Open source software can often provide indispensable value to a company project while saving employees a lot of time and effort. The transparent and collaborative nature of these tools make them reliable and trustworthy for use in products that customers and coworkers use regularly, but they also introduce a level of risk in the form of vulnerabilities. The vulnerabilities baked into open source software can be exploited by malicious actors to launch attacks and steal information, so it is critical that businesses are aware of the potential risk the software they use brings to their project and the best practices needed to minimize that risk as much as possible.
Open Source Vulnerabilities
Open source code is prone to attackers trying to figure out ways to use the service to exploit businesses or end users just like any other code, but due to the nature of the code, they can comb through it to gather as much information as needed to begin planning attacks. This means open source tools require regular patching and updates to keep pace with the vulnerabilities that appear, and any project that uses an open source service must be diligent with that patching or expose users to well-known vulnerabilities. Log4j, Heartbleed, and Shellshock are examples of vulnerabilities that affected open source resources that caused damage to a large number of companies and users.
Aging Code and Dependency
With the prevalence of open source usage in application development, almost every business sells or uses a service that includes it. Some of these components are no longer serviced by developers, so if they are not replaced, then new vulnerabilities will go unpatched and pose a high security risk to anyone using the software. Small and medium businesses must be vigilant about the open source components they use in their code so they can monitor those components for obsolescence and replacement. If an open source component is absolutely necessary for a project’s success, then SMBs should ensure they understand how frequently patching must occur and plan for the risk that project brings with it.
Mitigating the threat from open source services in company projects begins with tracking and monitoring the libraries, scripts, and other resources that are used. A reliable list of open source resources can then be included in regular risk assessments to ensure none of them have gone too long without development or pose an immediate risk to the company or its customers. The inventoried resources must also be patched promptly and routinely to ensure old vulnerabilities cannot be used to target a network your project will function on. Lastly, if a component of a project cannot be patched or is no longer supported, replacement options should be considered to quickly minimize the window of opportunity for attackers.
The value of open source software cannot be overstated in application development, but SMBs must keep in mind that these resources can inadvertently introduce a cybersecurity risk to the company and its clients. By tracking the open source components a company relies on, patching them regularly, and planning for their obsolescence, small businesses can help prevent attacks that would occur due to unsupported or actively exploited code. Any business that is unsure of how vulnerable it might be because of its open source resources should work with an IT consultant for a network assessment, so they can take the necessary steps to keeping their projects secure.
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