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Open Source Software: How Good Is Its Overall Security?

Open Source Software: How Good Is Its Overall Security?
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By Susan Hoffman
Contributor, In Cyber Defense

Open source software has been a boon to many individual users and businesses. Open source software development brought about the rise of the Linux and Ubuntu operating systems and the Firefox browser. In addition, developers have created a host of other programs for companies and private users, such as:

  • Hadoop — data processing and management
  • Amarok — audio and music production
  • Inkscape — drawing and graphic design
  • LibreOffice — office productivity

Why Do Users Like Open Source Software?

Open source software has several advantages. First, downloading it is free, so private users and organizations save money by using the software without cost. Some companies, however, may charge a fee to allow the user to obtain the additional features of a program.

Second, open source software is versatile and can be used on the operating systems of different computers. Some programs work with Windows or Linux; others can be used with Macintosh OS X as well as PC operating systems.

Third, installing and using this type of software is a relatively straightforward process. However, usability depends upon the user’s skill level and the software’s design.

Fourth, the software can be customized to suit specific needs. If the user has a specific problem to solve — such as productivity or efficiency — open source software can prove helpful.

Keeping Open Source Software Secure

Open source software has good security, because multiple developers are involved in its production. Overall, the quality of the software is kept at a high level; its developers prefer not to risk their professional reputations by creating an inferior product.

Although it’s possible for a rogue developer to insert malicious code into open source software, this behavior is discouraged by legitimate developers. Software developers form a close community and strive to create the best possible products, so they have a vested interest in keeping their software secure and free from problems.

CEO Vlad Vorobiov of Ruby Garage notes, “Simply put, the more eyes are looking at code, the more bugs will be found and fixed in a stated period of time……the fact that the software has a strong community around it, which is interested to make it better and believes in its future potential, is a great security indicator on its own.”

Due Diligence Is Helpful

While open source software is convenient, it is wise to perform due diligence before downloading it to your computer:

  • Read any frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the software’s website.
  • Look at online forums to see any issues people have had with the software.
  • Go to search engines and read articles that report on the software you want to use.

Open source software can enhance productivity and reduce costs. But before using it, be sure that you know exactly what that software will and won’t do for you.

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