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6 Challenges in using open source cybersecurity tools

 Published: October 17, 2019  Created: July 31, 2019


When it comes to cybersecurity, tools and infrastructure matter a lot in order to battle notorious threats. Companies across the world have of late understood the importance of having strong cybersecurity and are trying every possible tool or software to make it better.

There are two types of tools — open-sourced and closed-sourced. While most of the companies have been using closed sourced security tools, open-source tools today have also started to gain significant attention and usage. Companies are leveraging open-source productivity software, tools for administrators and developers, and even code libraries that they use to build their own software. The main reasons behind this popularity of open source tools is due to:

  • Huge community
  • Source code is publicly available
  • It is customisable

Companies off late have realised that even open source is not completely safe — it has its own set of challenges. The open-source cybersecurity tool is like a double-edged sword. In this article, we are going to look at some of the challenges that open source cybersecurity tools pose.

The Risk Of Noxious Code

Every time we talk about open source, it is the first thing that comes to our head. This problem of poisoning a code is related to the open-source nature of making the code available to the world. Even though the moto behind this act is to help fix a bug as soon as possible, this very nature can also be used the other way around.

Black hats can also take a look at that code and use the publicity of the exploits and bugs to their advantage. They can then target companies with the same piece of software and who have not patched the bug. They just need to gain access to the software or tool and manipulate it or they can just make use of the exploit that was available.

One of the examples of this kind of hack is the 2017 Equifax data breach where personal details of 143 million people were leaked. The root cause of this breach was the high-risk vulnerability that was there in the company’s open-source Apache Struts framework.

Challenge With Support

Open source mostly depends on the community for any sort of bug or vulnerability fixes. Even though the community is huge and is one of the major factors behind the open source’s success, this may sometimes be challenging for companies using open source.

While most of the open-source software providers have a dedicated support team, there are many providers who sometimes (when they fail to figure out and solve an issue) pass any kind of query to the community. Meaning, the user will have to post his/her query on forums and message boards to get their problems resolved. And the response and problem fixing might take time.

Untrusted Source

One of the reasons for opting to open source is the ease of getting and using open source. However, this same advantage might sometimes cause sheer headache to a company. When the cybersecurity department is given the power to decide on the tools and software, the department sometimes ends up picking up open-source tools from sources that are not completely trusted. As a result, many open source tools turn out to be vulnerable to different kinds of attacks and some are even developed in such a way that finds a bug also gets difficult. Therefore, make sure your organisation has strong policies the source and type of open source tools.

Help Attackers Take Different Approach

Cybersecurity today is just like a cat and dog fight. Every time cybersecurity professionals take a strong step in preventing cyber-attacks, hackers come up with a whole new method and try again. It is basically a trial and error method — for both white and black hats.

However, when an organisation uses open sources, the scenario gets a little different. Hackers that are launching attacks on organisation backed by open-source are first evaluating their cybersecurity tools —attackers can audit the code themselves and look for weak points. And they are getting this power as the source code is open.

This is without a doubt, one of the biggest challenges for companies leveraging open source. And if companies in this aspect, the chances are high that they would soon get pwned.

Challenge With Updates

Another challenge is with updates. Companies using open source cybersecurity tools need to manually keep checking for updates for different components. And if not updated on time, those outdated components could pose operational inefficiencies.

That is not all, those components might also pose high-risk cybersecurity vulnerabilities as attackers up their hacking game every now and then. Therefore, it is advised not to delay updates and have an active eye on each and every component.

Insider Threat

This is one of the most likely events that companies face every now and then. When companies leverage open source software, they must keep in mind that they are giving the developers access to the source code.

Humans are considered to be the weakest links in cybersecurity. If social engineered or manipulated, developers might end up making changes to the source code, opening doors for hackers to exploit. In order to cope with this challenge, companies need to do a routine check on the things developers work on.

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