NIST Supply Chain Security Guidance for CI/CD Environments

NIST CICD Guideline for Supply Chain

What is a CI/CD Environment?

A CI/CD environment provides a foundation for the software delivery process by giving the ability to be deployed more quickly and without interruption. This notion, which is being automated and integrated, focuses on the CI/CD process.

CI or continuous integration methodology, in other words, includes developers committing small changes to their code which gets authenticated, built, tested, and merged together to a common code repository, occurring on a constant basis. This will in turn enable the software to stay stable and linear in a consistent manner throughout software development.

CD not only automates attachment of validated patches to various environments like testing and production but also. This helps in producing updates that can be distributed rapidly so that the efficiency and reliability of the software is improved and its time to the market is reduced.

This pipeline performs the main function of automation, which is to organize the code changes starting with the development environment settings and going all the way to production. The cycle includes code compilation, testing , deployment , and performance monitoring.

CI/CD tools are game changers as they can reduce the complexities of deployment. These tools keep the environment-specific configuration files and parameters that are necessary at each deployment, to ensure consistency of the environment.

Furthermore, they perform tasks like service calls to web servers, databases, and other connections which results in the simplified service deployment and the minimization of human error.

Introduction to NIST SP 800-204D

NIST SP 800-204D titled “The Secure Software Developing Framework for the Cloud and Distributed Environments” is a publication that provides the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with the advice on the supply chain security improvements in the modern software development environments.

By recognizing the continuous maturing of venues and attacker methods linked to distributed and cloud-based software supply chains, the study presents organizations with concrete proceedings to bolster their security settings.

The main objective of NIST SP 800-204D is to provide service and product producers with a security guidance that they can apply throughout their different life cycle stages, including from development to deployment and beyond. Guidance stresses the point of security concerns pervading all stages of the software development cycle, including initial requirements and design, testing and deployment, and maintenance.

Key Components of NIST SP 800-204D

NIST SP 800-204D introduces indispensable aspects of an ever-expanding Supply Chain security framework.These components include:

1. Risk Management Framework

Notably, the guidelines stated in NIST SP 800-204D emphasize the need for a strong risk management framework that should be built according to the specific features, needs, and challenges of distributed and cloud-based supply chain environments. This approach should involve steering on how risks are identified, rated, prioritized and sourced.

Organizations are advised to carry out detailed risk assessments to find out the environment’s weakness and threats ranging the supply chain’s life cycle. A risk assessment can be made to prioritize the risk, based on their severity and probability of occurrence, and, thus, the most critical threats could be tackled with the available resources.

2. Supplier Evaluation and Management

Assessing the efficiency of the existing suppliers and managing them is always a requirement for supply chain security. The standard NIST SP 800-204D emphasizes the necessity to audit and manage suppliers during the supply chain lifecycle so that they can apply proper practices of security and possibly be able to achieve desired security specifications.

Companies should therefore ensure the suppliers are subject to an audit, review their security practices and conclude the contracts with non-disclosure of sensitive information and clear details of responsibilities in case of security breach. Through reinforced communication channels and accountability tools to suppliers, the organizations can fortify supply chains security and lessen the risk of breaches.

3. Secure Software Development Practices

NIST SP 800-204D concerns itself with the implementation of secure software development methodologies within the software development cycle. These contain the usage of secure coding standards, in-built code reviews and security testing of the code right from the development stage.

Organizations must identify security considerations in the requirements gathering and make sure that security is a component in all processes from development to deployment in order to reduce the possibility for vulnerabilities or bugs to be introduced into software components.

To achieve a strong culture of security and competency among developers, organizations are able to harden their software against supply chain attacks in the long run.

4. Software Component Authentication

Authenticity of supplied software parts is crucial in minimizing their duplicity and building in their realness along the way. NIST SP 800-204D is very adamant about the utilization of mechanisms such as digital signatures, cryptographic hash, and secure code repositories, that can prove the origin and integrity of software components.

Software components, if validated rightly for authenticity before integrating into the supply chain, can detect and restrain possible tampering or unauthorized modifications that could endanger the software of a particular organization.

