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Study Says Open Source Software a Security Risk 86

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the sky-is-falling dept.
chareverie writes "Fortify Software released a study where they concluded that open source software poses a large security risk to corporations who have implemented it. They reason this by stating that the fault lies within the open source communities and their failure to adhere to minimum security practices. Fortify Software studied 11 open source software packages, where the application server Tomcat was determined to be the best. The other 10 were found to have poor results, with those being Derby, Geronimo, Hibernate, Hipergate, JBoss, Jonas, OFBiz, OpenCMS, Resin and Struts. Jacob West, manager of Fortify's research group, reminds that purpose of the study was 'not to condemn open source software, but rather to point out that the security practices need to improve because open source adoption by enterprises and governments is growing.'"
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Study Says Open Source Software a Security Risk

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  • ZOMG!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clang_jangle (975789) * on Monday July 21, 2008 @06:23PM (#24281291) Journal
    Wait, so you're saying a vendor of proprietary security software [fortify.com] is criticizing FOSS security?!?
    Why, this is just too much, how will we ever recover? And they even based it on 11 whole OSS projects... Game over!
    • Re:ZOMG!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by moderatorrater (1095745) on Monday July 21, 2008 @06:30PM (#24281369)
      Check out some of the things that they're rating it on, too. A lot of their complaints and ratings come from communication and support issues, where most open source software fails. That's why there's a service industry being built up around open source software. You'll also notice that they didn't rate any software that has a big company behind it, like RHEL or MySQL or anything like that.

      That being said, these are valid complaints, and if external support is going to be an issue with your company, then you need to think very carefully about whether open source software is right for you.
      • JBoss is owned by RedHat, so it qualifies as having a major company backing it (at least as much as RHEL does).

      • Re:ZOMG!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday July 21, 2008 @07:00PM (#24281715)
        JBOSS is a division of Red Hat, and Red Hat provides extensive JBOSS support. In fact, JBOSS running on RHEL 5 has a higher security rating than almost every other commercial software package. My guess is that the authors of the article decided to go with the community version of JBOSS, which does not have the support from Red Hat. This is somewhat typical of attempts to make open source packages look bad: talk about enterprise security, then evaluate a non-enterprise package.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by snowgirl (978879) *

      Yeah, I looked over most of the projects that they commented about... it's like, um... where are the big names? OpenBSD, Linux, X.org, Apache?

      Like... oh right, if they reviewed high-profile FOSS projects rather than low-band FOSS projects, they'd come out with different results...

      TRASHBIN!

      • They were only reviewing application servers, blame the article summary.
        Though incidentally: Tomcat and Geronimo are the Apache Foundation's, and JBoss is Red Hat's. Big enough names?

  • What we use (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Derby, Geronimo, Hibernate, Hipergate, JBoss, Jonas, OFBiz, OpenCMS, Resin and Struts

    While we use tomcat, thankfully we don't use any of the others (in fact, I haven't even heard of several of them). As an example, we use Alfresco as our cms. If it ever caused security concerns, we could switch to a different open source cms. This would probably be quite a bit tougher if you were stuck with a single closed source package (and good luck finding out which "minimum security practices" a closed source vendor u

    • by Z00L00K (682162)
      And don't forget that some Open Source software actually needs as much support as support is needed for a screwdriver.

      So maybe the whole question if it's valid or not is completely off the mark.

  • by MostAwesomeDude (980382) on Monday July 21, 2008 @06:29PM (#24281349) Homepage

    Tomcat and OpenCMS, to be specific. And I don't use any of them.

    This might be interesting news to me if they found problems with: Apache 2, PHP 5, Wordpress, Gallery 2, or Python 2.5, which is basically what my site runs on.

    And yes, I know there's security problems with PHP and Wordpress. I'm just pointing out that they aren't targeting more popular software; wonder why?

    • by jd (1658) <imipak@noSPam.yahoo.com> on Monday July 21, 2008 @06:35PM (#24281425) Homepage Journal

      JBoss is not widely used. Struts is, Hibernate mostly is... However, the underlying problem is that these are ALL middleware packages. Is the study claiming that the middleware is faulty? Or that the apps other people write on top of that middleware has issues? If it's the apps, then the middleware is likely blameless. Even if it is the middleware, why isn't the app filtering out erronious inputs? And why is the middleware being run in a container with excessive permissions?

