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The quality and security levels of open source code are continuing to improve, according to the latest annual audit by code analysis tools vendor Coverity.

The third edition of the Coverity Scan Open Source report measured a 16 per cent reduction in static analysis defect density over the past three years among the projects subjected to scrutiny, including Firefox, Linux, PHP, Ruby and Samba. The report covers analysis of more than 11 billion lines of code from 280 open source projects.

Beween 2006 and 2009, more than 11,200 defects in open source programs have been fixed thanks to Coverity - 2, 700 of those in the last year.

The mix of defect types identified in the process remains consistent. NULL Pointers, resource leaks and unintentional ignored expressions have consistently remained the main problem areas for coders.

The open source code audit project was initially kickstarted by the US Department of Homeland Security, in co-operation with Coverity back in 2006 as a means to harden open source code.

Comparisons between the security of open source and closed source software would be interesting. The likes of Microsoft carry out code analysis work, but this is done under NDA and is not publicly available, so comparisons are difficult if not impossible.

The full lowdown on the report can be found via Coverity's site here (registration required).

Static code analysis looks at source code without compiling software and executing code.

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