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OpenSourcing the world

Week 05, 2010

One may remember Open Source, at its beginning was seen as a disruption in the traditional software business model. Then came Linux and Java, which brought to the Open Source model the respectability it was missing. Now, especially, with Android taking an ever larger share of mobile phone, the Open Source model is bound to become the most common means to deliver software and firmware. According to a report from Juniper Research, open source operating systems are now running on 60% of the smartphones on the market, and the number of smartphones shipped with open source operating systems will increase from 106 million in 2009 to 223 million by 2014.

Of course, providing more and more pieces of intellectual property under an Open Source license is good news for the whole industry. Developers are able to understand, study, change and improve software design thanks to the access to its source code.

Specifically for our industry, Open Source software is also considered by some as more secure than proprietary software. This refers to the already known debate of “security through public disclosure” vs. “security through obscurity”. Recent examples such as Mifare hack (cf. SIW #08-03) of issues currently met by Legic with one of its products (cf. SIW 10-04) show the limits of a “security though obscurity” approach. As an Open Source software can be audited by everyone involved in its implementation, experts can asses its security, and it is harder to hide a potential backdoor in it. In a “security through public disclosure” model, the algorithm, and its implementation are made public, transparent and auditable, and security relies on having physical means to store the necessary secure items such as keys and codes.

The Open Source model can lead our industry not only to more interoperability, and an easier implementation, but also to an increased level of security and trust.

Thierry Spanjaard

Chief Editor

Smart Insights