Is Open Source Software More Reliable or Secure than Closed Source Software?

Mengting Chao
Dec 7, 2018 · 3 min read
Open Source Software vs Closed Source Software

The widely considered answer would be YES.

As indicated by Sam Saltis, open source software is available for the general public to use and modify from its original design free of charge. For closed source software (also known as proprietary software), the source code is not shared with the public for anyone to look at or change. Many people argue that the open source model is very beneficial to the business world. As mentioned in the article “Open Source Case for Business: Advocacy”, one of the most important things offered by the open source model to business is high reliability. Most people argue that open source software is more reliable than closed source software. One reason is that open source software is peer reviewed software. In addition, the bazaar-mode development described in the article “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” can be used as an extended technical argument for the high reliability of open source software in general.

As Hilton Collins indicated, the scrutiny on open source software comes not only from the members of the open source community which creates and modifies it, but also from third parties like private companies and the government that want to vet software for their own use. For closed source software, companies themselves typically pay for the same kind of vetting but they only want to do it for the most popular applications. In this regard, open source software is more secure than closed source software. Besides, open source software allows users to evaluate how secure the software is by themselves because they have the access to its source code. That is not possible for closed source software. As indicated by Christopher Adelman, vice president of sales and marketing for Alien Vault,

“You know exactly what needs to be done to secure [open source software] and what vulnerability it has. It’s quantifiable; it’s knowable. The problem with closed source solutions is there’s a certain leap of faith associated with closed source software.”

A research on reliability issues of open source software in contrast to the proprietary software was conducted by R. K. Pandey and Vinay Tiwari. Their study shows that open source software is quite equivalent or better than the proprietary software in many ways, which is also supported by various quantitative analysis reported by various research agencies. They also emphasized that the main factors making open source software more reliable are the facts that “developers are usually also users of the software, developers are members of a community of developers, public availability of the source code and fast bug removal practices since thousands of independent programmers testing and fixing bugs of the software”.

· Sources:

1. Open Source Case for Business: Advocacy — piece from the Open Source Initiative laying out the business case for open source.

2. The Cathedral and the Bazaar

3. Reliability Issues in Open Source Software — a paper written by R. K. Pandey and Vinay Tiwari.

4. Is Open Source Software More Secure than Proprietary Products? — an article written by Hilton Collins.

5. Comparing Open Source Software vs Closed Source Software — an article written by Sam Saltis.