Improving security of open source software
Open source software can be a great technological platform for government groups. Groups of technical experts have access to the coding in open source software, which means that necessary updates can be implemented and errors can be caught and solved quickly. At a time when cybersecurity is at the forefront of government technical concerns, having the fastest and most reliable solutions to software problems is essential for keeping operations running smoothly.
In order for this platform to reach its full potential, however, it's crucial for government agencies to ensure that the right security measures are in place first.
The benefits of open source software in government
According to Government Technology, open source software is well suited to a government environment. The source sites the flexibility of this project as its No. 1 benefit. Open source software allows groups to make changes to its coding so that it can be tailored to very specific needs. The ability to customize existing programs is faster and easier than having to build, or hire someone to build, personalized software from the ground up.
"Open source software does not require intensive or costly upgrades."
Prices associated with open source software in general are more affordable than those for closed-sourced software programs. PC World reported that open source software costs only a fraction of what proprietary programs do, in large part because of the freedom from paying for upgrades and virus protections that aren't part of the coding.
Open source software does not require intensive or costly upgrades. Because of its tailor-made capabilities, it can run on older systems for longer than proprietary software programs can. This allows government groups to spend their technology upgrade budgets on other projects that are in greater need of cybersecurity advances.
The freedom that these programs provides is important for government agencies. With sensitive information and critical operations hanging in the balance of government work, agencies can't afford to be held to closed-source software restrictions and upgrade timelines.
Safety and security in open source software
Because organizations are able to receive the latest security upgrades instantly, open source software gives them added security against bugs and viruses. In this sense, these programs offer unmatched cybersecurity features.
An area of security concern, however, is in the very openness that makes these programs so successful for agencies in the first place. According to Computer Weekly, because the coding for open source is publicly available, it makes them vulnerable to computer hackers and potential data breaches.
"Open source critics attack the stability of the platforms as not ready for widespread adoption due to their ever-changing natures as they evolve by contributions to their features and code," Andrew Fourie, U.K. a manager at Astaro, a unified threat management firm, told the source. He added that he believed the supposition open source software is more risky than other programs is a "knee-jerk reaction," he said that for some groups, the benefits of added user access can outweigh the threats.
"The argument that open source must be risky, since it requires so many patches, is countered with the explanation that by having so many individuals working with the source code of these projects, potential vulnerabilities and design flaws are uncovered much faster than with programs built on proprietary code," he said.
It's important to note that proprietary software is not immune to computer hackers, either. But open source software can more quickly adapt to counteract the attack than the closed coded software programs can.
IT experts can improve software security
To help agencies understand and properly utilize their open source software programs, it would be greatly beneficial to hire IT experts to set up and work with these programs. With so many potential benefits to adding these programs to government organizations, it's important that they know how to use them properly to get the most out of them. Setting up security countermeasures will make software safer and can protect vital information from potential attacks.
Cybersecurity is a major concern for the government. Hundreds of thousands of citizens and employees on the federal, state and local levels have fallen victim to identify thefts and data breaches over just the past few years alone. These are significant areas of concern for the American people and their government officials alike. Data breaches can cause anything from stolen money and damaged credit to major privacy and national security threats.
Making government software more efficient is an important part of operations, but not at the expense of overall security. If agencies are going to take the time to invest in the latest and greatest software, they need to take the next step and invest in the knowledge and experience that can help protect and understand the programs that are in place.