Get the best of
The Daily Bundle in your
inbox every week

The Pros and Cons of Open-Source Software: A Guide for Developers and Executives

By Arooj Shakeel
October 5, 2023

Get the best of The Daily Bundle in your inbox every week

Open-source projects are designed to be easily modified and freely available to the developer community. Indeed, many open-source developers believe that by making their software modifiable, they will receive constructive criticism. Developers frequently pick up new skills by attempting to incorporate open-source software into their programs. If others find this new code useful, they can incorporate it into their projects. It’s no surprise that third-party open-source software is becoming more popular.

Furthermore, it enables businesses to produce software more quickly than developing from zero. Over proprietary software, open-source projects have several advantages but also have some drawbacks you should be aware of. Let’s start with the advantages.

The Benefits of Open-Source Software 

Here are some of the primary benefits of using open-source software:

  1. Adaptability 

The vendor’s development team’s availability and ability to solve the problem are required to develop or customize proprietary solutions. Because open-source solutions are developed through contributions from various community members, they frequently provide multiple solutions to a problem. As a result, using an open-source project allows you to complete the task more quickly. 

  1. Cost 

Because community members create and maintain open-source solutions, they are generally less expensive than proprietary solutions.

  1. Flexibility

You can begin by updating the open-source project’s community versions to meet your business needs. However, you can leverage commercially supported solutions as your business requirements evolve.

  1. Participation in the Community

Open-source projects enable developers to create projects while also providing a platform to interact with other developers outside of their organizations.

Open-Source Software’s Drawbacks

A collaborative open-source project approach can be great for working with other talented engineers. However, when creating something critical to your business, you require more than a supporting cast of thousands of developers worldwide. The following are some of the risks associated with open-source software:

  1. Exposure to Vulnerabilities 

Everyone has access to the source code, and cybercriminals can easily find vulnerabilities in it. For example, they can extract sensitive information or damage systems using open-source software. 

Here are a few examples of recent vulnerabilities discovered in popular open-source software: 

  • Severe security flaws were discovered in Keycloak, an open-source identity and access management solution, which cybercriminals can use to gain access to sensitive information in systems that use the platform. 
  • Certain XSS and CSRF vulnerabilities in Joomla, an open-source content management system, have been discovered and can be exploited by cybercriminals. 
  • Prior to Cachet version 2.5.1, authenticated users with any privilege (User or Admin) could trick Cachet into reinstalling the instance, resulting in arbitrary code execution on the server. 
  1. Safety 

Contributors to open-source projects are typically developers that have little security talent. They contribute to the product primarily to support functionality and may overlook security concerns. As a result, the open-source product may present security vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can easily exploit. 

  1. Guarantee 

Because volunteers develop and manage these products, there is no warranty for their security or support. Developer community members typically test the software for security flaws and provide suggestions/recommendations on public forums, but they are not liable for incorrect advice.

  1. Security Auditing Procedures 

To cut costs, a small team typically manages open-source project contributions. Due to a lack of expertise or workforce, they may not perform proper testing/QA or have a security auditing process at all. The testing team may be unfamiliar with open-source change requests or may not properly test the code by taking into account critical aspects. 

  1. Copyright 

Anonymous developers occasionally create open-source software. As a result, they may need to understand the copyright issues to copy from third-party sources. As a result, companies that use specific open-source software may be held liable for copyright infringement. For example, SCO Group claimed IBM stole part of the UnixWare source code and used it for Project Monterey and sought billions of dollars in damages.

  1. Inadequacies in Operations 

Open-source projects can require a significant amount of time and effort on the part of an organization. It is not always clear who will manage the developer community’s change requests or take care of scope, licensing, and versioning. 

  1. Inadequate Developer Practices 

If hackers are invited to contribute to open-source projects, they may modify the code to include malware. If the code is not thoroughly reviewed, it may be included in an open-source project.

In Conclusion 

The open-source licenses are unlike traditional software licenses in that you do not have to pay to use them. As a result, you cannot expect it to be built with the best security practices while also posing potential risks. These risks may include source code vulnerabilities and proprietary information.

Experts advise against using the open-source project in the following situations: 

You work with sensitive personal and operational data, such as Identity Access Management (IAM) space. You’re working on proprietary software based on an open-source project. While adopting open source, businesses should carefully analyze and assess their suitability and be cautious when implementing the project.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Get the best of The Daily Bundle in your inbox every week