Making Open-Source Software More Secure: Why and How to do It
It’s no news that many developers rely on dependencies to build software because it saves them the time, cost, and energy of writing new codes.
Yet, we cannot ignore that open-source software has its disadvantages and exposes us to vulnerabilities, especially if they are not well managed.
But why wait to manage risks if we can avoid them altogether? Why not make open-source software more secure?
Today we’ll discuss the essence of open-source software, why you need it, and how you can protect yourself from the risks while benefiting from them.
Open-Source Software: Over Two Decades of Free Access
Open-source software as we know it today originated from a proposition by Richard Stallman in 1983. His big idea was that programmers should have access to free software for learning, modifying, or using as a means to improve on the software.
He took this idea further by creating the GNU Public License and sharing free code under his license. Richard’s big picture finally led to the formation of the Open Source Initiative in 1998 by Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens.
The conception of the Open Source Initiative was based on the need to educate, advocate, and provide a community geared towards collaborative development between programmers.
Why Open-Source Software is Important
Open-source software has made a massive impact on developing technologies. Because open-source software codes are available to developers to modify, developers can learn how the principles work and integrate them into the software they’re building.
Instead of re-writing existing codes, a developer can leverage pre-existing codes available in public libraries to make their work more efficient.
Also, the availability of open-source software provides a collaborative platform where learning and tools are shared. It is a net positive for innovation and technological advancement.
Some advantages of open-source software include the following:
- Better security: Compared to closed-source software, open-source software is more secure and stable because anyone can modify the codes and fix bugs in the original program. Thus, reducing vulnerabilities.
- Community support: For any form of development, collaboration is necessary for advancement. The idea of open-source software creates communities for developers to learn, interact and share ideas. Online developer communities also provide support for developers when using open-source software.
- Cost-efficiency: Needless to say, code availability reduces the cost required to build new software.
- No vendor lock-in: One of the advantages of open-source software is the freedom to use, modify, or distribute it without hindrances or limitations.
- Speed: Open-source software increases a developer’s agility to build new software since it reduces the time it will take to write the codes.
There are several more advantages of open-source software. However, with benefits, there’s still a lot a developer can do to reduce risks and vulnerabilities when using open-source software- and save themselves from Dependency Hell.
How Developers Can Make Open-Source Software More Secure
Open-source software is ubiquitous in its uses. Unfortunately, the availability of open-source software in public libraries means it is also easy to exploit, leaving developers vulnerable to attacks.
Thus, it is necessary to secure your software from open-source risks. Here are five crucial steps you can take to mitigate the risks of open-source software.
Build Inventories of Your Open-Source Codes
Security begins with tracking your open-source codes. So, building an inventory of all the open-source codes you use to develop software keeps you informed of your source.
Use Vulnerability Scans to Monitor Open-Source Risks
Automated vulnerability scans of open-source software identify any security vulnerabilities within the open-source code that you’re using.
Regular vulnerability scans of your open-source code ensure that new vulnerabilities are addressed immediately before they pose a risk.
Perform Regular Updates
Bug fixtures to open-source codes occur as new bugs are discovered. Staying informed on updates, security warnings, and fixtures will help you protect your software from open-source threats or expired open-source codes.
Manage Your Dependencies Well
Managing your code’s dependencies is crucial to keeping you out of dependency hell. A dependency management tool ensures that you use only approved dependencies in your software.
Automate Your Security Tests
Security automation tools spot potential vulnerabilities in a code and resolve them before they become risks. Automated security tests are a great way to mitigate exposure to nasty bugs within codes you may have missed.
Open-source software is a net benefit for developers. It is transparent, builds collaboration and community, and, more importantly, is secure.
Recently, Microsoft called open-source software the “industry-accepted model for cross-company collaboration.” I agree.
Although there’s more we can do as developers to mitigate the risks and protect users of open-source software from vulnerabilities and hacks, there’s no denying that open-source software benefits the developer community and technology on a massive scale.