What are Open Source Security Challenges and How to Avoid them?

 The use of open-source software is a common way of web/mobile application development that benefits both the companies and the broader development community. It is one of the driving forces of technological progress. However, the openness it provides also brings its own set of challenges you need to be aware of. 

In this article, we will explain the significant challenges of applying open-source software and the ways of avoiding them.

What are open-source security risks?

Exploits in software applications are a natural occurrence both in open source and proprietary products. These exploits present possibilities for a hacker to shake things a little and compromise the security of the system.

These things can range from mistakes and oversights in the code to full-blown backdoors used to monitor and test applications (NSA loves that stuff). 

While proprietary products are relatively safe and under wraps, open-source software is under threat. 

You might think, “if things are so rough – then why bother using open source software at all?”. Here’s why.

In one way or another, software development revolves around open source products. Some companies don’t even understand how many different open-source tools constitute their products. 

The list includes: 

  • Code libraries (NLTK)
  • Operating systems (Linux)
  • Various software applications for different use cases (performance testing tools, DLP, development frameworks, etc.)

According to a study by Synopsys, up to 96% of commercial software applications contain elements from open source in their structure. 

Why is it so? There are three reasons:

  • Cost-effectiveness – there is no point in reinventing the wheel when it comes to software development. Making your own tools for a project can take a significant chunk of time. There many different libraries and tools available in open-source that can handle the majority of development needs.
  • Flexibility – the variety of open-source tools provide enough room to figure out the best possible configuration for the project.
  • Speed – working with already existing tools saves time for mastering the tools and testing the possibilities, and instead, lets the team focus on the development process entirely.

The most common results of taking advantage of exploits are security threats like Data breaches and Denial of Service attacks. 

  • Data breach – when sensitive information is accessible to an unauthorized third party
  • DoS – when the service is shut down, overloaded or otherwise impossible to use correctly.

Open Source Security Risks to Be Aware Of

Exploits are out in the open

One of the prerequisite features of an open-source project is that its code is available to the public. The availability of the code is one of the major driving forces for the rapid evolution of an open-source project. Any member of the community can contribute in some way, including identifying emerging vulnerabilities before others can exploit them maliciously. Hackers can do that. Given the fact that open-source tools may serve as a backbone for the product – this nuance creates a significant concern.

The handling of the open-source security risks is more or less a question of time. Either you get there first, and update the code, or this will be a cybercriminal who will gladly mess with the system.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) maintains the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) that keeps the developer’s community on the same page regarding the state of security in various applications.  The database includes all reported exploits found across multiple software applications. As such, it is a community’s way of keeping threats under control. NVD is an excellent source of information.

It is important to note that among the people who like to surf it is hackers. They tend to take note of the exploits, especially those that are yet to be fixed by the project development.

The most prominent example of taking advantage of an open-source exploit is the 2017 Equifax hack. The hackers found out that the system was using a version of the Apache Struts framework with several reported and unfixed exploits. This discovery led to one of the most significant reported data breaches. 

Possible infringement risks

The thing with open-source as a concept is that:

  • it is a contribution to the community first; 
  • the product second. 

Because of its free-for-all status, open-source does not operate under standard commercial regulations. 

This vagueness creates an underlying issue as open-source tools may contain elements of the proprietary code, i.e., somebody else’s intellectual property. 

On its own, this is not an issue in the open-source product itself. It becomes an issue when the open-source applications, with the unregulated segments of the proprietary code, are used in the development of the commercial product

One of the most prominent recent infringement cases is IBM v. SCO Group. Here’s what happened: in 2001, IBM had released an operating system called “Project Monterey.” It contained elements of UNIX System V code owned by SCO Group under a standard license agreement. At the same time, IBM had contributed sections of the Project Monterey with elements of UNIX System V code to the Linux kernel. 

This led to a long-running lawsuit from the SCO Group. The company claims that the alleged presence of the proprietary code in the open-source was a case of misappropriation of trade secrets that: 

  • devalued their product; 
  • caused unfair competition; 
  • ultimately led to the company’s bankruptcy. 

As a result, they sought billions in compensation. 

That’s an extreme case, but it is a good illustration of possible consequences. How to avoid this kind of situation? 

  • Proper due diligence of the open-source tools is the best way of keeping things under control. 
  • Supply chain component analytical tools like DependencyTrack can automate the majority of the routine and let you react swiftly to any possible problems. 

Managing Licenses

The other issue that emerges from a lack of commercial regulations of the open-source software is the license conundrum.

Here’s why. The development of proprietary software often involves numerous open-source elements – libraries, frameworks, tools, etc. These elements are released under different license types (for example, Apache license for data processing frameworks) with distinct compliance requirements. 

As a result, the proprietary application gets entangled in the net of different licenses, all of which need full compliance. Non-compliance puts the company at risk of legal action, which is damaging for reputation and financial resources. 

An excellent example of the consequences of open-source license non-compliance is the recent case of Panasonic Avionics Corporation v. CoKinetic Systems Corporation

  • CoKinetic claims that Panasonic had intentionally ignored the General Public License to hold back the competition.
  • The thing is – Panasonic in-flight hardware uses a Linux-based operating system, which adheres to GNU General Public License. 
  • One of the requirements of this license says if the GPL-licensed tool is used to develop a piece of software, this application requires a release in open-source under the same license. 
  • Panasonic hadn’t done that, and from the perspective of CoKinetic, it blocked the competition and monopolized the market. 

The lawsuit is nowhere near protecting community standards. In reality, it is messing with the competition, as a kind of attempt to disrupt the workflow and damage the credibility of the company.

How to avoid this issue from happening?

  • License tracking is a dubious routine that requires transparency and caution. 
  • You need an excellent DevOps engineer to handle it and keep it intact. 
  • The primary tool to keep open-source licenses under control is software composition analysis apps like Blackduck, SourceClear, and WhiteSource. 

This combination provides a full view of the software components used in the application and allows you to manage any emerging licensing issues with relative ease.

Operational Inefficiency

Operational inefficiency is one of the biggest technical challenges that come with open-source software. 

The chain of events is as follows: 

  • you are using a version of a program for some purpose; 
  • someone reports on the new exploit; 
  • the latest update is pending. 
  • the emergence of an exploit creates a security risk, and you need to react swiftly.

Here’s where the challenge comes. 

There are higher priorities to take care of when it comes to software development. You need to get the thing working, optimize it all the way through, fix bugs, and handle glitches. Things like open-source software updates, and emerging security risks, usually slip away in the heat of the moment for the sake of more important things. 

That’s how the Equifax leak became reality.

How to avoid this problem? 

  • Provide transparency of the development inventory to keep the team on the same page regarding the state of the toolkit.
  • Use software composition tools to streamline the management process and implementation of updates.
  • In case of abandoned or infrequently updated open-source tools (which happens all the time), the developers need to fix the issue on their own. 

Faulty code copy-pasting 

The development process consists of routine operations. Code copy-pasting is one of them. While it is a standard operation on its own, it is what is copied and pasted that can create a significant security threat. 

The thing – developers often copy-paste the code directly from open-source libraries. As was previously mentioned, there is a chance of having an exploit inside a copied code. That is one part of the problem.

The other part of the problem is that once the code snippet is in the codebase – it is a part of an application. It is hard to update that particular snippet, and remove the exploit after the fact, without disrupting the workflow. In other words, it is like shooting yourself in the foot.

The solution to this problem is simple. 

  • You need to forbid any direct copy-pasting from open-source repositories and insist on mandatory code reviews before implementation. 

What’s next?

These are all of the significant open source security challenges you need to be aware of to avoid getting into trouble.

These days the issue of transparency and trust between the company and the user is at its peak. If the company wants to establish their product as trustworthy in the eyes of the user – the use of open source security is one of the surefire ways of showing that. 

On the other hand, going open source paves the way for the further evolution of the product – the refinement of existing features, fixes of flaws, and addition of new elements.

Web Development: The Results of the 2017 and What’s Waiting for Us in 2018

It’s the end of the year and what a year it has been! Every day seems to bring more and more innovations. Just at the WebSummit 2017, there were over 2,000 startups that talked about the digital world and how business and approaches are transforming daily.

What were the trends of 2017 that affected our lives and what should we be ready for in 2018?

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, & Robots on the Rise

Artificial Intelligence is certainly not a new word for most of us. If we think of the ancient myths and fairy tales we’ve read as kids, there were often artificial beings that were bestowed with intelligence by their creator.

The AI as we know it (or got used to, from all the science fiction books and movies as well as the current news) got a boost in the 1950s and then again in the 2000s when the world wide web started to offer a lot of the information online and the world became digitized.

The basic (speaking in relative terms here) AI example is widely used Facebook photo tagging. Image and facial recognition are a part of the AI’s machine learning features.  

In 2016, the AI started to write poetry (it was weird, speaking personally, but hey, tastes differ) and now there are also AI web designers. Molly is the Grid’s designer who helps the users create their website with the best UX and UI practices in mind and who’s available 24/7.

2017 also was the year when the first non-human woman was made a citizen. Sophia the Robot was bestowed this honor by the Saudi Arabia’s government. In one of the interviews at the WebSummit 2017, she said she was delighted but at the same time surprised that she wasn’t accepted as a citizen of the world, yet a country with strict gender rules has welcomed her with arms wide open.

Bots – Putting AI and Machine Learning to Work

Back in 2016, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella has boldly declared “Bots are the new apps.” In 2017 they have started to shine, as businesses around the globe realized the potential hidden in these little powerful instruments.

What used to feel like talking to a little child who is learning a new language now feels like talking to a person. Bots are getting more personalized and provide a much better user experience, whether it’s Poncho, a weather bot who tells you the weather and shares jokes, or Dinner Ideas, a bot that helps you decide what’s for dinner based on your fridge’s contents.   

During the conversations with users, the bots learn from human language and adapt to it naturally. However, it’s both a blessing and a curse. Microsoft has learned it the hard way when they have launched a bot named Tay, who learned sexist and racist slurs from the users it talked to. Oh well, things didn’t go as planned.

Internet of Things – Business and End Users

The top four industries that adopt IoT on a wide scale are manufacturing, consulting, business services, and distribution & logistics. It can be explained because these are the industries in which revenue growth is often hard to achieve and the Internet of Things technologies can provide a competitive advantage. Just think of all the tracking possibilities now for packages via drones.

IoT Importance by Industry

From the needs and most-requested instruments, the businesses placed the most importance on Business Intelligence (BI), namely, the features like dashboards, reporting, advanced visualization, and other. The main objective that businesses place here is improved decision-making. The enhanced customer experience is also on the list of top 5.

In terms of the end-user relationship with IoT, people are getting used to the fact that you can turn on the vacation setting on your fridge when you’re away from your mobile phone or ask your Amazon Echo speaker to order you an Uber.

Static Site Generators

If we are talking about the actual web development as in websites and such, static site generators like Jekyll or Hugo certainly became the game changer in 2017. Well, okay, in a way, it’s going back to the first sites that were published in the WWW, but only much better.

Static site generators allow creating a website without a database, instead of running from files on your servers. The advantages of such an approach are shorter loading time, better security, and much easier deployment of templates and content.

It’s not ideal, however, because static sites require additional efforts to integrate real-time content (like user comments) with this type of sites. 

JavaScript and the Great Battle of Angular vs React

JavaScript is the hottest web development trend of 2017 and it will continue to capture more and more evangelists. The frameworks and libraries of JavaScript are quite flexible and powerful and currently, there are two frameworks that are like Samsung and Apple, going back and forth.

The army of React fans is almost as big as Angular’s, but we’ll see how that pans out in the coming year.

Another potentially big player in this competition is VueJS. 

SVGs Taking Over

With retina and ultra-high definition screens taking over the computers and mobile phones alike, making sure that your website or app looks great on any resolution is a must.

Conventional image formats, like jpg or png, can somewhat perform the task, but they are losing to the SVGs. These vector files are resolution independent and therefore look awesome on all devices.


Motion Design – Interactive Simplicity

Not a new trend of 2017, but it was the year of motion design gaining momentum. People crave simpler interfaces, but at the same time not at the cost of interactivity. Motion design helps to bridge these two, helping users to understand the flow between the actions using animation.

An added bonus: if it’s done properly and optimized for speed, motion design animations can make the user feel like the app is faster.

