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US Government Unveils Plan to Bolster Open-Source Software Security

In response to the persistent vulnerabilities plaguing open-source software, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has revealed a comprehensive roadmap aimed at fortifying the security of these critical digital assets. Over the years, vulnerabilities like Log4j and Heartbleed have exploited open-source code, posing significant threats to commercial and government IT environments.

CISA's plan emphasizes the importance of collaboration between the private sector and government to enhance open-source software security. While acknowledging the innovation and accelerated development facilitated by open source, the agency seeks to create a secure, sustainable, and resilient environment for critical open-source projects.

CISA's roadmap primarily addresses two critical scenarios: the infiltration of corrupted code into various commercial and free software and deliberate targeting of software providers to gain access to downstream IT environments. Notably, it cites the Log4j vulnerability and similar incidents like the MOVEit hack as concerns.

To tackle these challenges, CISA aims to establish robust partnerships with the open-source community to identify and remediate high-impact vulnerabilities before malicious actors can exploit them. A "real-time collaboration center" will be created to facilitate cooperation with open-source providers and foundations, fostering a public-private partnership model like the one used for Log4j.

CISA will also enhance visibility over risky open-source code within federal networks, identifying commonly used libraries and aggregating data to map out software dependencies. The agency plans to provide shared services for open-source developers, offering tools to monitor software development pipelines and flagging outdated components.

Furthermore, the roadmap introduces hardening principles for open source, promoting Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) adoption, security training for developers, best practice guidance, and a robust vulnerability and disclosure process. This comprehensive approach aims to secure open-source software, safeguarding federal agencies and critical infrastructure.

The release of CISA's plan coincides with a two-day summit hosted by the Open Source Security Foundation, gathering software developers, security experts, and government officials to enhance cooperation on open-source security. Nick Mistry, SVP, CISO, Lineaje shared his insights on open source risks and what this government initiative could mean for organizations:

“Traditionally, when using open-source software, you accept the risks or you choose the ‘better’ open-source option. But with 82% of open-source software components being inherently risky due to vulnerabilities, code quality, security issues, or maintainability concerns, is there really a way to make a decision between one piece of open-source software and the other?

I think if federal agencies and software vendors really follow through and adopt some of the principles that the new CISA Open-Source Software Security roadmap is setting forward, then the answer could be yes. The new guidelines are the first step in making organizations prove that the open-source software being used is truly secure. It’s not good enough to simply say, ‘Here's the software in my software bill of materials (SBOM) and here are the risks.’ We must require federal agencies and software vendors to demonstrate exactly what is being done to mitigate those risks.” ###

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