|By Jan Hichert, Jon Friedman||
|July 27, 2004 12:00 AM EDT||
Does the open source community provide world-class security technology? Can organizations stop dealing with commercial vendors for security software?
To avoid any undue suspense, the answers are: "Emphatically yes" and "Maybe, but you probably need to make an investment of some kind." But let's take a look at the evidence - this article references two open source projects: netfilter and Snort.
Escalating ChallengesFirst, it's clear that the challenges related to security are escalating. Outbreaks of viruses and worms are becoming more virulent and spreading faster. Blended threats and application-specific attacks are becoming more sophisticated and harder to detect. Wireless communications, instant messaging, and peer-to-peer networks are opening new holes in corporate defenses. Top management is taking a sudden and unaccustomed interest in IT security. Yet IT departments are not getting additional resources to meet these growing pressures.
Innovation in Open SourceHow can the open source community help? Clearly there is a terrific surge of innovation in the field of IT security coming from open source developers and the supporting infrastructure of Linux- and open source-related organizations, Web sites, and publications.
A search on the word "security" on the freshmeat Web site (http://freshmeat.net) turns up more than 1,200 entries (see Table 1).
Security Advantages of Open SourceThere is a lively discussion about the virtues of security applications on Linux versus Windows, and of open source projects versus proprietary software.
There is no doubt that today there are far more worms and exploits on Windows-based systems than on Linux-based products. It is not certain if this is simply because the larger number of Windows systems makes a more inviting target for hackers, or if the architecture of Linux is inherently more resistant to attack.
There is a strong case that Linux does have structural advantages for security. For example, at Astaro we have stripped out elements of Linux that are not needed for our security package. This removes many vulnerabilities that a hacker could use to attack a more complex version of the operating system. Performing this kind of pruning would be far more difficult with Windows.
A more important factor, however, is the fundamental development process used for open source projects.
For major projects, code is rigorously examined and exhaustively tested by hundreds of individuals - far more than even the largest commercial vendor can bring to bear on a single product.
The pace of learning and improvement is also much faster than would be possible in a typical commercial setting. Vulnerabilities are exposed more quickly, and solutions developed and tested more readily.
Perhaps most important, in the open source world it is impossible to hide or downplay security vulnerabilities. The open source development process harnesses human nature to ruthlessly expose and eliminate weaknesses, rather than to deny mistakes or delay remediation.
Myths About Open Source DevelopmentThere is a widespread and wholly inaccurate impression that open source development is somehow haphazard and undisciplined, a free-for-all among brilliant but uncoordinated individuals. In fact, most major open source projects are very tightly managed by a small, highly disciplined core team. This team determines the architecture of the software, selects the code to be included, and manages all phases of the development process. It enforces strict source control processes, and establishes detailed coding styles and security guidelines.
Critical mass in the open source world comes from the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of developers who examine and test existing software and submit new code. These developers provide the quantity of inspiration, innovation, and plain hard work that is impossible to duplicate in a commercial setting. However, the core team is always there to coordinate the work of the masses and select the best work to include in the primary branch of the software.
An Example: The netfilter ProjectAn excellent example of a cutting-edge open source effort is the netfilter project (www.netfilter.org). This is a Linux-based packet filter that features stateful firewalling, Network Address Translation (NAT), load balancing, and other kinds of packet mangling.
The project was founded in 1999 in Australia and has now grown to more than 100,000 lines of code contributed by over 700 developers. There are currently about 300 active developers submitting about 1,400 postings a month to the development mailing lists.
The netfilter project is managed by a core team of 4 members who winnow down the submissions to an average of 65 code improvements and fixes per month.
This is an excellent illustration of the principles we've been discussing - an effort that utilizes the contributions of hundreds of developers, working on a project they love, managed by a small and disciplined core team.
Limitations of Open SourceOpen source projects are an outstanding source of world-class security technology, but they are not a panacea for developers or IT managers who need to deploy reliable, manageable software in a real-world production environment.
The open source community is driven by technical enthusiasm, not commercial needs. While most open source developers understand the requirements of IT departments very well, they cannot reasonably be expected to donate their free time to working on mundane management issues.
As a result, open source projects provide brilliant, innovative solutions to fundamental problems, but ease of use and ease of management are typically afterthoughts.
This tendency can manifest itself in several ways: command-line interfaces or less-than-intuitive GUIs, lack of documentation and help facilities, highly manual methods to update software and threat signatures, and limited reporting capabilities. These shortcomings are minor for the highly skilled developer who enjoys digging into a new piece of technology, but they are fatal for the systems administrator or IT manager who needs to complete a lot of tasks in a short time.
Beyond the level of the individual open source project, there is no incentive to integrate separate packages into what an IT manager would view as a complete solution.
