Securing the software supply chain with AI

Discover how AI is both a threat and a solution for securing software supply chains.

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As AI technologies advance within software supply chain operations, the need for AI-driven security solutions to safeguard these critical processes also grows. However, before embracing these sophisticated tools and solutions, it's crucial to understand the challenges, benefits, and limitations of AI in software supply chain security.

Keep reading to discover:

Seven ways AI threatens the SSC

AI poses a challenge to securing the software supply chain in several ways. But first, it's essential to recognize that AI models possess their own supply chains that also become potential vectors for attack.

Discover more in our Top considerations for addressing risks in the OWASP Top 10 for LLMs

Bottom line: malicious actors leverage AI to introduce various threats to software supply chains, creating new attack vectors and challenges for security teams. Here are seven ways AI threatens the security of the software supply chain:

  1. Generative AI to poison supply chains: Malicious actors can use generative AI models to create deceptive data that can be injected into the supply chain. This deceptive data can include vulnerabilities, backdoors, or malicious code. By doing so, attackers can compromise the integrity and security of open source training data, leading to downstream vulnerabilities.

  2. Fake projects to hide malware: Bad actors create artificial open source projects that appear legitimate but contain hidden malware. These AI-enhanced projects appear legitimate and can bypass traditional security checks, making it difficult for developers to distinguish between genuine and malicious code. Unsuspecting developers may unknowingly incorporate these malicious libraries into their software and their security risks into their software supply chain. 

  3. AI-crafted phishing campaigns: AI-powered tools craft compelling phishing emails, making it easier for attackers to deceive recipients and access sensitive information or systems. These campaigns can target individuals within the supply chain to compromise credentials or introduce malware.

  4. AI hallucinating open source package names (typosquatting): Malicious actors can employ AI to generate package names that closely resemble legitimate open source packages. This technique, known as typosquatting, tricks developers into inadvertently installing malicious code, potentially leading to security vulnerabilities.

  5. AI-generated code containing security risks: AI-generated code can sometimes contain security risks or vulnerabilities. Developers may unknowingly incorporate this code into their projects, introducing weaknesses in the software supply chain. 

  6. Data leaks from AI chat conversations: AI chat systems, like the one developed by OpenAI, may inadvertently, or by design expose sensitive information. Users could unintentionally share confidential data during conversations with AI chatbots, potentially leading to data leakage and security breaches. 

  7. Vulnerabilities in open source AI model dependencies: Open source AI models often depend on various libraries and packages. Vulnerabilities in these dependencies can expose the AI model to security risks, potentially affecting the reliability and security of the AI-powered systems in the supply chain. 

These emerging threats highlight the importance of continuous monitoring, vulnerability assessments, and robust security measures within software supply chains.

Two ways AI makes the SSC more complex

AI can also pose a security threat to the SSC by adding complexity to managing the AI lifecycle, including securing training data and models from potential vulnerabilities.

This level of security makes the SSC more complex because it requires the following elements of security management:

  1. Machine learning bill of materials (MLBOMs) / AIBOMs (artificial intelligence bill of materials): Integrating AI into the SSC introduces an additional layer of tracking and management for AI models and their components, which increases the overall complexity of supply chain operations.
    Like SBOMs (software bill of materials), MLBOMs or AIBOMs track the components and dependencies of AI models, ensuring transparency, traceability, and the ability to effectively manage the intricacies of these advanced systems.
    This means that the hardware and software aspects of the AI model are accounted for, and the data sources, algorithms, and associated resources are meticulously documented and managed, enabling organizations to gain better control over their AI-powered solutions.

  2. Secure CI/CD pipelines: For AI development, it is imperative to secure CI/CD pipelines to prevent unauthorized changes or malicious code injection, leading to a rise in the overall level of complexity in managing supply chain operations.
    For example, it is critical to scan first-party code thoroughly; this involves scrutinizing the code developed in-house to identify vulnerabilities and ensure it adheres to best security practices. Implementing robust code scanning procedures can significantly enhance the security of your AI development process.

Seven ways AI protects the SSC: Benefits and limitations

While AI poses challenges to supply chain security and adds complexity, it can also enhance supply chain security. The following are seven examples of how AI can secure the SSC and their benefits and limitations.

