Does Open Source Software Put Government Security at Risk?


The Obama Administration vows to cut costs in part by using open source software (Software whose source code is made available to the user), cloud computing, virtualization, Linux and other low cost technologies. But, does the use of open source software put the government, its records and our national security at risk? The argument goes like this: "If the government uses open source software, then the government is at risk because the security flaws are exposed publicly." The argument continues with, "The use of proprietary software protects the government from security attacks because its code is hidden and not released to the public." There is, however, a significant flaw in the argument against open source software's use in government.

The assumption is that by allowing everyone access to the source code, you also open yourself up to more security risk. This is not the case. Open source software guarantees that by exposing its code that any security flaws will be fixed long before its proprietary counterpart's.

How can I make such a bold statement that would seem to defy logic and common sense?

By allowing everyone access to the source code for a program, you have a worldwide community available to fix any flaws in that code and return those fixes to the project. And, that's exactly what happens. With proprietary software, the code is hidden and not released to the public thereby limiting fixes and patches to the original programmers. Sometimes you need a fresh set of eyes on a project in order to fix it. Proprietary software doesn't have that advantage.
You're also at the mercy of the proprietary software vendor to patch your vulnerable system in a timely manner after a flaw is found.

So, the answer to the question is, no. Using open source software in government, in private business or at home actually puts you at less risk.

The Obama Administration is moving in the right direction, as are many other of the world's governments, by transitioning away from proprietary software and using software that is cost-free and open source.
Maybe once the trend is set, private businesses will follow the example and adopt open source software for their use as well.

Now there's some change I can believe in.

Evenbit commented: This subject should be talked about more. +5
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rch1231 169 Posting Shark

Well said and I could not agree more.

khakilang -3 Posting Pro in Training

Our government has also start implementing Open source software for basic usage for general public but. I think company like Red Hat and Novell could stand their product in term of security.

crow_ca 0 Newbie Poster

I could not agree with you more! I am pushing my employer (10,000 employees) to adopt open source software (OpenOffice for now).

pogson 4 Light Poster

It's about time. Heaven and Bill Gates only know what backdoors and security holes are in that other OS. Government has no business using stuff they cannot trust. FLOSS is trustworthy because you can examine it, one of the four freedoms of free software. A government would not hire an unknown person as an employee. They should not use unknown/hidden/secret/closed software. No one should.

Companies with 10k employees should really look at hiring a few FLOSS gurus instead of paying megabucks for licensing. SUN did that by buying the company that made StarOffice for less than one more round of licences for Office.

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