A significant amount of software that powers the largest companies in the world safeguards our personal information and secures national security is open to the public. Anyone can download the source code of the user interfaces, operating systems, or even the data modeling program of any software and use it as a tool for a completely new project.
Additionally, these programs are typically established collaboratively, from employees to unpaid volunteers at computing tech companies. This is the landscape of open-source software where code is written and communicated freely through various avenues.
The use of open-source software has changed in the last decade with the availability of millions of free open source components. A few decades ago, organizations knew what was being written and used in their software application development because their workers were responsible for the creation and even the management of third-party components.
According to a survey conducted by Black Duck Software and North Bridge, more than 78 percent of businesses today use open-source software. This is because open-source programs enable organizations to achieve a high-quality infrastructure for a lesser hardware cost.
More than anything else, open-source software also uses technologies like web-based enterprise management (WBEM) and (CIM), which enable organizations to integrate workstation management, application, server, and service altogether. This integration will eventually result in effective and efficient administration, which could further bolster the organization’s return on investments.
Open-source software can provide businesses with a myriad of challenges that primarily focuses on updates and security. This is because since these programs are open to the public and organizations using this software can put themselves in grave danger of losing essential business documents to cybercriminals.
What is more, open-source software also needs to adhere to specific standards that are either imposed by a regulatory board or your industry. This is why organizations need to comply with open-source software (OSS) compliance to ensure that they avoid lawsuits and glitches that often require expensive engineering solutions to fix the problem.
In general, OSS compliance is the process by which developers, users, and integrators of open source software observe copyright notices and meet license requirements for the components of their open-source software. A well-built compliance process like OSS also ensures compliance with open source licenses and helps organizations safeguard their third-party vendors and their intellectual property from automatic disclosure and other consequences.
While open-source software is free, organizations that use it need to understand the legal framework of open source. More specifically, OSS compliance helps an organization achieve continuous operations and facilitate the effective use of an open-source in commercial products and protect their proprietary IP as well as comply with third-party software supplier contractual obligations.
Failure to adhere to the licensing condition for open source software can lead to bad public relations and even lawsuits. This exposes the organization to the possibilities of losing their OSS license and a court injunction. This prevents the continued use of the software and creates a liability for damages for its attorney use.
By complying with OSS standards, organizations can gain a complete understanding of open source license conditions and have an actionable list of best practices, therefore, reducing risk. Technically, the compliance strategy of OSS starts with keeping a record of the licensing terms that can be employed to the open-source program they are using, including its dependencies and subcomponents.
The OSS industry provides an essential initiative for software compliance through the Open Compliance Program of Linux Foundation. This includes a collection of software tools for open source content software deliverable, a self-assessment checklist, and a directory of companies that use OSS. Nevertheless, it is essential to note that some open-source software licenses have simple requirements, and often these requirements are more complex like source code delivery.
Organizations that distribute a product that includes open source software may also have to deliver a simple copyright notice or even adhering to OSS compliance. While notice requirements are typically not complicated, complying with them can be time-consuming and challenging, especially if you’re organization is trying to meet a deadline.
This is because notices and licenses limit the way developers can incorporate open source software with proprietary programs. They also need an offer of source code and create documentation every time a binary is being delivered.
What is more is that managing the use of open-source software without systematization diverts legal, technical, and business resources, which are composed of the actual cost of free software. By adhering to open source software standards, organizations can gain access to OSS compliance tools that ensure robust security in a highly regulated business environment.
These tools will not only automate processes but also help manage the use of software in an integrated way and not focusing on open source or proprietary software to the exclusion of the other. Moreover, these tools can also prevent potential infringement risks, which are relatively common for organizations that use open-source equipment.
The moment an enterprise uses open source components as a primary tool to build their software, they put themselves in grave danger of cyberattacks, data breaches, and SQL injections. According to reports, there has been a 71 percent increase in open source-related violations over the past few years and roughly 15 events emphasizing a new attack pattern for malicious code injection within open-source software supply chains.
There are a plethora of ways to execute OSS compliance, but among the most popular ways to perform these processes include manual and semi-automated execution. By following these procedures, organizations can build a reliable and redundant policy to outline what licenses are acceptable for a particular project.
Open source licenses are classified particularly as copyleft licenses, which are GPLv2 and GPLv3, and as permissive open source licenses like MIT license. While the demands can also apply to other software projects, OSS compliance is particularly essential for corporate-level tasks because of the severity of the sanctions for disobeying them.
Generally, manual OSS execution works splendidly for the business that has established a compliance policy when working with smaller projects. In this process, every developer must evaluate and log a software’s license before introducing the open-source component.
