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Open-source software a security risk, study claims

Ellen Messmer | July 21, 2008
Open source software is a significant security risk for corporations that use it, according a study.

Howard Schmidt, former White House cybersecurity czar who's now a consultant, and also a board member at Fortify, says the study shows that when it comes to business adoption of open source software, "You've got to go into this with your eyes wide open."

The reality is that while open source software may appear more cost-effective and just as functional as commercial software in some instances, the question of maintenance must be examined very carefully.

"Who do you reach out to?" Schmidt asks. "What about the thousands of companies out there running Geronimo? And what about your supply-chain partners?"

The bottom line is that corporations may find they have to undertake remediation of open source packages on their own. "You are effectively on your own, absent your having an arrangement ahead of time," Schmidt says.

Government agencies and corporations need to decide if they're going to try to mitigate problems with open source software themselves, through risk assessment and code review, and whether they plan to give that information back to the open source community.

This is a fundamental question about the life-cycle development of the software, West says, adding that the study indicated to Fortify that the open source communities in these cases tended not to correct for identified flaws in software versions over a period of time.


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