Is Open Source Software Secure? Myth vs. Reality

img blog Is Open Source Software Secure Myth vs Reality
Open source software (OSS) is an innovative and cost-effective way for businesses to access a wide array of digital tools. Unfortunately, myths regarding OSS security prevent companies from giving this technology due consideration. This article aims to clear the air by debunking OSS security myths so you can make an informed decision about whether it’s right for your company.

What is OSS?

Before diving into security, let’s define OSS. Unlike proprietary software, which keeps its codebase concealed, open source software makes its code accessible to the public. This allows anyone to access and modify the source code — the blueprint programmers use to build the software. This transparency enables collaboration among a global community of developers, leading to continuous improvement and innovation.
Examples of OSS include‌ Mozilla Firefox, Linux, and OpenStack, to name a few.

OSS security myths

When it comes to OSS, there are several common misconceptions around security that make businesses hesitant to adopt it.

Open source software is less secure

Many believe the open nature of OSS makes it more vulnerable than traditional proprietary software. However, security vulnerabilities can exist in any software, regardless of whether the source code is open or closed. What matters most is the development process, as both open and closed source projects benefit from secure coding practices that prevent vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit.
In fact, the open and collaborative nature of OSS can be a security advantage. With numerous developers scrutinizing the codebase, vulnerabilities are more likely to be identified and addressed swiftly. This vast community actively searches for and resolves security issues, fostering a more secure environment compared to closed source software that relies on one vendor for vulnerability detection and patching.

Proprietary software have better protections than OSS

The idea that closed source software is inherently more secure is simply not true. A commercial license doesn’t guarantee better security. While open source projects are transparent about potential vulnerabilities, closed source software relies on trust in the manufacturer. With OSS, you have the added advantage of being able to review the code yourself and even create your own patches if needed.
As mentioned, with more people studying the code, vulnerabilities are more likely to be caught early in open source projects. In contrast, closed source software development teams are often smaller and may lack specialists, such as security engineers, making them more susceptible to vulnerabilities.

Lack of financial incentive discourages security in OSS

Another myth suggests that the absence of commercial backing discourages security efforts in open source projects. However, this is incorrect on two counts.
First, while not universally true, many successful OSS projects have become financially viable for their developers. Mozilla Firefox, for instance, generates revenue through search partnerships. These projects often have dedicated security teams diligently working to patch vulnerabilities.
Second, even in nonprofit OSS endeavors, security remains a top priority. When vulnerabilities are discovered, the community responds promptly. Developers either patch the issue themselves or publicly disclose it, allowing users to take necessary precautions until a fix is available. Furthermore, developers contributing to open source projects often have intrinsic motivation to deliver high-quality, secure software, leading to a rigorous development process.

Hackers capitalize on known open source vulnerabilities

This myth assumes that once a vulnerability is reported, it’s immediately available to hackers. In reality, when a bug is discovered, the development team creates a record but keeps it confidential. This record, known as a common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE), is only made public once the vulnerability is patched and a new, secure version of the software is released. This significantly reduces the risk of hackers exploiting the vulnerability.

Without security standards to follow, OSS is more vulnerable

While there’s no single mandated security standard, all successful software projects, open or closed source, rely on fundamental coding practices that have been tested and improved over the years. Moreover, one of the primary benefits of open source is that anyone can implement their preferred security standards because the code is readily available. Additionally, your IT team can scan the codebase to assess security practices before adoption.
Open source software offers numerous benefits, including security advantages through transparency and community collaboration. By understanding and dispelling common myths, businesses can make more informed decisions about adopting OSS.

Learn more about open source software and how it can benefit your business by speaking with a Liberty Center One expert. Contact us today.