A Comprehensive Guide to Open-Source Security

A Comprehensive Guide to Open-Source Security

A Comprehensive Guide to Open-Source Security


What Is Open Source Security?

Open source security is a term used to describe the process of protecting your organization’s data and network from attack by using open-source software. It refers to the use of open-source software (OSS) for data protection. Open source software is free to use, meaning that anyone can access it without paying fees. This allows organizations to take advantage of the collective knowledge and experience of thousands of people who have contributed code or worked on projects together. Organizations can protect their data by using open-source tools and technologies, such as Linux operating systems or Apache web servers. These tools allow you to keep your data secure while using a low-cost solution that is easy to manage and deploy.

Open source security enables organizations to reduce costs associated with traditional information security solutions, such as hardware purchases, licensing fees, staff training requirements, maintenance contracts, etc., while still maintaining comprehensive protection against cyberattacks.

What Are The Components Of Open Source Security?

There are three components of open source security: 

  1. Code: the written instructions that make up a program or application.
  2. Tools: the physical or digital devices used to create, test, deploy, monitor, or manage an application.
  3. Processes: the methods and procedures used to manage an application.

The 4 Benefits Of Open Source Software

There are many benefits to using open source software, and the most obvious one is that it saves both time and money. One of the biggest benefits of open source software is that it’s free. This means that businesses don’t have to pay for licenses (still have to get them). Additionally, since open-source software is available to anyone who wants it, there’s no need to worry about patent infringements or third-party ownership issues. However, users still have to abide by the license requirements.

Another big benefit of open source software is that it can be adapted quickly to meet changing needs. If a business needs a new feature added to an existing application, it can easily implement it by modifying the codebase.

Oftentimes open source software has more robust features than proprietary software because it’s developed by many people instead of just one company. To summarize, there are four potential benefits to using open source software:

  1. Improved security: Because open source code is publicly available, developers can review and patch vulnerabilities as they’re found. This makes the system more secure overall.
  2. Reduced costs: By sharing development resources and knowledge, companies can reduce the cost of developing and maintaining an open-source product.
  3. Increased flexibility: When you have a large community working on a project together, you can get feedback and suggestions faster than if the project were closed off from the public. This leads to increased flexibility and better design decisions in the end product.
  4. Greater innovation: With so many people contributing their time and expertise to an open source project, there’s greater opportunity for innovation in the final product than with proprietary products.

The 3 Open Source Software Security Risks

While there are numerous benefits to open source software, there are also a good number of risks. We’ve surfaced the top 3:

  1. Vulnerabilities in open source dependencies: By using open source software, businesses take on the responsibility of knowing about all of the vulnerabilities that have been found in those dependencies. This means that if a vulnerability is discovered, it could potentially be exploited by attackers to gain access to systems and data.
  2. License compliance risks: When a company licenses open source software, they are agreeing to abide by the terms of the open source license. This can involve complying with copyright and trademark laws, as well as other contractual obligations.it is important for companies licensing open source software to be sure that they are abiding by all of the terms of the license agreement. Otherwise, they could face serious consequences down the road.
  3. Unmaintained open source packages: Open source software packages, if not maintained against emerging threats, are vulnerable to security risks that can jeopardize the privacy and safety of users.

What Are The Common Tools For Open Source Security?

There are different tools for open source security, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks. Some of the most common tools for open-source security include code reviews, vulnerability scanning, and penetration testing. Each tool has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs. Tools can help you improve your open-source security posture by identifying vulnerabilities in your software before they’re exploited. They can also help you verify that your software is compliant with applicable standards or regulations. Some of the most popular open source security tools are:

  • Metasploit: A tool for developing and executing exploit code against a remote target machine, thereby aiding in penetration testing.
  • Kali Linux: Similar to Metasploit but at the OS layer instead of application, Kali Linux is a Linux distribution designed for digital forensics and penetration testing.
  • Nmap: A network scanner used to discover hosts and services on a computer network by sending packets and analyzing the responses.
  • OSSEC: Open Source HIDS SECurity (OSSEC) is a host-based intrusion detection system (HIDS) that performs intrusion detection for multiple operating systems like Windows, Linux, MacOS, and Solaris.
  • Wireshark: A packet analyzer used for network troubleshooting and communications protocol development.
  • OpenVAS: Open Vulnerability Assessment Scanner (OpenVAS) is a vulnerability scanner that can be used for both unauthenticated and authenticated scans of IT infrastructure to detect vulnerabilities like unpatched software, insecure protocols, etc. 
  • Snort: An intrusion detection/prevention system (IDS/IPS) that performs protocol analysis, content searching and matching on Internet Protocol (IP) networks.
  • John the Ripper: A password security auditing and password recovery tool available for many operating systems like Windows, Linux, MacOS, and Solaris.
  • Gitleaks: A static application security testing (SAST) tool for detecting and preventing hardcoded secrets like passwords, api keys, and tokens in git repositories.
  • ClamAV: An anti-malware toolkit that can work across multiple operating systems like Windows, Linux, MacOS, and Solaris.

Capabilities You Should Be Looking For In An Open Source Security Tool

Some key capabilities an open source security tool should include:

This is an image of the top 4 capabilities a team should consider when selecting an open source security tool.


Open source security offers significant benefits at low cost. However, users cannot ignore the potential disadvantages either. Inherent vulnerabilities, especially any that lead to unauthorized data transfers, should keep them awake at night. Especially since unlike homegrown software, organizations don’t have visibility into all the inner workings of open source software. Unless they have a solution like Riscosity that not only monitors all data in transit, both at the code and data stream levels, but also offers users to restrict, redact and replace data elements on the fly. 

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