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Homeland Security report tracks down rogue open source code

Coverity does the numbers

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The authors of a US government-sponsored report claim to have delivered the first reliable guide into judging the safety and reliability of open source software.

The report, backed by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has evaluated 31 popular open source packages searching for defects that will cause "hard crashes" - problems that leave users open to hackers or cause downtime.

And fortunately for many a young Silicon Valley start-up and entrepreneur, the report, conducted by fault tracking specialist Coverity, has effectively given the Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/PHP/Python (LAMP) stack a healthy rating.

LAMP "showed significantly better software quality" above the report's baseline with an average of .32 defects per 1,000 lines of code, according to Coverity. The average for open source projects analyzed is .42 per 1,000 lines.

Coverity co-founder Dave Park called the report a first because it provides a single standard to evaluate software from different open source projects. Increasingly, developers use open source form multiple projects to build applications, making it important to provide an overall measurement for things like bugs.

Park told The Register: "This is one clear metric to decide how reliable or secure open source is. No real or proper yardstick existed before."

Coverity's report, Stacking up the LAMP stack: a study of open source quality, was produced as part of a $1.24m, three-year DHS Science and Technology Directorate effort to evaluate and improve the security of open source.

Coverity evaluated 15m lines of open source code with Stamford University's Computer Science Department. The report has identified bugs that can corrupt a machine's memory space, memory leaks, buffer overruns and crashes. Coverity said it would now engage with open source developers to improve code, and identify potential reasons for why some projects have more bugs than others. ®

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