Open-Source Security Comes Under Fire

By Dennis Fisher  |  Posted 2002-11-22 Print this article Print

Report calls open-source software and Linux distributions the "2002 poster children for security problems."

Thanks to several high-profile vulnerabilities and an overall increase in the number of flaws, open-source software has taken over Microsoft Corp.s position at the bottom of the security heap. A recent research note from two analysts at the Aberdeen Group calls open-source software and Linux distributions the "2002 poster children for security problems." Of the 29 advisories issued through October by the CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, 16 of them addressed vulnerabilities in open-source or Linux products. Seven of the advisories were related to Microsoft products.
"Open source software is now the major source of elevated security vulnerabilities for IT buyers," the Aberdeen report says. "The poster child for security glitches is no longer Microsoft; this label now belongs to open source and Linux software suppliers."
Microsoft officials say the report highlights how far the industry as a whole has to go in addressing the security of its products. "This demonstrates that as an industry we have a lot of work to do in security," said Mike Nash, vice president of the Security Business Unit at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash. "Microsoft has come a long way in the past 12 months, but the most important thing to realize is that this is very much an industry issue. Our goal is to make sure the number of vulnerabilities found outside of Microsoft is as low as possible. But theres also the issue of how quickly we respond to issues once theyre found, and I think weve done a good job at that." The CERT data seems to contradict the commonly held belief that open-source software is more secure than proprietary products. Advocates of the open-source process often claim that their products are more secure thanks to the larger number of people poring over the code, looking for vulnerabilities and bugs.


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