5. Continuous Monitoring and Incident Response

It is critical to respond adequately to the incidents in supply chain security and provide continuous monitoring and response to incidents. In accordance with NIST SP 800-204D, all organizations need to develop a mechanism that can monitor supply chain activities and detect any anomalous behavior that may be caused by unauthorized activities.

Organizations should further consider establishing incident response plans and procedures to speed up the disaster and control measures when supply chain security issues occur. By actively executing the security protocols and establishing back to back incident response capabilities, organizations can reduce the end to end impact of cyber-attacks and keep their software supply chain sound.

6. Information Sharing and Collaboration

Cooperation and transparency among stakeholders are critical prerequisites for successful establishment of supply chain resilience against threats and detrimental factors. NIST SP800-204D bravely suggests that enterprises cooperate with industry specialists, public officials, and other interested parties through the sharing of intelligence on risks, best

practices, and lessons learned. By joining hands with partners under information sharing initiatives and trusted people, the organizations will develop their network of defense against the variability of threats and associated weaknesses in software supply chain practices.

For Whom are NIST Guidelines Meant?

The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) standards are tailored to a diverse audience that comprises software developers, company heads, and cyber security professionals in the value chain. This includes:

  • Organizations: NIST guidelines apply to all business entities, whatever their size and industry, which develop, procure or in any way rely on a software solution. These include government agencies, businesses, non-profits and educational institutions, such as universities.
  • Software Developers: The standards offer guidance and recommendations, as well as approaches that programmers should use to secure the software development process. This covers safe code planning, vulnerability management and secure deployment strategies.
  • Supply Chain Managers: Supply chain security as well as developing relationships with suppliers and dealing with vendors have become one of the essential responsibilities of supply chain managers. The guidelines cover the evaluation and management of supply chain risks, completeness of the software codes, and the collaboration amongst the supply chain partners.
  • Security Professionals: Through the help of cybersecurity professionals such as analysts, engineers and architects can utilize the NIST framework to fortify their organization’s security system. The instructions provide the intelligence on incident mitigation methods, incident response schemes and implementation of security controls.
  • Government Agencies: Government entities, such as regulatory bodies and law enforcement agencies, might use NIST guidelines to develop cybersecurity work standards, regulations and compliance rules. The guidelines can be used to develop policies and regulations that address supply chain security while serving as a basis of reference.
  • Industry Associations and Standards Bodies: In developing particular standards, certifications, and best practices as expected, industry associations and standards bodies may follow NIST guidelines. These entities serve the purpose of spreading cybersecurity awareness, as well as improving relations in business areas by collaboration among different industry sectors.

Supply Chain Security in CI/CD Environments

Supply chain security in the CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery) settings is an essential factor of nowadays software development processes. CI/CD approach speeds up the software development cycle through the embedding of automated processes for integration, testing, and deployment.

Nevertheless, speedy development continuous with inter-dependent software parts present new problems and vulnerabilities for the supply chain as well.

In CI/CD environments, the software supply chain transcends the conventional borders, which, instead of encompassing only the own-developed software, also includes third-party libraries, dependencies, and cloud-based services. This widened supply chain increases the complexity and such attack surfaces that the companies will have to deal with, as they integrate code from multiple sources into their pipelines of CI/CD.

Challenges in Supply Chain Security in CI/CD Environments

One of the main problems associated with CI/CD supply chain security pertain to the authenticity and the quality control of software components within the development process.

Given the fact that code meets continuous change and deployment is automated, you assure yourself that there is no tampering or unauthorized modifications since you would want to be able to identify the source and the integrity of software components. Absent this it may swell up the risk of getting exposed to various risks like malware injection, data breaches and supply chain attacks.

Another challenge is how to deal with supply chain risks related to the third-parties and cloud services as a dependency. For many companies, third-party libraries and cloud-based services provide an efficient developer’s workflow and shorten the development cycles and time-to-market.

While these ties can lower risk and cause insecurities if they are not properly managed. Organizations should conduct threat assessment and monitoring of their dependencies and do a security audit of their cloud services providers, while at the same time develop a contract with clarity on security concerns.

