Why are there no incentives for security in Open Source?

| SnykCon Talk |
Matteo Collina, Technical Director, Nearform

Open Source has both “won” and “lost” at the same time. Every company in the world leverages Open Source Software (OSS) to build products. However, every software is vulnerable, and OSS is no exception. Yet, despite the strong incentive for companies all over the world to discover and fix them, the majority use open source without paying for it.

Security scanners allow companies to discover vulnerable OSS they depend upon, but those vulnerabilities should also be fixed. While there are some incentives in discovering security vulnerabilities via bounty programs, there are none to fix them. A typical email to an OSS maintainer is more like a threat: if you do not fix it in the next month or so, I am going to make this public.

In Node.js we have experimented with a public bounty program with GitHub, and several companies sponsor full-time researchers to discover vulnerabilities. However, the OSS maintainers receive no compensation for their time in fixing the vulnerability. How can we solve this conundrum?

Want to check your own projects for Open Source vulnerabilities? You can automatically find, prioritize and fix vulnerabilities in your open source dependencies with Snyk.

Simon Maple
October 23, 2020
| By Simon Maple