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Vulnerabilities and Patches of Open Source Software: An Empirical Study



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Journal of Information Systems Security
Volume 4, Number 2 (2008)
Pages 325
ISSN 1551-0123 (Print)
ISSN 1551-0808 (Online)
Kemal Altinkemer — Purdue University, USA
Jackie Rees — Purdue University, USA
Sanjay Sridhar — Merrill Lynch Financial Center, UK
Information Institute Publishing, Washington DC, USA




Software selection is an important consideration in managing the information security function. Open source software is touted by proponents as being robust to many of the security problems that seem to plague proprietary software. This study empirically investigates specific security characteristics of open source and proprietary operating system software. Software vulnerability data spanning several years are collected and analyzed to determine if significant differences exist in terms of inter-arrival times of published vulnerabilities, mean time to release patches, type of vulnerability reported and respective severity of the vulnerabilities. The results demonstrate that open source and proprietary operating system software are each likely to report similar vulnerabilities and that open source providers are marginally quicker in releasing patches for problems identified in their software. The arguments favoring the inherent security of open source software do not initially appear to hold up to such analysis. However, much more research needs to be performed to fully explore the relationships between the proprietary nature of software and security.




Open Source Software, Information Security, Vulnerabilities, Software Defects




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