Is Open Source Software Secure?

On the surface, it might seem that open-source software (OSS) wouldn’t be as secure as proprietary software. After all, it is easily accessible by anyone who wants to use it. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. As we will discuss below, the issue is somewhat complex. But since 80%-90% of today’s software is open-source software and 79% of organizations expect to increase their use of enterprise open-source software, it is important to understand OSS in the context of cybersecurity.

We’ll start by exploring what open-source software is, then dive into how OSS compares to proprietary software, potential security risks, and how to manage them.

What Is Open-Source Software?

Open-source software is any code, software, software package, or system published under a license that makes it freely available to anyone to use, copy, modify, and distribute. It is common for open-source software to be altered and combined with other open-source software to create new programs and applications.

The method of developing open-source software is done in a highly collaborative environment with many people involved in the development process. While this might seem like a security issue in and of itself, it can be beneficial for an organization’s cybersecurity. Let’s dig deeper.

Open-Source vs. Proprietary Software

Before we get into the security concerns associated with open-source software, it is important to understand how it compares to proprietary software. Essentially, OSS is no different than proprietary when it comes to vulnerabilities. Both types of software are susceptible to:

  • Programming errors and bugs
  • Bad actors who will intentionally breach the system
  • Programmers who change the code to make it easier to exploit at a later time

As such, the same security best practices can and should be used with either type of software. This includes having a zero-trust policy, reviewing the code regularly, ensuring visibility into the system, and having full knowledge of the attack surface.

But the question remains, if open-source software and proprietary software are so similar in terms of vulnerability and security needs, what makes OSS stand out?

What Are the Security Concerns with OSS?

There are three primary concerns when it comes to the security of open-source software. These are:

Easy accessibility

It’s true that, since OSS is free and available for anyone to use, anyone can access it and alter the code. This inherently gives bad actors the ability to access and change the code for enterprise software so they can break in and cause damage more easily.

However, the nature of open-source software requires many sets of eyes to be always on the code. In addition, there is a strong community of programmers within the open-source world. This means a lot of support, including an increased ability to find and fix bugs and security vulnerabilities.

Lack of funding

Even with such a large community and so many eyes available to spot and fix vulnerabilities and bugs, these can still go unnoticed because there is a lack of funding for open-source software projects. Since software licensing is free, money must come from somewhere to improve security related to fixing bugs and vulnerabilities. Governments and tech companies such as Google and the Linux Foundation are examples of organizations working to fund open-source projects to improve security.

Lack of centralization

As with proprietary software, there can be issues with open-source software. And when things go wrong, it can be challenging to determine who is responsible because there is a lack of centralized governance. The code use is also decentralized, making it difficult to track down vulnerabilities when they appear. The best way to deal with this is to have a core development team and/or thought leadership team who will oversee the project and steer it in the right direction.

Ultimately, using open-source software is no riskier than using proprietary software. If you choose to use OSS, have a team dedicated to overseeing its modification to suit your company’s needs and ensure you have all the necessary cybersecurity measures.

Reach out to Platinum Technologies today to learn more about open-source software and how to improve your cybersecurity no matter what type of software and applications you use.

You May Also Like…

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap