The Open Trusted Technology Provider™ Standard (O-TTPS), a Standard from The Open Group for Product Integrity and Supply Chain Security, Approved as ISO/IEC International Standard
Doing More to Secure IT Products and their Global Supply Chains
By Sally Long, The Open Group Trusted Technology Forum Director
As the Director of The Open Group Trusted Technology Forum, I am thrilled to share the news that The Open Trusted Technology Provider™ Standard – Mitigating Maliciously Tainted and Counterfeit Products (O-TTPS) v 1.1 is approved as an ISO/IEC International Standard (ISO/IEC 20243:2015).
It is one of the first standards aimed at assuring both the integrity of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) information and communication technology (ICT) products and the security of their supply chains.
The standard defines a set of best practices for COTS ICT providers to use to mitigate the risk of maliciously tainted and counterfeit components from being incorporated into each phase of a product’s lifecycle. This encompasses design, sourcing, build, fulfilment, distribution, sustainment, and disposal. The best practices apply to in-house development, outsourced development and manufacturing, and to global supply chains.
The ISO/IEC standard will be published in the coming weeks. In advance of the ISO/IEC 20243 publication, The Open Group edition of the standard, technically identical to the ISO/IEC approved edition, is freely available here.
The standardization effort is the result of a collaboration in The Open Group Trusted Technology Provider Forum (OTTF), between government, third party evaluators and some of industry’s most mature and respected providers who came together as members and, over a period of five years, shared and built on their practices for integrity and security, including those used in-house and those used with their own supply chains. From these, they created a set of best practices that were standardized through The Open Group consensus review process as the O-TTPS. That was then submitted to the ISO/IEC JTC1 process for Publicly Available Specifications (PAS), where it was recently approved.
The Open Group has also developed an O-TTPS Accreditation Program to recognize Open Trusted Technology Providers who conform to the standard and adhere to best practices across their entire enterprise, within a specific product line or business unit, or within an individual product. Accreditation is applicable to all ICT providers in the chain: OEMS, integrators, hardware and software component suppliers, value-add distributors, and resellers.
While The Open Group assumes the role of the Accreditation Authority over the entire program, it also uses third-party assessors to assess conformance to the O-TTPS requirements. The Accreditation Program and the Assessment Procedures are publicly available here. The Open Group is also considering submitting the O-TTPS Assessment Procedures to the ISO/IEC JTC1 PAS process.
This international approval comes none-too-soon, given the global threat landscape continues to change dramatically, and cyber attacks – which have long targeted governments and big business – are growing in sophistication and prominence. We saw this most clearly with the Sony hack late last year. Despite successes using more longstanding hacking methods, maliciously intentioned cyber criminals are looking at new ways to cause damage and are increasingly looking at the technology supply chain as a potentially profitable avenue. In such a transitional environment, it is worth reviewing again why IT products and their supply chains are so vulnerable and what can be done to secure them in the face of numerous challenges.
Risk lies in complexity
Information Technology supply chains depend upon complex and interrelated networks of component suppliers across a wide range of global partners. Suppliers deliver parts to OEMS, or component integrators who build products from them, and in turn offer products to customers directly or to system integrators who integrate them with products from multiple providers at a customer site. This complexity leaves ample opportunity for malicious components to enter the supply chain and leave vulnerabilities that can potentially be exploited.
As a result, organizations now need assurances that they are buying from trusted technology providers who follow best practices every step of the way. This means that they not only follow secure development and engineering practices in-house while developing their own software and hardware pieces, but also that they are following best practices to secure their supply chains. Modern cyber criminals go through strenuous efforts to identify any sort of vulnerability that can be exploited for malicious gain and the supply chain is no different.
Untracked malicious behavior and counterfeit components
Tainted products introduced into the supply chain pose significant risk to organizations because altered products introduce the possibility of untracked malicious behavior. A compromised electrical component or piece of software that lies dormant and undetected within an organization could cause tremendous damage if activated externally. Customers, including governments are moving away from building their own high assurance and customized systems and moving toward the use of commercial off the shelf (COTS) information and communication technology (ICT), typically because they are better, cheaper and more reliable. But a maliciously tainted COTS ICT product, once connected or incorporated, poses a significant security threat. For example, it could allow unauthorized access to sensitive corporate data including intellectual property, or allow hackers to take control of the organization’s network. Perhaps the most concerning element of the whole scenario is the amount of damage that such destructive hardware or software could inflict on safety or mission critical systems.
Like maliciously tainted components, counterfeit products can also cause significant damage to customers and providers resulting in failed or inferior products, revenue and brand equity loss, and disclosure of intellectual property. Although fakes have plagued manufacturers and suppliers for many years, globalization has greatly increased the number of out-sourced components and the number of links in every supply chain, and with that comes increased risk of tainted or counterfeit parts making it into operational environments. Consider the consequences if a faulty component was to fail in a government, financial or safety critical system or if it was also maliciously tainted for the sole purpose of causing widespread catastrophic damage.
Global solution for a global problem – the relevance of international standards
One of the emerging challenges is the rise of local demands on IT providers related to cybersecurity and IT supply chains. Despite technology supply chains being global in nature, more and more local solutions are cropping up to address some of the issues mentioned earlier, resulting in multiple countries with different policies that included disparate and variable requirements related to cybersecurity and their supply chains. Some are competing local standards, but many are local solutions generated by governmental policies that dictate which country to buy from and which not to. The supply chain has become a nationally charged issue that requires the creation of a level playing field regardless of where your company is based. Competition should be based on the quality, integrity and security of your products and processes and not where the products were developed, manufactured, or assembled.
Having transparent criteria through global international standards like our recently approved O-TTPS standard (ISO/IEC 20243) and objective assessments like the O-TTPS Accreditation Program that help assure conformance to those standards is critical to both raise the bar on global suppliers and to provide equal opportunity (vendor-neutral and country-nuetral) for all constituents in the chain to reach that bar – regardless of locale.
The approval by ISO/IEC of this universal product integrity and supply chain security standard is an important next step in the continued battle to secure ICT products and protect the environments in which they operate. Suppliers should explore what they need to do to conform to the standard and buyers should consider encouraging conformance by requesting conformance to it in their RFPs. By adhering to relevant international standards and demonstrating conformance we will have a powerful tool for technology providers and component suppliers around the world to utilize in combating current and future cyber attacks on our critical infrastructure, our governments, our business enterprises and even on the COTS ICT that we have in our homes. This is truly a universal problem that we can begin to solve through adoption and adherence to international standards.
Sally Long is the Director of The Open Group Trusted Technology Forum (OTTF). She has managed customer supplier forums and collaborative development projects for over twenty years. She was the release engineering section manager for all multi-vendor collaborative technology development projects at The Open Software Foundation (OSF) in Cambridge Massachusetts. Following the merger of the OSF and X/Open under The Open Group, she served as director for multiple forums in The Open Group. Sally has a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; @sallyannlong