How using proprietary software can affect system security

Posted: 2009-03-29 12:17 [Source]
Tags:  foss Technology observations free software

There has been a lot of discussion on whether Free Software is more secure than proprietary software, but I have an additional argument that shows how the use of Free Software can improve system security.

Now you probably expect me to come up with a pure technical reason showing superiority of Free Software, but I am taking another path this time: let's talk about user trust.

Software updates on pure Free Software operating systems

Firstly, let's take a look at how security updates are deployed on pure Free Software operating systems.
All major GNU/Linux and *BSD distributions come with built-in update systems for all Free Software packages provided by the distribution. Once a security update to any piece of software is released you will get a notification saying updates are available and that you should install them and after doing so your system should be in a quite secure state.

Updater-applications of proprietary software

Okay, proprietary software does often come with its own update mechanisms, giving you pretty much the same functionality. But here is my point: users tend to block these updater-applications from accessing the network with personal firewalls and similar tools, which basically disables the updater and most likely will cause the system to be more vulnerable rather sooner than later.

But why do people even consider blocking an updater-application?

When I asked people why they blocked these applications a lot of reasons came up, but it usually boils down to lack of trust for proprietary software vendors. People seem not to trust software vendors for a variety of reasons. The most common reasons seem to be that they are either worried about the disclosure of private information or the lack of a license for a piece of software, combined with the first reason.

So people actually seem to be scared by what a piece proprietary software could do, and when not having their software licensed people seem to be even more scared. When I ask people why they are running these programs, even though they do not trust their vendors they usually shrug and I get replies that can be summed up as "it just works", "but I don't have a choice" and "I am used to software X".

The solution is Free Software

Free Software can be a solution to all these problems. The most important thing people should be aware of that they do not have to fear Free Software vendors. After all, when using Free Software you do have a valid license and you can, at least in theory, check exactly a program is doing to your system. Also, if you are not capable of doing such checks yourself, you can rest assured that other people are doing such checks and give back to the project in question, improving your favorite Free Software applications.

Free Software is a choice, and there is hardly any proprietary piece of software which cannot be replaced by a free equivalent. Free Software is my first choice, not only for me but for my family too, with great results so far.

Rest assured you can trust in what your software is doing, free yourself today - use Free Software.