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The relationship between open source and security isn't always straightforward. After all, this type of software is free. Anyone can download it, which prompts many people to wonder: Is open-source software safe?

Based on popular opinion, the answer is an overwhelming yes—albeit with a grain or two of salt. This type of software is not inherently more secure than any other variety is. Yet, since its code is readily available to all, organizations can audit it, double-check it, and fix it as needed to ensure it's secure—which often isn't possible with conventional licensed options.

Still, validating and re-validating an open-source application is a time-consuming, thankless task. Even so, a significant amount of this legwork can be done by Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to accelerate the pace at which it's completed. Coupling this free software with RPA goes a long way to answering the safety question with a definite "yes."

Perfect transparency

The basis of the security benefits of this type of free software lies in its transparency. Traditional software providers such as Microsoft don't reveal the code of their various components. The logic for why open source is more secure than these products is that anyone can see, change, and improve the source code for these building blocks.

The notion is that because typical licensed software doesn't offer this sort of transparency—or much of any when it comes to its core coding—the visibility provided by the free variety is the first step to assessing and securing code for programs. This degree of transparency is critical for understanding, at a granular level, just what a program is doing and how.

With that insight, organizations can take dedicated measures to firm up their programs' security and continually validate it via testing.

Visibility or faith?

The visibility into the script with which programs are written that reveals exactly how they work is immensely important for ensuring they're secure. With free software components, organizations don't have to assume anything. They can examine everything themselves and make adjustments as needed to meet organizational requirements and surface them—and their code—back to a larger community of users who can recycle them. 

Most licensed software offerings require organizations to assume they're working as they should be, aren't doing anything malicious or that could compromise security, and that users have faith in them. Although such approaches may be acceptable for individual consumers, it's difficult to base the enterprise on pure faith alone.

Closed-source programs only enable a limited number of people (who work for the companies licensing the products) to view or fix source code; open-source solutions allow anyone to do so.

Do it yourself (DIY)

The DIY mantra that's part of configuring open source for enterprise needs involves a lot of work, most of which pertains to testing. The sheer number of lines alone required to review source code can prove exhausting.

The advantages of RPA, however, are pivotal to testing programs at an enterprise scale. RPA bots can perform such tasks rapidly and, unlike people who've already looked at a few thousand lines of script, are as accurate at the end of the day's work as they are at the beginning.

They're ideal for the ongoing assessment of applications needed to debug source code and ensure they're functioning as they should without allowing any unwanted vulnerabilities. Bots are perfect for detecting anomalies and allowing humans to fix any inconsistencies and can even fix them on their own.

Better security

All things considered, open-source software is a safe choice when organizations take advantage of its inherent visibility by rigorously testing and re-validating its code to ensure it's functioning as desired. And RPA can help, making the task relatively quick, painless, and repeatable for the long term.

Optimize Open-Source Code Testing with RPA.

About Atul Ashok

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Atul Ashok is a technical marketing manager responsible for bringing out and evangelizing the practical power of the Automation Anywhere Digital Workforce platform through demos, presentations, meetups, and compelling content. His expertise and interest span cloud technologies, IoT implementation, and all things innovative.

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