Adopt an OpenSource project today

by Admin 27. September 2014 15:26


Security Professionals - Time to save the Internet

It isn’t always nice to be proven right. This last few months has proven me more right than I ever wanted to be. You see it started with a discussion on Linkedin. Someone (who shall remain nameless) was telling everyone who would listen on that forum that OpenSource was better than commercial software for all sorts of reasons. The gentleman in question had managed to get it wrong on pretty much every level (IMHO) and had clearly never had to manage OpenSource in a large commercial organisation. I’ve had to deal with patent trolls, licencing issues, commercial code leak (into the OpenSource code) and a host of other difficulties but the issue I really had to disagree with most strongly was that OpenSource was inherently more secure that commercial software because the code was available for peer review.

I pointed out all of the reasons that was wrong, not least that having something available for review in no way makes it certain that someone qualified to review it actually will. This is particularly the case where most OpenSource projects now have so many lines of often poorly documented code that manual code analysis is pretty much impossible. Modern code review is very much an automated process run by other software looking for particular patterns, often specific to a particular language. My contention was that commercial code is far more likely to have gone through rigorous security QA checks than any OpenSource and if problems are found the correct remediation is more likely to get into the codebase of all subsequent production branches.

Shortly after this discussion the Heartbleed bug was discovered and I managed to stop myself re-joining the discussion to say I told you so! Now we have Shellshock, a potentially even more serious bug which seems likely to affect more commercial users than even Heartbleed and my guess is will be harder to patch across large commercial estates.

So what is the answer? OpenSource is so pervasive and so necessary to commercial software if this just something we will have to live with as bug after bug is discovered in OpenSource utilities, libraries and complete applications? Should the commercial world start to wean itself off OpenSource software or perhaps OpenSource should look to change its licencing model to better fund itself from commercial users?

I’m not sure that any of those options is viable or even desirable. So wat is the option? Well here I think that the Information Security community (of which I am a long time member) needs to step in. Security specialists, particularly those with a development background need to start adopting OpenSource projects. Any project worth its salt needs to think carefully about adding a security officer to its core team. Some projects like FreeBSD have already done this and now can’t imagine a world without one. I think those security officers need to leverage their contacts in the security world to beg or borrow access to automated security review tools to make their task easier. There are already some OpenSource tools out there that might form the seed of some very useful OpenSource source code review tools.

Time for the security community to step up. We have been making use of openSource tools for a while now. Time to give back

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Comments (1) -

Antonio Bonuccelli
Antonio Bonuccelli
9/29/2014 10:12:14 AM #

So are we saying here that proprietary software does not have bugs or have less than opensource one?
Or that commercial companies adopting open-source models do not have a QA department?
There are tons of Fortune x00 companies successfully adopting and leveraging open-source solutions and the list just keeps growing.


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