      This study manages to tell me one thing: This group has no idea how to perform studies. Even most FUD merchants would do a bit better job of covering the deficiencies in their methods.

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        why isn't the app filtering out erronious inputs?

        Obviously a PHP programmer - as only one of those could think that should be necessary.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by shaitand (626655)

          Or a real programmer as any good programmer doesn't particularly care what SHOULD be necessary and only concerns himself with what IS necessary here in the real world.

        • Wow. You do realise that there is a whole realm of coding outside of web apps, and that at the very least you should check any and all input that is going to interact with a database or filesystem? I wouldn't call myself an expert on security, but some things are just obvious. Either that was just a very poor joke, or.. the mind boggles.

      • by julesh (229690)

        . Is the study claiming that the middleware is faulty? Or that the apps other people write on top of that middleware has issues? If it's the apps, then the middleware is likely blameless. Even if it is the middleware, why isn't the app filtering out erronious inputs? And why is the middleware being run in a container with excessive permissions?

        They appear to be claiming the middleware is faulty. Note that the authors of the report sell a Java-based static analysis tool for detecting the kinds of security f

    • by kesuki (321456)

      a wordpress vulnerability is nominated for the pwnies.

      it's probably patched, but not everyone uses the latest wordpress version, so it's still bad.

      the compromise allowed remote attackers to put any kind of mal-ware distribution site on any vulnerable wordpress site.

      not to mention the horrible debian flaw, dating back to 2006 where a programmer removed 2 critical lines of code, that limited debian to 15-bit keys for all openssl operations! that's about 15,000 keys.

      FOSS is vulnerable to bad flaws, clever hack

  • by 14erCleaner (745600) <FourteenerCleaner@yahoo.com> on Monday July 21, 2008 @06:29PM (#24281351) Homepage Journal
    Since Fortify is a security firm, it's obviously in their best interest to have everybody using 100% Microsoft products.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by dacut (243842)

      WTF? My team uses Fortify to analyze our Java webapps (compiled on the Sun JDK [slashdot.org] and running on their JRE), which is then deployed to Linux servers running RHEL 5 [redhat.com]. HTTP connectivity for the apps is provided by Jetty [mortbay.org]; the apps themselves connect to Oracle [oracle.com] databases (using C3P0 [mchange.com] for connection pooling).

      With Fortify 4.0, I griped that it provided no value that we didn't already get with FindBugs [sourceforge.net] (for free). The 5.0 release (along with the workbench, which provides better information than the HTML report), how

    • Since Fortify is a security firm, it's obviously in their best interest to have everybody using their own products.

      There. Fixed that for ya.

  • by fractic (1178341) on Monday July 21, 2008 @06:44PM (#24281501)
    This study doesn't show OSS is a risk at all. They forgot to compare it with proprietary software. Without such a comparison you can't tell wether OSS is worse. For all I know 10 out of 11 proprietary software packages would have issues too.
  • in other news... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by erbbysam (964606) on Monday July 21, 2008 @06:44PM (#24281507) Homepage
  • by nategoose (1004564) on Monday July 21, 2008 @06:45PM (#24281511)
    Research has shown that closed source software poses security risks.
    • by DanWS6 (1248650)
      I think you mean "no security risks"

      Note: research was done on a closed network and no hackers were able to infiltrate the system in a one hour window proving the closed source superiority
  • do i have to give out any examples ? how long does it take microsoft to fix issues and holes with asp, or windows ?
  • Judge for yourself (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday July 21, 2008 @06:49PM (#24281569)
    Maybe the story wasn't reported right but here is a list of their issues with open source:
    • No easy access to security information on Web sites for security experts
    • No confidentiality of security issues vs general bugs.
    • No specific contact for security issues.
    • Lack of response from contacts
    • Don't provide the same level of service that commercial products offer.

