which team has the incentive, directives they need to make the changes required," Bocek says.

"The only way to minimise the risk of future attacks is to enable developers to move fast, from idea to production, without compromising security,” he explains. 

“Speed of innovation and security are inseparable in software development. In the same way a Formula 1 engineer builds for performance and safety at the same time, software developers also need to be accountable for both. 

"To accomplish this, developers clearly need help and support from security teams," Bocek says.

"Boards, CEOs, and managing directors need to take action to ensure clear lines of ownership so  changes are in place and they can hold teams accountable.”

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