Open Source Security Benefits
Open source security is widely regarded as potentially being more secure than proprietary solutions, but what exactly are the open source security benefits? In this post we detail the main benefits of open source compared to proprietary software, where the source code is secret.
What are the Open Source Security Benefits?
Several open source security benefits are not found with closed source or proprietary software solutions. While the fact that a solution is open source does not necessarily make it better or more secure than a closed source solution, there are key security benefits that come with open source.
One of the main benefits of open source software is the vendor is operating with complete transparency, and this is especially important for security solutions. Since the source code is available for review by anyone, it is much harder for potentially malicious code to remain hidden. Recently there have been several incidences of software including malicious code or backdoors being added to software in supply chain attacks. Open source doesn’t prevent this, but it makes it harder for malicious source code changes to go unnoticed.
With proprietary software there is a risk of lock-in, as vendors often make it difficult for users to switch to competitors. With open source transparency, there really is nowhere to hide. Proprietary software however is a closed book and users need to have complete trust in the vendor.
The Source Code is Tested
One of the most important open source security benefits is that by making the source code available for all to access, the code will be tested by users and bug bounty hunters as well as by developers. By making the source code available to the open source community, bugs that may cause issues with the underlying operating system or other applications can be identified more quickly and addressed.
Often, there are online communities that discuss the testing of open source software. With proprietary software you are relying on the developer to test and check their code to identify any issues, and regardless of the number of employees dedicated to that task, it will undoubtedly be fewer than the number of people checking the code of open source solutions.
Security Vulnerabilities are Identified and Addressed Faster
One of the most commonly stated open source security benefits is that having many eyes look at the source code means security vulnerabilities are likely to be found more quickly. Rarely is software totally vulnerability free soon after release, so having an army of security researchers testing the code is a great security benefit. Software developers can become a little blinkered and may not see certain vulnerabilities. Having a fresh pair of eyes look over the code is hugely beneficial, and open source means many eyes are looking at the code. That means open source solutions are less likely to have serious security flaws.
Open Source Allows the Developer to Focus on Product Development and Fixes
Since there is often an active community testing open source solutions, developers need to spend fewer resources on checking code and can instead put more effort into making improvements to their solutions. The time and money saved can be put into making the products better and more user-friendly, resulting in faster development, improved functionality, and all users will benefit from the new capabilities.
Does Open Source Guarantee Security?
There are several open source security benefits and while open source can be a good indicator of security, there are no guarantees: No solution, whether open or closed source, is guaranteed to be invulnerable to cyberattacks.
It is important to remember that while open source software should have undergone code reviews, making code open source and available for review does not mean that the code has actually been reviewed by security experts nor that any identified vulnerabilities have been addressed.
For more peace of mind, check to see if an open source solution has undergone an independent third-party audit to identify vulnerabilities, the outcome of the audit if it has been made available, and whether identified issues have been addressed.