Supply Chain Security Tools and Technologies for CI/CD

Security tools and technologies used in supply chain security contribute a lot to CI/CD environments enriching their security posture. These toolsets have been purposely developed to accommodate the special skills needed in dealing with the problems specific to managing the constantly evolving field of software development:

Dependency Scanning Tools:

Dependencies scanning tools empower organizations to detect and address the weaknesses of third-party dependencies and open-source libraries. Such tools allow dependence scanning which seeks for known vulnerabilities in the software and bring actionable insights to developers to fix them. Dependency scanning as part of the CI/CD pipelines means that the companies can only build software that has the latest and safe dependencies.

Software Composition Analysis (SCA) Tools:

SCA tools encompass a holistic view of software application composition which includes all third party components and dependencies. These tools are developed for inspecting software binaries and source code in order to find and enumerate all the components involved in an application. Through implementing SCA, organizations will be able to gain visibility on security risks associated with third-party components and meet with licensing demands.

Container Security Tools:

Containers have proven to become more and more relevant in CI/CD processes especially for wrapping and deploying software applications. Container security tools allow companies to secure the container’s environment from vulnerabilities identification, policy enforcement, and activity monitoring. The offered tools have features like vulnerability scanning, image signing and verification, runtime protection, and compliance auditing that aim to eliminate security problems that may arise from the use of containers.

Code Signing Solutions:

Code Signing Certificates allow companies ownership of software artifacts by signing them with digital certificates as a means of establishing their genuineness and reliability.

Through code and software updates authentication, the companies can reject any attempts at modifications and test the integrity of the deployed software. Another plus of code signing is that it helps in building a chain of trust between the software suppliers and customers, which, in turn, increases supply chain security as well as trustworthiness.

Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) Tools:

Secure SDLC tools streamline the process of ensuring security into the entire development cycle: from stages of design and creation to release and maintenance. These tools allow functionalities to include static code analysis, vulnerabilities scanning through dynamic applications security testing (DAST), and review of security codes and threat modeling throughout the SDLC. Using secure SDLC methodologies in conjunction with CI/CD pipelines, companies are able to actively combat software security risks resulting in software that is sturdy and secure.

Supply Chain Security Breaches in CI/CD Environments

The supply chain injections of cybersecurity issues, as with the CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery) environments, could be seen as a huge threat to the integrity and security of software development.

There exist such breaches despite the fact that parties intent on tampering or interfering take advantage of weaknesses or flaws in software supply chains that result in unauthorized entry, data leaks or compromised software components. Here is a detailed exploration of common supply chain security breaches in CI/CD environments:

1. Dependency Hijacking

We currently see one of the most common types of supply chain attacks where the malicious actors backdoor trusted third-party dependencies or libraries that are used in CI/CD pipelines and exploit them. This is the case when the dependence on third-party code by attackers is exploited. They attempt to inject malicious code or backdoors into software through vulnerabilities.

Then, unknowingly, the software build unluckily incorporates the malicious code. The omnipresence of these breached dependencies can be utilized to perform a host of malicious operations, such as carrying off arbitrary command execution, stealing sensitive information, or even launching further attacks within the CI/CD environment or below it.

2. Supply Chain Poisoning

Supply chain poisoning is based on cybercriminals who alter software and software packages in their production or distribution process. It may include code slipping and malware insertion into software artifacts, which may constitute culprit of reliability and trust in them.

Invasions in CI/CD environments occur when the build or deployment is compromised thus enabling proliferation of malicious codes in software builds or containers and end-up making their way to production environments.

3. Credential Theft

As CI/CD environments are susceptible to attackers’ stealing of the authentication credentials, API keys or the other sensitive information used to access cloud services, source code repositories or deployment platforms, Attackers may take the privilege of accessing the cloud services, source code repositories or deployment platforms etc.

The process can emerge by taking up different measures, such as exposing the weaknesses in the CI/CD tools, breaching access controls, or intercepting the credentials that are kept in the CI/CD pipelines or the configuration files. After the victim’s login credentials are successfully stolen, attackers often carry out phishing attacks to get private data and critical system access, or even to launch further assaults.

