Myths Debunked About Open Source Software Security

Is open-source software safe, why open source is more secure, is open-source software safe to use

In the existing era, I.T security is vital for every industry worldwide. Organizations and businesses spend billions of dollars each year because they cannot risk the data of innumerable users/consumers associated with them. However, technological advancements in the I.T realm, especially hacking, have increased the demand for software solutions to kill security vulnerabilities.

With progressing advancements, many businesses are turning towards open-source software for security. There are plenty of reasons that back it, and among the highlighted ones, are easy scalability, swift innovation, optimized costing, and improved code quality.

If you’re still thinking of open-source software safe to use, the report extract below would clear the fog & bring in a clear picture.      

As per the reports compiled by Statista in January 2022, MySQL is a widely-used open source software DBMS. It has been ranked 1206 followed by Oracle which globally ranks at 1267. With this license, users can easily distribute, modify, or use it specifically till they abide by the conditions stated.

However, regardless of the ever-evolving advancements, open-source security is looked upon and considered less reliable. Several myths related to the security of open-source software continue to persist. 

But hey, myths are meant to be debunked! Let’s read some myths about open-source software & the facts behind them.

myths facts

Myth 1 - Open Source Software Is Free

Many people are under the impression that open-source software is free to use. This is partially true. Here’s what remains shrouded.

Open-source software gives access to the code if you’re a member of the open-source community. However, the owner(s) of the open-source content management system may charge a specific fee for the services they’re offering.

Usually, open-source software is free to use such as Drupal. It can be used for personal purposes, however, to utilize the software to the fullest extent, the user needs to pay a certain fee. 

Apart from accessing the source code and changing it for personal use, the users are required to pay for making the best use of Drupal.

Myth 2 - Open-source Software Isn’t Safe

“Is open-source software safe to use?”

Rectifying this generalized statement is vital. Poor security or excellence not at par is one of the strongest myths associated with OSS security. That’s not true at all.

An advantage of open-source software is its safety & security. Open-source software is more secure than closed. The reason behind its security is simple - the code is open. The open-source community members can easily fix vulnerabilities owing to the easy access.

Here’s a quick look at the top 2 databases that identify open-source software vulnerabilities:

National Vulnerability Database

Commonly known as NVD, it is the prime database that is used for finding vulnerabilities in open-source software. Apart from this, an NVD also provides information about common vulnerabilities. That’s the reason why open source is more secure than closed source for many software developers.

Issue Trackers

Issue trackers are bug trackers usually developed by the internal software development team for posting and discussing project-related issues. Issue trackers are used for finding security vulnerabilities in an open-source project.

Source: Medium

Myth 3 - Proprietary Software is Safer Than Open-source Software

Technological advancements also aid the dark side of the cyber world. The biggest nightmare for businesses is malware attacks and the impact is reflected in numbers. There’ve been several malware invasions owing to security issues with proprietary software.

In 2021, 4.24 million USD was the global average amount of data breaching that mostly happened with proprietary software using companies.

  • Emotet, Trojan (2018)

Trojan was touted as the worst malware attack that targeted banks and health institutions worldwide. The invasion was made through phishing emails that read emails and ultimately disrupt the system.

  • Clop Gang (2020)

Clop Gang was another ransomware attack that crippled Croatia’s reputed oil company, INA Group. Due to the attack, the company was unable to issue invoices and users couldn’t pay certain bills, apply for vouchers, register for loyalty cards, etc.

With that being said, it gets clear why open-source is more secure than closed-source software.

Myth 4- Open-source Software Is Not Restrictive

Red flag alert! It is a myth if someone states that open-source licenses are not having restrictions on patents. Open-source software has a wide array of licenses like GNU general, Eclipse public license, MIT license, and more.

With the help of these licenses, the open-source code can be made available to the public without copyright restrictions. However, open-source software can be patented for safeguarding the unique code.

Professionals state that acquiring open-source software protects the implementation of the code, regardless of what language is used or how the code has been written.

Myth 5 - Open-source Software Is Not Enterprise-Grade

This doesn’t stand true in any case! A majority of corporate companies have open-source software as their first preference. Here’s a quick look at some leading corporate tycoons using OSS:

  • Amazon
  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Google 
  • IBM
  • Facebook

These are just to name a few from the lot, there are several reputed enterprises and business establishments that are making the best use of this. 

Adding further, Android by Google has set up an extensive portion of the business using open-source software.

Myth 6 - Lack of Professional Support

Linux is a popular software and enterprises like Facebook and Google rely on Linux for managing their servers. Since these two brands are the sharks, Linux keeps the support system up to the mark so that the business runs smoothly. 

Furthermore, the business is free to bring in a third party for consultation and assistance. There lies no hard & fast rule for approaching the proprietor vendor for addressing a particular issue.  

Open-source Security

Open-source security includes all tools and procedures that are used for securing and managing the OSS compliance in all stages of development to production. By utilizing these tools, one can:

  • Discover open-source dependencies on the application
  • Offer accurate versioning & usage info
  • Trigger alerts in case of policy violation

On the production side, it enables monitoring, blocking, and alerting of all threats to the application security so that appropriate action can be taken.

Types of Open-Source Projects

There are two types of open-source projects.

Community open-source projects

As the name suggests, the community open-source is developed and managed by a team of software developers. They collaborate to improve & support the source code without compensation. 

Depending on the size of the project, they have copyrights as well. The smaller ones can have copyrights by direct contributors, whereas larger open-source projects are managed by non-profit organizations. Linux and Apache web servers are noted examples of community open-source projects.

Commercial open-source projects

A commercial open-source project is a project whose copyrights, patents, and trademarks are controlled by a single entity. The owner(s) of commercial open source projects only accept the contributions if the contributor transfers the copyright ownership.

Such is a business model that involves revenue generation by offering technical support or consultation. Facebook, the reputed social networking site, is the largest contributor to COSS.

Companies, regardless of the size, are using open-source software. Excluding the popular open-source software like Linux, FreeBSD, OpenSolaris, etc., enterprise users are also using tools for administrators and software developers for building their software.

The Future of Open-Source Software

Concerns always exist and so do their solutions. Myths would always keep you far away from adopting new technologies, but you need to differentiate between myths and realities. Open-source software speeds up the development process that assures a smooth edge over competitors.

Whether it is about using open-source software or commercial software, an individual needs to understand the requirement and then proceed ahead. 

The myths debunked above would help in gaining a better understanding of open-source components and answer the questions of why open source is more secure than closed. 

Guest post by Prateek Sharma