Secrecy isn't security

A neat little article about security @ c|net.

"Is open-source software better for security than proprietary software?

The open-source movement argues that it's better because "lots of eyes can look at it and find the bugs." Those who favor proprietary software offer two counterarguments: The first is that a lot of hostile eyes can also look at open-source code--which, they say, is likely to benefit attackers more than anyone else. The second point is that a few expert eyes are better than several random ones; a dedicated organization with responsibility for the software is a better custodian than the many eyes of the open-source community.

There is probably some truth to the notion that giving programmers access to a piece of software doesn't guarantee they will study it carefully. But there is a group of programmers who can be expected to care deeply: Those who either use the software personally or work for an enterprise that depends on it.

If anyone has both the right and the need to study the code and be assured of its correct functioning, it is users. In fact, auditing the programs on which an enterprise depends for its own security is a natural function of the enterprise's own information-security organization.

Moreover, just because a program is open-source software does not mean that no one is responsible for it. The automotive industry provides a clear example: Before cars contained software, they were an "open-source" technology. Manuals and parts lists were available together with all sorts of after-market products for both repair and customization. A professional class of mechanics mastered the workings of cars and performed a function similar to the auditors of software programs. Look at it this way: A mechanic who checks your brakes is acting to ensure the correct functioning of a system essential to your security. "

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