4. Code Injection

Code injection attacks occur when malicious code or scripts are added to software code components or placed in CI/CD pipeline dependencies. Adversaries could take advantage of bugs in the CI/CD pipeline, code repository or deployment scripts, and therefore could inject hidden code into software builds or deployments.

Such code injection gives hackers the ability to run unauthorized commands, delete important data, or even taint various software you run in your production systems.

5. Malicious Package Releases

The other technique used by attackers is as follows: they upload the rogue or even the compromised versions of the legitimate software packages or code libraries to public repositories or package registries utilized in the CI\CD pipelines.

These bad actors could simply craft malicious packages which would be unknowingly included in the software builds of unspitting developers thus, tainted software artifacts could end up in production environments. After their activation, the foul packs can be used to gain access to systems, steal data or build on the future attacks.

Regulatory Compliance Considerations for Supply Chain Security in CI/CD

Regulatory compliance issues are an important step of organizations’ security implementers working in CI/CD structures. Regulatory compliance helps to make companies meet the legal norms, to protect confidential information and to prevent back-up risks related to the supply chains.

Critical regulations pertaining to fields like information security such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), and Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).

Also, those with industry-specific regulations put specific requirements on the supply chain security in CI/ Compliance in dealing with it means adopting right security controls, recurrent assessment and ensuring supply chain security carries the same weight as the regulations in regards to CI/CD pipelines.

Organizations will boost their credibility if they abide by regulatory standards which show that they are keen about data safety, control for security threats and upholding legal requirements.

Latest Guideline in NIST SP 800-204D

The newest guideline referred to in NIST SP 800-204D, which is called “Strategies for the Integration of Software Supply Chain Security in DevSecOps CI/CD Pipelines,” was published on August 30, 2023, and we are able to have input to it.

The document aims at providing concrete measures to incorporate different types of SSC security verification into CI/CD pipelines in order to address the security concerns of SSC when software is being developed and deployed in the cloud.

Public opinion on the draft was solicited from October 13 until October 13, 2023. The document intends to ensure the security of all deployed software systems through addressing security assurance measures fit for SSCs, in unison with EO 14028, NIST’s SSDF, and other federal initiatives and different industry forums.

According to the guideline, the institution is consistent with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-130 requirement. This document is part of NIST SP 800-204 series, which is about the cloud-native based apps’ security assurance guidelines.


The complexity of supply chain security in the era of cloud-based computing and distributed networks requires the utilization of trusted solutions in order for it to respond properly to the associated risks.

DigiCert Software Trust Manager rolls out a comprehensive suite of tools and services meant to enhance supply chain security, optimize compliance with established protocols, and reinforce the supply chain against existing and future threats.

Through the cooperation with DigiCert, companies can quite safely apply the advanced security practices, detect and cope with the threats in the information environment and construct reliable and trustworthy software supply chains.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the best practices for CI CD security?

There are basically two ways to implement security in Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery, which are integrating security all through the development life cycle, running vulnerability checks regularly, following secure coding practices, using automated testing and deployment tools, setting access control, and promoting collaboration between development operations and security teams so that they effectively address the security issues.

2. What are NIST 800 53 standards?

NIST SP 800-53 standards, written by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), are aimed at providing guidance for protecting federal information systems and network security. They cover a gamut of security domains such as access control, risk management, encryption of data, incident response and security assessment to have holistic cybersecurity measures as a result of the above.

3. How do you Handle Security in your CI/CD Pipeline?

The CI/CD pipeline Security is achieved by integrating security at each step of the development lifecycle stage via automated security testing, application of access controls, dependency screening for vulnerabilities, secured code enforcing, and continuous monitoring to correct security flaws as soon as possible, hence ensuring the resilient and secure software delivery.

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta is a Cyber-Security Enthusiast who constantly updates herself with new advancements in the Web/Cyber Security niche. Along with theoretical knowledge, she also implements her practical expertise in day-to-day tasks and helps others to protect themselves from threats.

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