While all open source code is available for inspection, that does not mean that all of it is inspected with equal thoroughness. Many eyes will view the technically exciting parts, but the environment does not lend itself to saying: Will you please review and test the boring parts?
Finally, support options are limited for most open source software.
Harnessing Open Source Software for SecurityHow can organizations harness the explosive growth and innovation of the open source community (and its low costs) without suffering from limitations?
There are basically two choices:
- Allocate sufficient resources to fill the gaps themselves.
- Let a commercial vendor integrate and support a complete solution based on open source components.
- Somebody needs to create the interfaces and the documentation to make the tech-nology readily accessible to the typical overworked user or administrator (who is being distracted by a constant barrage of competing demands).
- Somebody needs to set up automated processes to validate settings, patch software, update threat signatures, and back up configurations.
- Somebody needs to create the reports so that the average administrator (who is still distracted and harried) can troubleshoot problems and track trends.
- And if the solution involves multiple components (which is typical in security), someone needs to integrate the components and do thorough testing to make sure that the pieces work together under all types of hostile conditions.
An Illustration: Preparing Snort for the Typical AdministratorOne of the most successful open source projects is Snort (www.snort.org), a network intrusion detection system. Snort's intrusion detection engine is widely considered to be equal to or better than any vendor-developed alternative, and the project supports a database of more than 2,000 intrusion detection rules.
However, the Snort technology in its raw form is much better suited to a highly trained security specialist than to the average systems administrator. Configuring the system and the large number of rules requires a fairly high level of expertise, not to mention a lot of time. Updating the rule set on a regular basis is also a time-consuming manual process.
About a year ago Astaro decided to utilize the Snort project as the core of a new "Intrusion Protection" module of our Linux perimeter security solution (see Figure 1). However, to fit the software to the needs of a typical administrator, we had to add quite a bit of functionality. For example, we:
- Created a user interface that made it simple to turn intrusion detection rules on and off either individually or in categories relating to different applications and protocols (so, for example, if a particular application or protocol is not in use at a site all of the related rules could be turned off for better performance)
- Modified the automated update service so that new intrusion threat patterns could be added with the same process that updates the firewall software and virus signatures
- Integrated the intrusion detection engine with our firewall so that the firewall could immediately block intrusions (and modified the user interface mentioned above so that the administrator could toggle back and forth between "intrusion detection" and "intrusion prevention" for each rule)
- Removed some of the functionality from the open source project by eliminating some of the intrusion detection rules that we felt would cause too many false positives or slow down per-formance without providing a measurable benefit to security
A Two-Way StreetCommercial companies who utilize open source projects must make significant contributions back to the community, such as funding projects and developers and making versions of proprietary software available at no cost. It's also important to adhere to the various open source licensing rules, for example, by publishing any changes made to the project code. These activities make commercial companies active contributors to the growth and success of the open source movement.
Open Source: Leverage the Pros, Ditch the ConsLet's come back to the questions we posed at the beginning of this article:
- Does the open source community provide world-class security technology?
- Can organizations stop dealing with commercial vendors for security software?
The answer to the second question is: maybe, but you probably you need to make an investment of some kind:
- You can use open source security projects "out of the box" if you have a high skill level, a tolerance for rough edges, and no need to rely on less dedicated coworkers.
- Your organization can commit resources to adding management features, integrating components, and providing support so that the technology can be utilized by your average administrator.
- You can work with a vendor who integrates and packages open source projects for a commercial audience.
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
Oct. 23, 2016 05:30 PM EDT Reads: 815
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftNet Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SoftNet Solutions specializes in Enterprise Solutions for Hadoop and Big Data. It offers customers the most open, robust, and value-conscious portfolio of solutions, services, and tools for the shortest route to success with Big Data. The unique differentiator is the ability to architect and ...
Oct. 23, 2016 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 733
Successful digital transformation requires new organizational competencies and capabilities. Research tells us that the biggest impediment to successful transformation is human; consequently, the biggest enabler is a properly skilled and empowered workforce. In the digital age, new individual and collective competencies are required. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bob Newhouse, CEO and founder of Agilitiv, will draw together recent research and lessons learned from emerging and established ...
Oct. 23, 2016 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,227
“Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CloudBerry Backup is a leading cross-platform cloud backup and disaster recovery solution integrated with major public cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.
Oct. 23, 2016 04:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,314
SYS-CON Events announced today that Embotics, the cloud automation company, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Embotics is the cloud automation company for IT organizations and service providers that need to improve provisioning or enable self-service capabilities. With a relentless focus on delivering a premier user experience and unmatched customer support, Embotics is the fas...
Oct. 23, 2016 04:30 PM EDT Reads: 798
In the next five to ten years, millions, if not billions of things will become smarter. This smartness goes beyond connected things in our homes like the fridge, thermostat and fancy lighting, and into heavily regulated industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical/medical devices and energy. “Smartness” will embed itself within individual products that are part of our daily lives. We will engage with smart products - learning from them, informing them, and communicating with them. Smart produc...
