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Software security MOT results dispel FUD

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Open source software has comparable security, faster bug fixing, and fewer potential backdoors than commercial software, according to a study on software application vulnerabilities by security firm VeraCode.

The study, published on the first day of the RSA Conference, is based on aggregated data from real world scanning of billions of lines of code and thousands of applications by the code quality assurance and security firm. Open source is as good if not better than commercial packages in key metrics accessed by VeraCode, which argues the findings dispel the myth that open source is inherently riskier than commercial code.

In fact the security outcomes of different software development philosophies are almost the same.

For example, using the Mitre/SANS Top 25 security risks as the benchmark, 61 per cent of open source projects failed VeraCode's audit on the first attempt, compared to a figure of 62 per cent for commercial software packages. The prevalence of critical vulnerabilities for open source was 21 per cent, versus 20 per cent for commercial software, according to VeraCode.

VeraCode recorded more significant differences in how quickly open source project teams were able to fix flaws compared to their commercial counterparts. Open source applications took only 36 days from first submission to reach a passing security score, compared to 48 days for internally developed apps and 82 days for commercial applications.

"Numerous political and organizational complexities of enterprise development efforts and the formal, customer-centric release plans of commercial software vendors" explain the longer time commercial apps spend going through its application risk management services platform, according to VeraCode.

The code quality audit firm also noted that open source software had fewer potential backdoors, with only one per cent of vulnerabilities falling into this category. VeraCode credited the "positive effect of transparency" in the open source community for this low figure.

Depending on the standard applied (these are tougher for software used in "business critical" systems), between 58 per cent and 88 per cent of all applications submitted for verification to VeraCode failed to make it through its software security MOT at the first time of asking. ®

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