    I'm not an expert on open source and security but I get the feeling that the authors judged open source software based on closed source standards. They author complain that disclosing security issues with general bugs was a problem. Did the author not understand that full disclosure is one of the tenets of open source? The last gripe is that the service wasn't the same with lack of contacts and responses. Judging by the summary it appears that the author just monitored the community forums. Did the authors even pay for support? When you pay for software and support, you should get it. When you don't pay for software or support, why should you deserve service?

    • by jrumney (197329) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:53AM (#24286061) Homepage

      Many of the projects they evaluated are Apache projects. The Apache Foundation has a private list for security bugs (security AT apache.org) so their complaints on that basis are unjustified for those projects at least. And I would be very surprised if they found security bugs in all of those projects in order to test the responsiveness of the developers, so I guess they sent some random mail that was probably justifiably discarded as spam.

    • by rtb61 (674572)
      I can't see how you can fail to understand how full disclosure of faults represents an extreme risk, well, to profits at least. You just can't be having them customers know all about how insecure their security software really is, other wise why would they be paying you?
      • First, the author did not appear to be a paying customer. At best, they were non-paying customers or users. Second, we are talking about open source here not closed source. Up front, they have already given you (and the rest of the world) the source code whether you are a paying customer or not. Now, I would say that security issues might not be disclosed right away to give the coders time to fix important issues, but to not disclose at all would go against the fundamental nature of open source. After
  • by mysidia (191772) on Monday July 21, 2008 @06:51PM (#24281587)

    Closed source/propetiary software doesn't adhere 100% to industry "best" practices, such as providing a prominent link to security information on their Web site either.

    It's just not as easy to see where closed source is lacking, because, well: you don't have the source to conduct research into the security flaws.

    If the source was not public, you in many cases, would have never known that X practice wasn't being followed by certain elements of the software.

    Closed software can ignore practices whenever convenience, and since the source is closed, they are all but immune to this type of analysis.

    A true comparison requires actually obtaining the source to proprietary software and using that to its full advantage to find security flaws.

  • Blah blah blah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aphoxema (1088507) on Monday July 21, 2008 @06:51PM (#24281595) Homepage Journal

    Studies also conclude that lunixes is a big intellectual IP property ripoff doomed to failure, laptops will completely replace desktops in ten years, and piracy is a really big problem that's sending business after business into bankruptcy.

    It's wonderful how you can release any anecdotal evidence from a limited perspective as a marketable 'study'.

    I'm releasing a study on how interest groups posing as reputable and productive companies pass bullshit around like the flu.

    • by KGIII (973947)
      If you'll cite names like Gartner and the likes I'll consider funding that. But you have to be fair about it. ;)
      • by Aphoxema (1088507)

        It's not as exciting to be fair, and if all studies were fair and perfectly concluded there'd be a lot less news on the slashfront I think.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday July 21, 2008 @06:52PM (#24281607)
    That list is a bunch of unrelated packages. Hibernate is not an application server, it is an ORM. OFBiz is an automation framework that runs on top of an application server. Hipergate is a collection of various web apps that run on an application server.

    They also forgot to have a proprietary package -- so the comparison is between open source packages. They might as well say, "Proprietary software poses a security risk. We've evaluated .NET, Matlab, and Age of Empires."
    • by hardburn (141468) <hardburn@@@wumpus-cave...net> on Monday July 21, 2008 @09:27PM (#24283143)

      No, if anything, these packages aren't unrelated enough to get a good cross section of FOSS. They're mostly web app-related thingys that are tied into Java. I haven't heard of most of them, probably because I stay strictly away from Java.

      • You may, but much of the enterprise web development world doesn't. Sorry to break it to you, but PHP really isn't that popular in massive corporation websites. Regardless of the quality of this review, Fortify is a fairly well entrenched security code analysis tool that many corporations use. I would say a number of Fortune 500 companies who use Java that had security analyses done at my former employer, but that is confidential.