However, the most significant caveat to this approach is that as the quantity of OSS parts in the project increases, it becomes more challenging to monitor relationships between licenses, primarily if they all work together or there are conflicts.
On the other hand, a semi-automated approach is a more reliable way of executing OSS compliance because of its flexibility. Usually, a semi-automated approach grows along with the risks connected with ignoring compliance practices.
OSS compliance is usually more of an operational challenge related to scaling and execution instead of a legal challenge. Meeting compliance requires the transmission of processes, tools, policies, proper staffing, and training that enables an organization to contribute to open source projects and communities effectively.
The research and development savings alone connected with the benefit your organization derives would likely cover the internal process costs linked with complying with license obligations. Simultaneously, this helps build a chain of compliance trust between suppliers and customers. In most cases, the key to many successful OSS compliance programs is a streamlined core team that serves as a guide to meet all regulatory standards.
Benefits of OSS Compliance
More often than not, eyes usually roll every time there is a new compliance update or a compliance requirement. This is not because business individuals are against doing business appropriately, but because of the burden, cost, and time these things brings.
However, what few business people realize is that non-compliance is even more expensive than staying compliant. Outlined below are essential benefits that one can gain from being compliant with OSS standards.
1. Minimize Individual and Organizational Risk
Perhaps the most significant advantage that comes with achieving OSS compliance is to avoid legal troubles and fines, which usually represent hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars. These are dollars that could have been used in more research, access programs, patient education, or returned to shareholders.
Other than the hard costs, complying with OSS standards also prevent negative media attention and adverse consumer and public perceptions. This is because OSS scan technology helps organizations diagnose security vulnerabilities to supervise cyber risks better.
By assessing cyber vulnerabilities, organizations can determine, quantify, and rank possible threats in a given system. This also helps reduce the chances an attacker can breach the IT systems of the organization as it yields a better understanding of assets, their risks, and the overall threat to daily operations.
Moreover, vulnerability assessments also constitute a component of secure code development, which is given utmost importance in today’s date of sophisticated cyberattacks. With OSS compliance tools, organizations can stay abreast of emerging threats and prevent malicious code from penetrating confidential business information.
2. Seamless Integration with Cybersecurity Services
OSS scanning tools can also integrate with unique cybersecurity services, thus, providing organizations more opportunities to build a new project seamlessly. This is, in turn, helps organizations uncover better data, which are bringing about increased visibility that is crucial for informed planning and investment decisions.
This further enhances the organization’s relationship with regulators and stakeholders as they collaborate in developing clear policies and guidelines which are all geared to create a high level of customer trust. While it may not invite any privileges, staying compliant with OSS standards enables a more productive discussion about what matters and allows for quicker and educated decisions.
Instant integration with different cybersecurity services also helps optimize business processes and reduce bottlenecks or costs because OSS scanning tools can seamlessly connect and pass data between systems and open-source software. This virtually eliminates inefficiencies of dealing with a plethora of software within a company.
By reducing delays and increasing security and accuracy, OSS compliance makes your business operate much faster, more effectively, and with far less human error involved. It opens up some distinct technological opportunities as well, which translates directly to better business performance.
3. Create Third-Party Notices for Stakeholders and Key Partners
Another advantage of staying compliant with OSS is the ability to write third-party notices for essential people within your business seamlessly. This enables organizations to unravel all open sources that were leverage in source codes, build dependencies, subcomponents, OS components, binaries, and containers.
Third-party notices and review rights are essential components in the planning and development process as well. These rights provide individuals who are affected by the adoption of open-source software to change their methods. This further helps organizations work with software supply chains from multiple open source projects, partners, and third-party suppliers.
OSS scanning tools are also packed with security features that can secure on-premise software applications. By using these tools, organizations can maintain their software applications as well as their infrastructure on-premise without the need to spend the costs associated with managing and securing these programs in-house.
These tools also provide a possibility to engender comprehensive reports as software bill-of-material (SBOM) and license disclosures from them. Most of these open source compliance tools are identical to knowledge bases where data about open source component usage is collected.
Maintaining compliance enables your organization to keep customers happy, let employees do their jobs very well, and enhance your return on investments. By adhering to compliance regulations, businesses can gain industry-level standards for developing a robust cybersecurity program that can combat emerging threats.
As security challenges continue to increase and become sophisticated, different regulations have emerged over the years to address these problems. Often, the complex nature of compliance can steer the majority of business organizations away from adhering to follow these standards because it can drain time and energy.
Nevertheless, non-compliance can set the business up for hefty penalties, suspension, or even permanent closure. A professional from RSI Security will help your organization navigate through the technicalities of achieving OSS compliance. Contact a professional today and start creating a great future for your business.