Google and NIST Address Supply Chain Cybersecurity
As high-level supply chain attacks hit the news, Google and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have both developed proposals for how to address software supply chain security. This isn’t a new field, unfortunately. Since supply chains are a critical part of business resilience, criminals have no qualms about targeting its software. That’s why identifying, assessing, and mitigating cyber supply chain risks (C-SCRM) is at the top of Google and NIST’s respective agendas.
High-Profile Supply Chain Attacks
According to Google, no comprehensive end-to-end framework exists to mitigate threats across the software supply chain. [Yet] ‘there is an urgent need for a solution in the face of the eye-opening, multi-billion-dollar attacks in recent months...some of which could have been prevented or made more difficult’.
Here are several of the largest cybersecurity failures in recent months:
- SolarWinds. Alleged Russian hackers slipped malicious code into a routine software update, which they then used as a Trojan horse for a massive cyberattack.
- Codecov. Attackers used automation to collect credentials and raid ‘additional resources’, such as data from other software development vendors.
- Malicious attacks on open-source repositories. Out of 1,000 GitHub accounts, more than one in five contained at least one dependency confusion-related misconfiguration.
As a result of these attacks and Biden’s recent cybersecurity mandate, NIST and Google took action. NIST held a 1,400-person workshop and published 150 papers worth of recommendations from Microsoft, Synopsys, The Linux Foundation, and other software experts; Google will work with popular source, build, and packaging platforms to help companies implement and excel at their SLSA framework.
What Are Their Recommendations?
Here’s a quick recap: NIST has grouped together recommendations to create federal standards; Google has developed an end-to-end framework called Supply Chain Levels for Software Artifacts (SLSA)—pronounced “Salsa”. Both address software procurement and security.
Now, here’s the slightly more in-depth version:
- NIST. The organisation wants more ‘rigorous and predictable’ ways to secure critical software. They suggest that firms use vulnerability disclosure programmes (VDP) and software bills of materials (SBOM), consider simplifying their software and give at least one developer per project security training.
- Google. The company thinks that SLSA will encompass the source-build-publish software workflow. Essentially, the four-level framework helps businesses make informed choices about the security of the software they use, with SLSA 4 representing an ideal end state.
If this all sounds very abstract, consider the recent SolarWinds attack. The attacker compromised the build platform, installed an implant, and injected malicious behaviour during each build. According to Google, higher SLSA levels would have required stronger security controls for the build platform, making it more difficult for the attacker to succeed.
How Do The Proposals Differ?
As Brian Fox, the co-founder and CTO at Sonatype, sees it, NIST and Google have created proposals that complement each other. ‘The NIST [version] is focused on defining minimum requirements for software sold to the government’, he explained, while Google ‘goes [further] and proposes a specific model for scoring the supply chain. NIST is currently focused on the “what”. Google, along with other industry leaders, is grappling with the “how”’.
Airbus Expanding Local Supply Chain in China
The reshaping of Airbus’ global supply chain during the pandemic will shift greater focus to China, the world’s fastest growing aviation market, according to China Daily.
Yang Xiaoyu, the company’s Head of Flyable Procurement in China and East Asia, says Airbus is building a “vertical integration supply chain” to source parts and materials, assemble, and deliver aircraft locally.
Yang Xiaoyu says the strategy will “lower costs of transportation and raise efficiency”, adding that Airbus will also work collaboratively with local Chinese suppliers to bring them “in line with global standards of Airbus”, strengthening its ties and capabilities across the territory.
China on Track to World’s Largest Aviation Market
Further expansion into China is unsurprising given the nation’s continuing emergence as the world’s economic superpower. It is steadily becoming the world’s biggest aviation market, and is a strategic territory to Airbus for deliveries and global production.
China already accounts for around a quarter of Airbus’s global commercial aircraft production, with more than 1,700 Airbus commercial jetliners in service in China as of the end of 2018. Even under the pandemic Airbus delivered 99 plane to China in 2020 and 64 in the first half of 2021, despite on-going disruption and widespread downturn in aviation.
China Central to Airbus Supply Chain Expansion
The country is also a strategic hotspot in Airbus’ global supply chain. The European aerospace giant established a final assembly line (FAL) in Tianjin, a port city in northeastern China, in 2008. It was the first to be built outside the borders of its four founding European countries - France, Germany, Spain and the UK.
It expanded the site to include a wide-body completion and delivery centre in 2017. In July 2021, the production site delivered the first Airbus A350 to China Eastern Airlines. George Xu, Airbus Executive Vice President and Airbus China CEO, said: “This is a new milestone in the long-term cooperation between China and Airbus, which further demonstrates Airbus’ commitment to the country.”
As of the end of June 2021, China Eastern Airlines operated an Airbus fleet of 413 aircraft, including 349 A320 Family aircraft, 55 A330 Family aircraft and nine A350 aircraft.
Today Airbus has around 200 Chinese suppliers. These include a composite manufacturing centre in Harbin, as well as engineering, customer support and training centres located in Beijing.
Top image: Airbus / The first A350 delivered from China to China Eastern Airlines