In the months since the Heartbleed vulnerability was discovered, a great deal of panic has gripped the open source community. This is understandable, considering the fact that Heartbleed was a major flaw in OpenSSL, one of the most popular open source software solutions in the world, and put a huge amount of information at risk of loss or exposure. Yet despite this panic, many claimed that Heartbleed would not end up having much of an impact on the open source sector, instead arguing that this was a one-time, fluke incident.
Going even further, International Business Times contributor Joram Borenstein recently asserted that the discovery and response to Heartbleed will actually prove to be beneficial for the cause of open source security.
A new focus
The greatest significance of Heartbleed, according to Borenstein, will most likely ultimately be the way it changed both IT security professionals' and the general public's understanding of computing and its risks.
"Even now, as the second Heartbleed-related vulnerability was discovered in early June, the initial incident still remains the focus of specific sectors like tech and information security and their respective energies, discussions and concerns about the future of computing infrastructure, mobile applications and personal data protection," Borenstein wrote.
Perhaps even more importantly, the discovery of Heartbleed has convinced many organizations that they need to invest their efforts and money into open source security efforts in order to guarantee their assets remain safe into the future.
Specifically, Borenstein pointed to the recently announced creation of the Core Infrastructure Initiative, an organization that aims to fund critical open source projects. The writer argued that, if not for Heartbleed, the CII would likely have received virtually no attention and no additional funding to support its mission. Yet in the wake of Heartbleed, many major companies committed to donating to this cause. These firms include Amazon, Adobe, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Facebook and others.
With few exceptions, many of these companies undoubtedly rely on open source tools throughout their organizations, making open source security an issue of vital importance. But until Heartbleed occurred, these companies and many others failed to appreciate the need for a greater level of investment and more attention dedicated to security concerns throughout the open source community.
"This level of focus and interest is a good thing for our collective security and for the broader integrity of the computing landscape upon which we rely so heavily," Borenstein asserted.
A critical eye
This newfound appreciation of the importance of open source software and, consequently, the security of these solutions is leading many organizations to re-evaluate their approach to this technology.
Writing for TechTarget, industry expert Michael Cobb argued that the single most significant lesson that enterprise should take away from the Heartbleed incident is that they need to cast a more critical eye on their own open source practices. The only reason that Heartbleed became such a serious issue in the first place is because countless decision-makers simply trust that the software they used was secure, without doing their own verifications. Everyone assumed that someone else had done this work, and yet no one actually did.
According to Cobb, companies must establish security teams that test code or components to ensure that they are secure, rather than relying on generally accepted standards. By developing a mature community with definitive policies in place, organizations can utilize open source solutions without risking their sensitive assets.