The public sector is finally beginning to understand the security arguments for using open source software, according to experts participating in V3's Security Summit.
While the government has long encouraged the public sector to cut IT costs through implementing open source technology, a number of concerns, including those relating to the security, have continued to hold back change.
Recently though open source software has been given more consideration by public sector procurement staff, said Carl Reynolds, co-founder of Open Health Care UK, an organisation campaigning for the use of open source software in the NHS.
"Those who have a financial interest in maintaining the status quo, so proprietary software vendors, may promote the idea that open source software is inherently less secure. I think in the past they have been successful in spreading this idea amongst people who have procurement influence," said Reynolds.
"Fortunately we are now in the position now where people in the Cabinet Office and in the Department of Health with procurement influence understand this, and have stated relatively categorically that the argument doesn't stand up against open source on the basis of security."
Lars Eilebrecht, co-founder of the Apache Software Foundation, concurred with this assessment.
"There is still a perception in sectors, such as the government, that if you keep something closed it stays a secret, so it must be more secure. But it may not stay secret - the source code may be made open source by the vendor in future, or be disclosed some other way, such as the Windows NT code that was published online by hackers," he said.
"Just making something open source doesn't mean it is magically more secure, but it provides the basis for it to become more secure. If a piece of software becomes popular, people will peer review it and it then becomes more secure."
Eilebrecht cited the example of Apache's own widely-used web server platform, which has had its source code examined by many people, including malware creators, and security issues have been found and been fixed.
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