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Hiring a Developer for your Business: A Six Steps Guide

So you want to hire a web developer? Do you need a web developer or a dedicated web development team? What about your project size? Do you want to add a contact form to your landing page or develop a sophisticated client-side web service with cloud hosting integration? You see, there are many questions to be answered as well as options to choose from. If you don’t have all the answers yet, do not despair.  

In this article, you will find a step-by-step guide on how to find a web developer for your project and get it done without spending over budget. 

Let’s start. 

How to hire a web developer in 6 easy steps

Below, we have gathered the most common steps for how to hire a good web developer that will suit small, medium, and big-sized web projects. 

Step 1. Specify your business challenges

All web development projects are different, and without knowing your project size and goals, it is hard to give you clear guidance on which web developers will suit your project the best. At the very beginning of your search, you need to decide what kind of web development project you need a developer for: 

  • A simple web project includes building a simple website or integrating additional features to the existing one. These features might be a contact form, a CTA button, a new template design, a subscription button, and so on. 
  • Medium web projects include various project types, including the development of static or dynamic web apps, online stores, and other services that require integration of third-party services such as CRM, CMS, databases, chatbots, APIs, and others. 
  • Large-sized web projects refer to projects such as a video sharing social media app or social networks that require, not only a bunch of sophisticated technologies but also integration with cloud hosting servers to store all their user data. 
  • Other projects, since project scope and situations can vary.     


At this stage, you also need to define your specific business challenges, i.e., the reason you need to hire a web developer. Our experience shows that customers are looking for a web developer in the following three cases: 

  • You want to build a project from scratch, which is a common scenario for existing businesses and start-ups. The main goal for start-ups is to enter their niche as soon as possible so, they need to hire an outsourcing web development team to save time and money. At the same time, existing businesses that want to automate some business processes may choose between an in-house or a dedicated web development team. 
  • You need to extend your in-house team with an extra specialist to help you with an ongoing project. In this case, you can choose between hiring a freelance web developer, or outsourcing a developer through a web development agency for some particular period.  
  • You want to use technology that nobody in your in-house dev team has experience with. Unless you want to wait for your developers to learn it, you can hire a web programmer from an outsourcing agency who already knows said technology. 

Step 2. Decide on the developer’s skills 

There are three types of web developers. Front-end, back-end, and full-stack developers. What is the difference between them? Let’s see. 

  • Front-end developers make changes to the front of your site, i.e., the part of the website visitors interact with. You can hire such developers to change the design and layout of your website slightly. Still, consider that there is a difference between a front-end developer and a web designer. Web designers are more visually creative, focusing on user experience. They create the website layout, color scheme, and other visual elements to be used. Web developers turn the website design into fully functional websites using HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, Node.JS, ASP.NET, React.JS, Angular 8, Vue, and other technologies. 
  • Back-end developers are responsible for website structure, hidden behind the front-end, i.e., how your website works. You might need some specialist if you want to improve your website’s speed, integrate third-party services into the site infrastructure, or solve technical issues. In most cases, back-end developers use such technologies as PHP, Python, Ruby, Java, and databases, including MongoDB, SQL – MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, and others. 
  • Full-stack developers are experienced in developing both the front and back-end of websites. Such specialists are becoming popular among start-ups that have limited resources. While full-stack developers have a higher hourly rate, compared to previously described developers, it is cheaper to work with such a specialist than hire front and back-end developers. 

Now it’s time to get down to business and start searching for the right developer. 






Step 3. Finding necessary specialists

When you are looking for web programmers for hire, consider that you hire a technological partner who will become a part of your business for several years, providing your project with ongoing technical support and implementing further website improvements. Thus, you need to hire web developers very carefully. 

Choosing between a freelance web developer and  a webdevelopment team to hire

But where to find a web developer?

To hire a freelancer, use one of the following websites: 

  • Upwork is the most popular job marketplace for finding freelancers. The site has many useful tools, including time tracking, automated payment per achieved milestones. 
  • Freelancer.com is another site to find a remote worker that comes with online chat, a milestone payment, and other useful features.
  • Guru website has become a job marketplace for three million freelancers. The site includes different payment options as per milestone, per task, or hourly. 

