30 January 2008

Is it Possible to Secure Open Systems?

Source: PCMech Newsletter #226

Weekly Rant: Is it Possible to Secure Open Systems?
by Tyler Thompson

One would think this question an oxymoron – security for something that is open. But, the question has been on the agenda of several legislatures in recent months on whether to support Microsoft (closed) formats or open source formats for their documents in the government. There are arguments that open systems can not be secure – if you release code to everyone, everyone has a chance to find holes. However, on the other side of the coin, open systems make the holes easier to find. The biggest advantage though, is cost – free.

Closed systems, on the other hand, do not allow anyone to see potential holes, but are left to hackers to find and exploit. In this sense, systems are not vulnerable until someone figures out how to exploit them – but it is still possible to find, and much easier to exploit because there is no review of the code. The biggest downside to closed format is the multi-million dollar costs. How much are ‘secured’ systems worth?

In short, check with your local congressional representatives and see how they are taking the issues of open vs. closed systems. I think you can judge for yourself which you would like to take. Is the cost worth it?

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