The Importance of a Bill of Materials for Software Projects

Over the last year, numerous businesses have fallen victim to cyber-attacks, causing a breakdown in global supply chains. This had a ripple effect, impacting companies from all sectors. Consequently, the resulting halts in supplies lead to a decline in revenue and consumers’ trust.

Given the gravity of the problem, the President of the United States has recently released an Executive Order aimed at strengthening cybersecurity throughout the country’s supply chain. One of the key provisions of this Order issued by the Executive Branch specifies that:

The software that undertakes important tasks related to trust such as granting or necessitating escalated system privileges or direct access to computing and networking resources is usually known as “critical software”, and its security and reliability is of utmost importance. Accordingly, it is crucial for the government to take rapid action to fortify the security and integrity of the software supply chain, and especially the mission-critical applications.

Ensuring the safety of supply chains is highly crucial. The initial step involves determining how you and your company’s engineers will tackle the issue.

Operating systems, third-party dependencies and containerisation are all vital to the prosperity of your enterprise. Making use of a Software Bill of Materials can guarantee that your business can firmly stand behind its products, irrespective of what is created, implemented or relied upon.

What does “Bill of Materials” imply in the domain of software development?

Imagine this scenario: Your development team is working assiduously on a containerized programme that has the potential to transform the way your business functions. You can rest easy knowing that your skilled software engineers have built the new project from either a custom-built image or a download from DockerHub.

An imperative query that arises here is, “What is illustrated in that image?” Do you fully understand every programme, service, and library? Furthermore, are there any shortcomings in the components that have been integrated? A Software Bill of Materials can assist in resolving this issue.

A Software Bill of Materials (SBoM) supplies a record of all the constituents that constitute an operating system (OS), image or platform. Possessing this information readily available can facilitate a better grasp of the material or furnish a more knowledgeable reply when asked by a third party to evaluate the quality of the work.

Without the requisite information, it is not feasible to accurately respond. While the programme developed internally may be secure, the images and libraries sourced from external sources could be insecure. These Software Bill of Materials (SBOMs) are utilized for complying with the regulations set by the government, customer expectations, and pre-IPO and M&A due diligence.

There are Multiple Benefits of SBOMs.

Numerous positive outcomes can ensue from deploying SBOMs.

  • Enhanced transparency, which promotes trust and allegiance.
  • Improved safety precautions.
  • Significant resilience in the supply chain.
  • Reduction in expenses.
  • We require leaner programs.
  • Altered software and project retirement management.
  • Increased compliance.

The above list should be enough to motivate you to commence with SBOMs.

A Guide on Creating a Bill of Materials (BOM) for Software.

How you implement SBOMs and whether you make them accessible to others is subject to the tool available to you and your specific needs. It is essential to note that SBOMs must not be kept confidential and restricted for internal use only. It is expected that SBOMs for any products released, especially those under open-source license, must be shared with other businesses and/or developers. There may also be instances when the government may ask for access to your SBOM.

Now, let’s look at how to create an SBOM by exploring two application examples.

To ensure the security of the packages, you must understand what packages are available when building software on top of Ubuntu Linux 20.04.


Starting the creation of a Software Bill of Materials at the earliest is crucial. It is indispensable for developers to have a full comprehension of its contents to use software responsibly.

When using external libraries, dependencies, or container images that include exploitable or malicious code, there is a risk of your project being compromised. In case of such an occurrence, you should provide proof that the problem has been addressed, and you understand the required measures to implement a solution. Creating a Software Bill of Materials is an excellent way to begin.

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