FOSS benefits all

European Commission improving the security of widely used open source software

Published on: 12/09/2019

EU institutions, businesses and citizens all benefit

Even though most people are not aware of it, the fact is that almost everyone nowadays interacts with Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) on a daily basis. Open source software can be freely used, changed and redistributed by anyone. Some well-known examples of open source software include the Firefox web browser, Linux server software and the Android phone operating system.

One big FOSS family

European institutions are embracing  open source, and they are doing so in an increasingly proactive way. A recent inventory at the European Commission showed that we use hundreds of open source programs - in our data centres, on our desktops, powering our websites and, as languages and tools to help us develop new systems. Therefore, we are an integral part of the open source family – and for good reasons.

Amongst the many benefits of free and open source software, include the economic advantages of code reuse and the sharing of programming costs. For public institutions however, there are more fundamental reasons for embracing the open source model:

  • Public services using open source, lower their cost for society;
  • The creation of quality employment in Europe and opportunities for local innovators;
  • Investment in open source creates value that is forever available to the public;
  • Increases accessibility to public services, since people do not have to buy proprietary software to connect with government agencies;
  • Increases interoperability through open standards, thereby easing the interconnections and interaction between government agencies, private organisations and citizens; and
  • Increases transparency, software is available for scrutiny and public use.

Working on FOSS security

Given the vast numbers of people who work to develop and enhance it, open source software is usually quite secure. However, over the years major bugs (or security vulnerabilities) were discovered in several widely used open source software – one example is the Heartbleed bug, found in 2014.

In response, in 2015 the European Commission at the behest of the European Parliament launched the EU-FOSSA initiative, with a remit to improve the security of the most critical open source software used by the European institutions. Now in its second iteration, the EU-FOSSA 2 project is using innovative ways to flush out and fix major security vulnerabilities, including:

  • Bug bounty programmes which financially reward ethical hackers who find and fix bugs;
  • Hackathons, where EU and open source software professionals meet to solve crucial problems;
  • Engaging with developer communities to ensure security best practices are followed.

Since European companies and the public use the very same software that the European institutions use, everyone benefits immediately from these EU investments in Security.

Want to know more about what we are doing to improve the security of open source software? Visit [website].