Open-Source Risks You Should Consider Before You Develop an App


Open-source applications must be properly implemented and maintained. Failure to do so can have disastrous consequences, notably cyber security breaches. Information technology companies adopt open-source platforms, followed closely by big businesses. The ability to modify source code, reuse it, repair errors, and manage operations this way is conducive to cost reduction and innovation. Unfortunately, open source is riddled with issues, mainly due to the source code – Who creates it? Who maintains it? Who secures it?

The most significant risks are presented by the open-source components themselves—specifically, external-based open-source protocols. Weaknesses can present tremendous vulnerabilities across dependencies, resulting in critical areas for myriad large-scale software suites. Recall the Apache Log4J library. Fortunately, various security fixes are in place to routinely scan applications for these vulnerabilities.

These are present with direct dependencies and indirect dependencies. Identifying errors in source code before they become a problem makes it possible to apply the appropriate fixes promptly. These security patches are prioritized according to severity, thereby preventing bad actors’ exploitation of software source code.

In secure open-source software development, specialized tools are now at the forefront of safeguarding applications. These systems excel in scanning vast open-source libraries, highlighting vulnerabilities and malicious code, and addressing licensing discrepancies. They prioritize actionable insights, focusing on vulnerabilities that pose a real threat to the application, thus cutting down on irrelevant alerts.

Furthermore, these tools help build a detailed Software Bill Of Materials (SBOM), essential for tracking all software components and understanding their interrelations and legal standings. Their capability extends to analyzing both public and private packages, offering a thorough risk assessment. Moreover, they are enhanced with AI technology to shield applications from potential threats posed by malicious code in open-source packages, ensuring a secure and efficient development environment.

  • The overwhelming majority of open source code stems from other projects of those dependencies. Various third-party components of the application cause the errors. Viruses, malware, bugs, Trojans, and other cyber threats routinely work their way into the developer side of the source code. These vulnerabilities – malicious code – appear in the application and weave into the company’s security system. That’s why it is essential to have software capable of automatically detecting weaknesses, identifying them, and offering rapid remediation.
  • With open-source software, there are no legal obligations regarding the security of the system or support regarding its implementation. The software developers who create the software typically aren’t security professionals. They also have a limited understanding of best practice methodology. Many times, this type of software necessitates the use of third-party libraries. These are typically unexpected from package managers, making it time-consuming and complex to identify and repair vulnerabilities within the software code.
  • Developer malpractice is a major consideration with open-source software. For example, software developers who simply copy/paste source code from open-source libraries may inject malicious code into the application. This transfers existing vulnerabilities from one location to another. Once a piece of code is added to a code base, it cannot be updated or tracked. This presents a basket of security threats and challenges to contend with. Sometimes, developers use email communications to transmit source code. However, policies can be implemented for bidding such practices and enforcing the use of binary repository managers.
  • Insufficient operational components are rife with open-source software. It is often unknown who must manage open-source software in applications. Companies must keep track of the used components, how they interact with one another, and what they are all about. Updates and licensing-related issues present challenges with regards to legality, functionality, and usability. With regards to licensing and regulatory risks these increase if the existing licence is not compatible with the intended purpose of the application. Other issues to contend with are unapproved changes with servers that don’t strictly control the specific versions of the open-source software or encrypt communications.
  • Unsupported open-source code is a reality that developers routinely contend with. It is well-known that open-source components can be retracted at any time. For example, open-source software with a limited intended reach can be pulled, leaving users high and dry. Nobody can update the source code or implement the patches necessary to prevent cyber security threats. In this vein, outdated software routinely surfaces. Old versions of software make it much more challenging to patch vulnerabilities. When new versions significantly differ from older versions, outdated source code may be susceptible to many security flaws.
  • For licensing issues, as alluded to earlier, there are always infringement issues to consider. The existence of intellectual property infringement risks is real. There are many real-world cases, particularly the SCO Group, which stated that IBM infringed upon copyright rules by stealing part of the UnixWare source code.

Open-source software certainly presents many benefits to app developers. However, there are plenty of risks to contend with, too. Caution is the order of the day, and a well-managed system for crowd-sourced code can secure the systems and facilitate the safe use of open-source software.

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