  • WTF (Score:3, Funny)

    by imaniack (638051) on Monday July 21, 2008 @06:53PM (#24281623)
    Don't they know OSS is PERFECT in every possible and imaginary way!!!! :)
    1. The first post, ZOMG!, has some excellent points.
    2. It's open source. Hackers and crackers alike are prepared to face any challenge, from sifting through sets of instructions to exposing and photogrpahing [hackaday.com] the inner workings of silicon. Almost anything employed as security can be reverse engineered, and while steps can certainly be taken to tighten security in open-source software, having the source available for study certainly would help anyone hoping to find flaws. I'm not trying to suggest that OSS is
  • Where to start... (Score:5, Informative)

    by d3ik (798966) on Monday July 21, 2008 @07:03PM (#24281747)

    FTFA:

    Fortify identified a total of 22,826 cross-site scripting and 15,612 SQL injection issues associated with multiple versions of the 11 open source software packages examined.

    The projects in question:
    Tomcat, Derby, Geronimo, Hibernate, Hipergate, JBoss, Jonas, OFBiz, OpenCMS, Resin and Struts.

    For those who don't play in Java often:

    Derby is an embedded database.
    Tomcat, Geronimo, JBoss, Resin and JOnAS are Java (EE) app servers.
    Hipergate and OpenCMS are (you guessed it) content management systems.
    Hibernate is a persistent framework.
    Struts is a web framework.

    So of any of these, it seems that the only projects that would be open to XSS or SQL injection would be the CMS products. Unless they're referring to the web administration for the app servers?

    The only way to have SQL injection attacks in javaland is if you're not using prepared statements or if your database driver isn't preparing/escaping properly.

    So they're saying two CMS projects have tens of thousands of XSS and SQL injection vulnerabilities?

    • by hardburn (141468) <hardburn@@@wumpus-cave...net> on Monday July 21, 2008 @09:46PM (#24283295)

      I wonder how they're counting. They quote says across "multiple versions". Are they giving multiple counts for a single vulnerability that exists in multiple versions?

    • Re:Where to start... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by julesh (229690) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:55AM (#24286401)

      FTFA:

              Fortify identified a total of 22,826 cross-site scripting and 15,612 SQL injection issues associated with multiple versions of the 11 open source software packages examined.

      The projects in question:
      Tomcat, Derby, Geronimo, Hibernate, Hipergate, JBoss, Jonas, OFBiz, OpenCMS, Resin and Struts.

      For those who don't play in Java often:

      Derby is an embedded database.
      Tomcat, Geronimo, JBoss, Resin and JOnAS are Java (EE) app servers.
      Hipergate and OpenCMS are (you guessed it) content management systems.
      Hibernate is a persistent framework.
      Struts is a web framework.

      So of any of these, it seems that the only projects that would be open to XSS or SQL injection would be the CMS products. Unless they're referring to the web administration for the app servers?

      The only way to have SQL injection attacks in javaland is if you're not using prepared statements or if your database driver isn't preparing/escaping properly.

      So they're saying two CMS projects have tens of thousands of XSS and SQL injection vulnerabilities?

      You're just on the edge, I suspect, of the reason they didn't get good responses from the maintainers of the code for the "vulnerabilities" they reported. That's because, in most cases, they probably weren't vulnerabilities. The authors of the report are the producers of a static analysis tool that -- you guessed it -- detects potential XSS and SQL injection vulnerabilities. Of course, it (like all such tools) has a very high false positive rate.
      In the case of code that automatically generates SQL code algorithmically (not using hard-coded prepared statements, for example) like Hibernate, or generates HTML code algorithmically (like, say, pretty much any JSP implementation or templating language), the number of false positives is going to be huge.

      Any bets they didn't bother stripping out those false positives before reporting the "vulnerabilities"?

  • Java/Apache heavy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by VGPowerlord (621254) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:10PM (#24282411) Homepage

    Is it just me, or is this survey extremely Java heavy?

    Not only that, but there are a good number of Apache projects in particular... Apache Tomcat [apache.org], Apache Geronimo [apache.org], Apache Derby [apache.org], Apache Struts [apache.org]...

    • by Asher (88052)

      AIRC, The Fortify folks sell tools that do security auditing (static analysis) of Java code. So my money is on observers bias.

