Open source: Big benefits, big flaws

While open source is now a dominant force in IT, experts warn that the things that make it attractive – it is free, open, customizable and overseen by a community of users – can also make it risky. In short, it may not be for everyone

Given the dominance of open source in the IT marketplace, any significant debate over its value might be considered moot.

As Eric Cowperthwaite, vice president, advanced security and strategy at Core Security, told CSO recently, “Open-source code has conquered the world.”

Indeed, its advantages are multiple, compelling and well known. Among the most compelling are that it is free, it is open to everybody, users can customize it to fit their needs and there is a community of thousands – perhaps millions – of eyes on the code to spot bugs or flaws so they can be fixed quickly, before they are exploited by cybercriminals.

[ ALSO ON CSO: The state of open source security ]

When the source code is, “open to the world, you are going to have multiple eyes viewing the same configuration,” said Andrew Ostashen, security engineer at Redspin, “so if issues arise, the owners will be able to remediate faster.”

Still, world conquerer or not, a number of security and legal experts, while they agree in general with Ostashen and are not issuing blanket condemnations of open source, continue to warn both organizations and individual users that it is not perfect, or even the right fit for everybody.

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