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Open Source and Security: Letters to the Editor

Scores of readers responded angrily to our featured opinion last week, "Open Source Is Fertile Ground for Foul Play." See a sampling from our mail bag.




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o call last week's featured opinion unpopular would be understated to say the least. In his commentary, DevX Executive Editor A. Russell Jones opined that open source software is more likely be altered by those with ill-intentions than is closed source, because such people will capitalize on the availability of source to alter, recompile, and distribute the malicious source. He felt that the rising profile of open source projects—particularly in governments—offers a tempting target to those with malicious intent.

DevX received scores of letters that questioned the author's arguments, his understanding of the open source process, and, in some cases, the motivations of DevX. DevX published one rebuttal last week ("Who's Guarding the Guards? We Are"), but we'd also like to bring our readers' attention to a few of the responses published on other respected online developer sites and Web logs:
"Is Open Source Secure?" by Mark Stone
"Refuting the FUD at DevX," by Joe Barr

And on the pages that follow, we will expose a sampling of comments from the many letters we received.

Usually, we try to answer all readers' e-mails personally, but in this case that's going to be difficult, if not impossible. As a general response, I would like to first thank those who took the time to write. Feedback, criticism, and even censure, play an important role in reminding us of our responsibility to our readership. We were aware that the opinions expressed would be controversial; our motivation, as with all published opinion, is to expose ideas for debate. It goes without saying that the merit of Russell Jones' opinions are for each reader to decide on his or her own. I wish only to assure you that the reputation of DevX and our responsibility to our readership is of the utmost importance to every person on the editorial team.

As promised, here are some excerpts from letters we received this week that are a representative sampling of the comments. All letters are published with permission.

Lori Piquet

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