      Not paying much attention to the Web Services arena, are these some of the most popular Java projects?

      - ash

      • I've only used Tomcat. The others I've only run across while looking up information at work.

      • by jrumney (197329)

        Not paying much attention to the Web Services arena, are these some of the most popular Java projects?

        I don't know how much traction Geronimo or Derby have got now, but Struts, Hibernate, Tomcat, and JBoss are very popular, Resin and Jonas less so. The others I haven't heard of, but judging by their names OpenCMS and OFBiz are probably a bit outside my field so may be popular within their own field, and hipergate sounds like it might be a fork of hibernate, but a quick google shows it is actually a CRM ser

      • by julesh (229690)

        Not paying much attention to the Web Services arena, are these some of the most popular Java projects?

        Yes. Judging by the recruitment adverts I see, Tomcat+Hibernate+Struts is probably the most common combination of server & frameworks for new Java-based web projects right now. The others are pretty close, though. I'm surprised they missed out Spring, but that's a more generic and not web-biased framework. Also, it's probably not particularly susceptible to static analysis, as it does most of its wo

    • by jrumney (197329)
      I suspect the survey is Java heavy so that the anonymous sponsor can pull it out again to put down Java (again without actually providing the data from their own competing platform for comparison, in order to remain anonymous).
    • Yes, it's Java-heavy. The study author sells a proprietary static analysis tool for Java. So the Java bias is understandable, but their title should have made it clear that they were only analyzing a few Java programs, and not a representative sample of major OSS projects. They also ignored the enterprise support options for these programs, which is completely unjustifiable.

      I think its Java bias matters. Until very recently, most Java programs required Sun's proprietary Java implementation. The FSF an

  • by Dracos (107777) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:13PM (#24282449)

    This is a weak article about a specific set of open source projects designed to keep CIO's and CTO's from jumping off the Windows turnip truck.

    FUD... it's what's for dinner.

  • On other news studies show that most studies are biased and wrong.

    Can you feel that? The universe just imploded.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    News Flash: researchers have released a study demonstrating that studies can conclude whatever you want them to conclude.

  • by fatp (1171151) on Monday July 21, 2008 @09:26PM (#24283137) Journal
    According to the article, the biggest security risk of Open Source Software is the lack of a support hotline number.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tinkertim (918832)

      I got that impression too. Have you ever tried calling Microsoft support? By the time you actually get a qualified person to answer your question, you could have received 2 - 3 responses on a OSS project's forum or mailing list.

      Another interesting thing that I saw the study fail to mention, there are many OSS projects that clearly state on their web site "This is not yet production quality, use at your own risk" .. yet anyone selling something new would not dare to issue such a warning.

      I really feel like th

  • "security practices need to improve because open source adoption by enterprises and governments is growing"

    So these fortify people think security has to improve not because of the adverse effects it can have on users at large, but specifically because of the adverse effects on enterprise and government.

    Oh yea, thats the reason i donated my time the open source community, to help enterprise and government. After all, they are all about helping the people. I never did it to try help the little bloke. /sarcasm

  • by rew (6140)

    Have you voted yet? Apparently, about 80% of the readers of that article "doesn't get it", and votes the opposite of what the article is trying to push across....

  • Some asshat in a big office thinking to himself, "how can something written by lots of people in a community be more secure than something written by lots of people in a corporate HQ". The problem is not open source, i dont nessecaraly think its a propriatry problem either. Its absoulutly clueless people pulling 6 figure salaries making infrastructure desicions based on nothing more than what they "KNOW" to be true.
  • by Vexorian (959249)
    1. Make up your own definition for what good security is.
    2. Pick 10 OSS projects that fail to follow that definition.
    3. Release headline "OSS software a security risk"
    4. ???
    5. Profit! (From whom though?)
  • I'm a DBA for a USAF Enterprise Java app. Recently, we underwent a security audit which involved a Fortify scan.

    What makes this so interesting is that one of the Fortify findings was the lack of full implementation of Struts in the application, which we're in the process of correcting.

    I find it quite funny that they're finding fault with Struts, which they recommend using in their security scans. Ah, Irony. How I love thee.

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