7 Ways AI can secure the SSC



1. Vulnerability scanning

AI-powered vulnerability scanning tools makes results more accurate because it can learn about FNs and FPs.

Potential for false positives or false negatives, leading to wasted resources or undetected vulnerabilities.

2. Vulnerability and risk management

AI can assist in prioritizing vulnerabilities based on risk, helping security teams focus on the most critical issues.

AI's risk assessments need business context input to effectively align with an organization's specific priorities or context.

3. Dependency management

AI can help automate the tracking and management of dependencies in complex supply chains, reducing the risk of using outdated or vulnerable components.

Dependency management can be challenging when dealing with legacy systems or third-party libraries with limited AI integration.

4. Vulnerability fixes (hybrid model)

Hybrid AI models use the right AI approach; for example, Snyk uses symbolic AI to understand the code, data flows, etc, and LLMs to generate fixes. Together, they create fixes that you can effectively test.

Not all vulnerabilities can be reliably fixed by AI, and human oversight is often required to avoid introducing new issues.

5. Continuous monitoring 

AI-driven continuous monitoring can provide real-time threat detection, helping organizations respond swiftly to emerging risks.

False positives or excessive alerts can overwhelm security teams, leading to alert fatigue.

6. Test automation

AI can automate security testing, allowing for faster and more thorough assessments of supply chain components.

Complex or highly customized systems may require manual testing, and AI may not identify certain subtle vulnerabilities.

7. In context, developer education

AI can offer developers real-time guidance and education on secure coding practices, reducing the introduction of vulnerabilities.

Developers may need additional context-specific training, and AI guidance may not cover all possible security concerns.

While working on securing the SSC, this list of AI terminology may guide you to success.

The future of AI in software supply chain security

Using AI in software supply chain security presents opportunities for innovation and challenges as the industry evolves. As more organizations rely on AI technology, it is crucial to stay ahead of upcoming trends and be ready to face the ever-changing security threats.

Here are some of the key elements we see emerging in the future for AI in software supply chain security:

  • New AI attack vectors. Evolving AI attack vectors will target software, AI models, and their training data. Threat actors will exploit vulnerabilities in AI systems, from poisoning training data to adversarial attacks on AI models, introducing new challenges.

  • New AI-powered software to secure supply chains. The future holds the development of advanced AI-powered security solutions designed specifically to protect supply chains. These solutions will use AI for real-time threat detection, automated incident response, and comprehensive vulnerability assessments.

  • A push for AIBOMs. Organizations will increasingly adopt an AI bill of materials to ensure transparency and accountability in AI models' components and dependencies. AIBOMs will become a standard practice to track AI models' lineage, dependencies, and potential vulnerabilities, enhancing their overall security and trustworthiness.

In the ever-evolving cyber security landscape, the future of AI in software supply chain security requires vigilance and adaptability. 

As new AI attack vectors emerge, developing AI-powered security tools and adopting transparency measures like AIBOMs will be pivotal in safeguarding critical supply chain operations, ensuring a secure and resilient future for AI-driven software ecosystems.

How Snyk uses AI to secure the SSC

Snyk offers AI-driven solutions that enhance the security of software supply chains through several innovative approaches:

  • DeepcodeAI: Snyk employs DeepcodeAI, a cutting-edge technology that uses the power of AI. This system enables advanced vulnerability scanning, accurately identifying security weaknesses and offering intelligent fix suggestions. By leveraging AI, Snyk streamlines vulnerability remediation, making software supply chains more secure.

  • AI-powered security intelligence: Snyk harnesses AI to gather and analyze security intelligence across the software supply chain. This proactive approach allows for the early detection of emerging threats, helping organizations stay one step ahead in protecting their software assets.

  • Risk and applications security posture management (ASPM): Snyk leverages AI to assess and manage the security posture of applications within the supply chain, including identifying vulnerabilities, evaluating their risk, and providing actionable insights for mitigating security issues, ensuring that organizations can effectively manage risks in their software supply chains.

By integrating AI into their solutions, Snyk empowers developers to proactively identify and address security vulnerabilities, enabling more robust and resilient software supply chains.


The Essential Guide to AI Bills of Materials (AIBOMs)

This guide is your one-stop shop on AI Bill of Materials (AIBOMs). Learn how to build an inventory of your AI model.

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