Debunking the Misconceptions of Open Source Security Platforms
- By Santiago Bassett
- Nov 30, 2022
The digital economy quite literally runs on open source. Ninety-nine percent of Fortune 500 companies use open source software, most of the cloud runs on Linux, and Apache and Nginx webservers power more than 60% of the world’s websites.
Yet despite our widespread adoption of—and, in fact, outright dependence on—open source, a number of misconceptions still remain about the technology, particularly when it comes to open source security platforms. Here we will debunk these common fallacies, revealing why open source security actually offers the best approach to keeping organizations and their data secure.
Because it is Open Source, it is not as Secure
There is a commonly held belief that with obscurity comes security. In other words, that proprietary, closed source software is inherently more secure because the code is private, with any weaknesses hidden from attackers. However, the truth is quite the opposite.
There is greater security in transparency. By virtue of being more exposed, open source, projects are open to continuous testing. As users notice and report vulnerabilities, they can be fixed faster. After a while, with this constant pattern of testing and patching, it becomes extremely difficult to find a vulnerability in open source code. The result, of course, being more robust, highly secure software.
On the other hand, with closed, commercial software, vulnerabilities can exist for years without being addressed, and attackers who look to find them may be successful. Meanwhile, users relying on that software may have introduced weaknesses into their systems they may not be aware of — and certainly have no way to check or test against because they cannot verify the source code. Just look at what happened with the infamous Solar Winds supply chain attack.
Open Source Cybersecurity is not as High Quality or Advanced
When people think of open source developers, they sometimes think of amateur or hobby developers. In reality, the open source community is comprised of some of the most talented professionals in the field, responsible for driving notable innovation across industries.
In fact, open source is the foundation of so many of the digital technologies we take for granted today. Not only was open source code the origin of the World Wide Web, it has also made remote collaborative development possible which, since the pandemic, has become absolutely essential to the way we work.
Moreover, because the open source community is built around the idea of collaboration, open source projects have the benefit of multiple perspectives and areas of expertise coming together, creating something stronger and more robust than the sum of its parts.
In the realm of open source cybersecurity, specifically, we see the benefits of this approach play out in the form of collaborative cyber intelligence. Crowdsourced directly from user communities, this large and ever-evolving dataset gives defenders a real advantage against new and shifting threats.
Open Source Cybersecurity is not Enterprise-grade
From Amazon to Oracle to the New York Stock Exchange, some of the biggest companies in the world rely on open source software. In fact, companies like Microsoft are active participants in multiple open source initiatives and Google’s Android is based entirely on an open source software stack.
What’s more, open source offers several key benefits specifically for enterprises. For starters, it is flexible — easy to customize and adapt to user needs. It also plays well with proprietary code, able to integrate and work with other systems within an enterprise’s tech stack. Lastly, with open source, there is no risk of vendor lock-in, so enterprises can easily “lift and shift” as needed.
Open Source Solutions are More Difficult to Use and Maintain
It is a common myth that, because open source projects are contributed to by multiple developers, they are developed chaotically, leading to tangled and overly complex solutions that are difficult to use and maintain. However, this just is not true. Most open source projects closely govern what is added to the code, ensuring that all contributions are documented to create greater transparency and ease of use for all involved.
In addition, open source can offer greater longevity for its users — capable of living beyond the life of the original producer. Whether a company ends its relationship with the creator of an open source project, or that creator goes out of business, the solution still maintains its value and functionality, well into the future.