Oct. 23, 2016 04:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,473
As ridesharing competitors and enhanced services increase, notable changes are occurring in the transportation model. Despite the cost-effective means and flexibility of ridesharing, both drivers and users will need to be aware of the connected environment and how it will impact the ridesharing experience. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Timothy Evavold, Executive Director Automotive at Covisint, will discuss key challenges and solutions to powering a ride sharing and/or multimodal model in the a...
Oct. 23, 2016 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,471
SYS-CON Events announced today that Coalfire will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Coalfire is the trusted leader in cybersecurity risk management and compliance services. Coalfire integrates advisory and technical assessments and recommendations to the corporate directors, executives, boards, and IT organizations for global brands and organizations in the technology, cloud, health...
Oct. 23, 2016 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,520
A completely new computing platform is on the horizon. They’re called Microservers by some, ARM Servers by others, and sometimes even ARM-based Servers. No matter what you call them, Microservers will have a huge impact on the data center and on server computing in general. Although few people are familiar with Microservers today, their impact will be felt very soon. This is a new category of computing platform that is available today and is predicted to have triple-digit growth rates for some ...
Oct. 23, 2016 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 34,035
SYS-CON Events announced today that Transparent Cloud Computing (T-Cloud) Consortium will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Transparent Cloud Computing Consortium (T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data proces...
Oct. 23, 2016 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,319
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
Oct. 23, 2016 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 4,454
Major trends and emerging technologies – from virtual reality and IoT, to Big Data and algorithms – are helping organizations innovate in the digital era. However, to create real business value, IT must think beyond the ‘what’ of digital transformation to the ‘how’ to harness emerging trends, innovation and disruption. Architecture is the key that underpins and ties all these efforts together. In the digital age, it’s important to invest in architecture, extend the enterprise footprint to the cl...
Oct. 23, 2016 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,781
SYS-CON Events announced today that MathFreeOn will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MathFreeOn is Software as a Service (SaaS) used in Engineering and Math education. Write scripts and solve math problems online. MathFreeOn provides online courses for beginners or amateurs who have difficulties in writing scripts. In accordance with various mathematical topics, there are more tha...
Oct. 23, 2016 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 973
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
Oct. 23, 2016 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 4,527
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential Internet of Things Brand by Onalytica in the ‘The Internet of Things Landscape 2015: Top 100 Individuals and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed Twitter conversations around the #IoT debate to uncover the most influential brands and individuals driving the conversation. Onalytica captured data from 56,224 users. The PageRank based methodology they use to extract influencers on a particular topic (tweets mentioning #InternetofThings or #IoT in this ...
Oct. 23, 2016 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 8,356
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential M2M Brand by Onalytica in the ‘Machine to Machine: Top 100 Influencers and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed the online debate on M2M by looking at over 85,000 tweets to provide the most influential individuals and brands that drive the discussion. According to Onalytica the "analysis showed a very engaged community with a lot of interactive tweets. The M2M discussion seems to be more fragmented and driven by some of the major brands present in the...
Oct. 23, 2016 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 11,330
In the next forty months – just over three years – businesses will undergo extraordinary changes. The exponential growth of digitization and machine learning will see a step function change in how businesses create value, satisfy customers, and outperform their competition. In the next forty months companies will take the actions that will see them get to the next level of the game called Capitalism. Or they won’t – game over. The winners of today and tomorrow think differently, follow different...
Oct. 23, 2016 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 944
In an era of historic innovation fueled by unprecedented access to data and technology, the low cost and risk of entering new markets has leveled the playing field for business. Today, any ambitious innovator can easily introduce a new application or product that can reinvent business models and transform the client experience. In their Day 2 Keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Mercer Rowe, IBM Vice President of Strategic Alliances, and Raejeanne Skillern, Intel Vice President of Data Center Group and ...
Oct. 23, 2016 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,469
Virgil consists of an open-source encryption library, which implements Cryptographic Message Syntax (CMS) and Elliptic Curve Integrated Encryption Scheme (ECIES) (including RSA schema), a Key Management API, and a cloud-based Key Management Service (Virgil Keys). The Virgil Keys Service consists of a public key service and a private key escrow service.
Oct. 23, 2016 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,031
The Internet of Things (IoT), in all its myriad manifestations, has great potential. Much of that potential comes from the evolving data management and analytic (DMA) technologies and processes that allow us to gain insight from all of the IoT data that can be generated and gathered. This potential may never be met as those data sets are tied to specific industry verticals and single markets, with no clear way to use IoT data and sensor analytics to fulfill the hype being given the IoT today.
Oct. 23, 2016 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,512