Many Internet users are wary of using open source, free software. After all, the primary feature of such software is that everyone can view, and subsequently interfere with, its code. Running this software can provide high quality results, it's cheap and usually fairly easy to install/ use, but just how secure is it? What's more, if the software used is Web-facing and subsequently open for the public to see, does it prove to be an even more serious security risk? The answer to this question is that open source software can, if it is well maintained, actually be more secure than paid-for, proprietary software. Here are the reasons why this is the case.

Backing/ Contributions - One of open source software's advantages is the fact that many users work with it on varying scenarios and different platforms. There is a good chance that bugs will be found and eradicated. This is, obviously, assuming that some of them are actually working on the software's code. In essence, it is up to each user to establish whether a code is maintained well. Many projects, such as, Apache Hadoop, for instance, enjoy corporate and non-profit backing, as well as having many contributors within established communities.

Vendor Lock-ins - Proprietary software typically means users are at the vendor's mercy. While some vendors do maintain software that is very secure, there is no guarantee. With open source software, you can theoretically take the software and maintain it yourself or go elsewhere with it (this may become necessary, for example, if the vendor goes bust). This also means that you are free to increase security if you feel it was lacking to begin with.

Facing the Unknown - The code of proprietary software is an 'unknown' the public rarely, if ever, gets to see. As such, it may be designed, either intentionally or unintentionally, to compromise users' security and/ or invade their privacy. Open source software has no means of hiding such secrets.

In other words, the transparency of open source software generally makes it much safer than proprietary software. There are, however still no guarantees. It is therefore recommended to put the usual security measures/ guards into place and run vulnerability tests, especially if applications are Web-facing. As it is, users can rest in the knowledge that open source software that is obviously well-maintained is normally at least reasonably secure and can, if necessary be made more secure by its users.