How do you know if a hardware or software vendor can be trusted?

February 20, 2014
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3 min read

This is a weekly post where we address questions of interest to the Application Information Security Community. To that end, we’d love to hear your questions! Please Tweet us with the hashtag #ThinkAppSec or leave us a comment below.

Open Group O-TTPS – Identifying Trusted Providers of Hardware and Software Components

How do you know if the vendor providing hardware or software can be trusted? How do you know if their processes can be trusted to supply your organization with hardware and software that has not been maliciously tainted?

The Open Group, “a global consortium that enables the achievement of business objectives through IT standards,” began to work on these questions “in 2009 with a meeting of government and industry representatives, said Sally Long, director of [The Open Group’s Trusted Technology Forum]. “Government came to us and asked, ‘How do we know what businesses can be trusted?’” The Open Group consortium includes many vendors, IBM is one, but strives to be vendor neutral. The Open Group mission is to help companies with reliable and secure global interoperability not to recommend a single vendor or product.

To address the issue of technology trust, the Open Group established The Trusted Technology Forum, which published the Open Trusted Technology Provider Framework (O-TTPF) in February 2011.  The Framework sets forth best practices identified by a cross-industry forum which, if used by a technology vendor, may allow a government or commercial enterprise customer to consider the vendor’s products as more secure and trusted.

The best practices address, among other things, Product Development and Secure Engineering. Specific best practices in those categories include (but are not limited to):

Secure Engineering:

  • Threat modeling
  • Secure code design reviews
  • Risk assessments
  • Tooling to minimize risk
  • Static code analysis

Product Development:

  • Well documented processed and practices
  • Formally managed requirements, design, etc
  • Quality test management

The O-TTPF is complemented by the Open Trusted Technology Provider™ Standard (O-TTPS), Version 1.0 (April 2013) which contains a set of organizational guidelines, requirements, and recommendations for integrators, providers, and component suppliers to enhance the security of the global supply chain and the integrity of Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The standard encompasses the entire COTS ICT Lifecycle through: design, sourcing, build, fulfillment, distribution, sustainment, and disposal.

On February 3, 2014 The Open Group announced the launch of the Open Trusted Technology Provider™ Standard (O-TTPS) Accreditation Program to help companies assure the integrity of COTS ICT products and safeguard the global supply chain from Cybersecurity attacks. To be accredited, organizations must demonstrate that they conform to the O-TTPS requirements and have compliant processes and procedures in place that secure in-house development across the entire COTS ICT lifecycle.

When accredited, organization can identify themselves as Open Trusted Technology Providers™ and are included in the Open Group’s public registry of trusted providers. Completing accreditation means that an organization has followed O-TTPS to ensure that they “Build with Integrity” so their customers can “Buy with Confidence”. In January 2014, IBM received O-TTPS accreditation for the Application Infrastructure and Middleware (AIM) Software Business Division.

Andras Szakal, Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, IBM U.S. Federal IMT: said: “Secure by Design is a key tenant of the IBM secure engineering process. The Open Trusted Technology Provider™ Standard and Accreditation Program will help guide and recognize trusted technology vendors like IBM that value Secure by Design best practices.”

If you buy or build software or hardware for your organization, please take a closer look at the standard and guidance from The Open Trusted Technology Provider™ Standard and Accreditation Program.


And then, please let us know your thoughts on the program. Will this program help your organization “Buy with Confidence?” Why or why not?

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Submit your questions via Twitter using #ThinkAppSec


Diana Kelley
Executive Security Advisor, IBM Security

Diana Kelley is an internationally recognized information security expert, speaker, strategic advisor, market analyst and writer. She has over 20 years of IT...
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