To hire web development team you need a slightly different approach, so search on the following websites:

  • Clutch is a B2B review platform, where customers share their experience in working with development companies. The site has search filters as well as a rating system. Therefore, you can not only find the right team but get an idea about its strong and weak points. 
  • SoftwareWorld is a review website that makes lists of top-ranked developers on the basis of customer reviews and location. The site also highlights the primary industries the web development team has experience with. 
  • Tech blogs, like the one you are reading, where web development teams give handy tips to their future and current clients, sharing their expertise in development. If you find their articles useful and relevant for your industry, do not hesitate to contact them. 


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Step 4. Check out the web development team’s expertise 

How to choose a web developer? Let’s find out. Before hiring web developers, you evaluate the experience of the web development team and find out whether they can cope with your requirements for your upcoming project. Thus, before filling in contact forms, it is always a good idea to check the team’s portfolio to find out more about their previous projects. Besides this, you can check the company’s profile on Linkedin, Behance, and Dribble networks. If the company’s expertise satisfies your business needs, you can get in touch with the team and start discussing your project. 

What to look for when hiring a web developer? Before signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), you also need to check the soft skills of your web developers since they are essential for the project’s success. The set of crucial soft skills includes:

  • Communication is vital in order to be on the same page as the development team. Besides, effective communication and sharing expectations will result in fewer misunderstandings, clearer project requirements, and features set.    
  • Teamwork is essential, especially for a large and complex project, since it involves, not only developers, but also designers, project managers, QA managers, business analysts, and other team members. 
  • Proactivity, since it is always great when a developer can give feedback about technological solutions, share thoughts, and suggest improvements during the project development process. 
  • Approachability and Helpfulness are essential, because, if a developer cannot approach other team members and ask them about something, a small problem may turn into a big one. Thus, the developer’s skills in building a rapport with others result in more fruitful cooperation.  

The best way to validate the soft skills of web developers is to conduct a video interview with a developer or ask one to make a video and talk about himself or explain how to deal with a complex technical task.

Step 5. Select a working model 

Depending on the complexity and scope of your web development project, you may choose among the following models of cooperation: 

  • The project-based model is popular among start-ups or well-established businesses that want to accomplish a small web development project. This model includes a predefined scope of work and established timeframes. Also, the web development team is responsible for all project management as well as the choice of technological solutions. In this business model, all responsibilities are on the web development team. 
  • A Dedicated Team business model works great if you need to implement complex functions to your websites, such as cloud storage integration, or AI Chabot development, but want to save time and costs on hiring in-house specialists. As for controlling the project roadmap, you can do it individually or pass the project’s decisions to your dedicated web development team. As for the responsibilities of the project’s success, they depend on the project management’s process side. If PM is on the side of the customer, they have responsibility for the team. 
  • Outstaff or Extended team is the best option for developing big projects while staying within the project’s budget. Also, for active cooperation, you’ll need to have an in-house CTO and project manager, since, with outstaff model, you will be responsible for tasks assignments, progress management, and leading web developers from the technical management side. In this business model, all responsibility, validation, and control are the customers. 
different outsourcing web development models

Step 6. Choose a payment model 

If you decide to work with a single web developer or web development team, you will need to pay them a salary every month, like regular workers. The same is necessary for both outstaff and Dedicated team working models.  However, for a project-based working model, you can choose between:  

  • Fixed price paying model, which is the best option for small web projects with a clear scope of work and time frame. 
  • Time and Material, known as Pay as You Go, is used for small, medium, or big- sized projects when the scope of work, as well as the time frame, is not so easy to estimate. This paying model includes paying the hourly rate of each developer based on actual time spent on development. 

Related articles: 





hiring best web developer

[The App Solutions cooperation models]

After this stage, you and your web developers can start the discovery or inception phase of the project and create functional and non-functional requirements for the project MVP

best web developer to hire

[The App Solutions workflow]

In a nutshell

Whether you need to make small changes to your website, build a web app, or complete a social network with cloud storage and many third-party integrations, you can easily find a web developer for hire. 

By following our guide on how to find a web developer, you can not only select the perfect candidate for your project but also choose the best working and paying models. Furthermore, don’t underestimate the importance of the web developer’s soft skills, since they impact your project’s success. 

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