Open-source technology is present all around, but not many people know about it or understand it. Truth is, we use it almost every day without realizing it, and the perks it can offer to us are amazing. If you are considering using an open-source solution to boost your research capabilities or are just wondering about the perks it offers, this article has 10 important facts to share with you.
What is open-source technology?
This type of technology refers to software created by developers who pledge to upload their source code entirely. The community of developers puts this into the category called Free and Open Source Software or FOSS.
Still, this doesn’t make it exactly free to use. It also doesn’t mention or recognize the importance that open-source technology has in terms of analysis and research. That’s what this article will explore - the many potentials of open-source technology, as well as some facts that you definitely need to know about it.
The things you should know about open-source software
Here you have it - the list of the top 10 must-know things about open-source software. Enjoy!
1. There are free and paid OSINT tools available
Open-source intelligence or otherwise known as OSINT is the way to go today. The goal of OSINT is to learn about other businesses and get data that remain hidden otherwise.
Take, for example, Google and similar search engines like Bing. These are free OSINT tools or, to be more precise, can be used as such if you know how to do this. If you know how to use the advanced filters on these search engines, you can benefit greatly from their indexing power.
Throughout the years, investigators and researchers have tried to unravel the engineering of search engines. They use a method called Google hacking or dorking. With it, researchers use a variety of search functions and operations to expand the capacity of selected tools - or restrict it.
Okta’s guide on dorking explains the reason why this is called “Google dorking”:
“...Since Google has a 90 percent market share, the company name has become synonymous with search. That's why we call this a Google hack rather than a simple search engine hack.”
In other words, people using Google’s open-source capabilities try to affect how public their information is or to find information. Google Hack is basically a research session based on information that was made available to the public via search engines.
How do people use this?
Some use it to protect their company or themselves by checking what Google keeps private and what goes public. Hackers can access data from any website for research, mostly to spot security vulnerabilities.
2. OSINT paid tools are very popular – and worth it!
Researchers use OSINT to gain more data they couldn’t get to otherwise. This is very common in cybersecurity and especially popular with law enforcement agencies and investigators. If you want to do it right, it’s best to use quality tools like the SEON’s top tools found in their guide.
Yes, you can do the search manually by looking at your target network, but this takes forever and is not as effective. Using a specialist is much more effective – and faster.
As we mentioned before, when we perform an online search of any kind, this is a form of OSINT. Search engines index some very important information that we can get access to. Still, many investigators use third-party tools to get important information that might not be indexed by search engines. As a matter of fact, over 99% of the data on the Web cannot be accessed by search engines.
According to SEON’s guide, tools like this one are popular for four main reasons:
- They present you with an opportunity to gather a user’s digital footprint
- The data collected can help you better build your buyer persona i.e. establish an idea of their background
- It is a barrier of entry for scanners who don’t have the opportunity to create fake profiles
- The data linked to users, especially that from social media, can reveal much more about who they are
Today, SEON is the only tool for fraud prevention that checks over 35 online and social signals based on phone numbers and email addresses.
3. You’re probably already using open-sourced software
Are you using Google Chrome? Maybe you’re using Firefox?
If you are, you are using open source, but you might not know it. There are many open-source products that enjoy tremendous usage including the Android Operating System, Drupal, WordPress, Thunderbird, and even OpenOffice and Notepad++.
Open source is everywhere. It’s in the devices we use such as our flatscreen TVs, the speakers we have connected in our homes, or our DSL routers. Most of these run on open source technology.
Companies are often relying on this to progress in the market, too. According to Red Hat’s open source report, 90% of IT leaders use enterprise open source in their organizations. These numbers only keep growing as companies realize the potential it offers.
Additionally, the Linux Foundation Open-Source Jobs Report of 2020 says that 77% of the respondents (open-source professionals and hiring managers) intend to increase the use of said software.
4. The first open-source sharing instance wasn’t related to software
We’ll go as far as to say that the history of open source is closely linked to that of the Internet. In the 1950s, researchers were working in collaborative, open research environments when they started developing early internet technologies.
This resulted in The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, which soon became the foundation for the Internet we know and love today, all thanks to open-source collaboration and communication.
However, one thing that is not widely known is that the first open-source sharing instance occurred before software.
This is one of the strangest facts about open-source technology. The first instance of sharing via open source dates back to a period when the computer was not even developed. Back in 1911, Henry Ford, an automaker, launched the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association, which started an open-source initiative. As a result, major auto manufacturers in the US shared tech patents without seeking benefits in return.
5. Open source is not only for programmers or governments
Since many aren’t aware of this technology or don’t fully understand it, they get the impression that it’s only used by programmers or governments. Yes, governments and programmers use open source, but these are not the only ones. Anyone can use it without any advanced skills, especially since there are actual specialists that can perform such research for you.
As a matter of fact, most open-source users don’t possess any knowledge of programming languages. Now that platforms make open-source software easily available thanks to binary installers, this is as simple as using proprietary software.
6. Linux is the most used open-source software of all time
At the end of the 1990s, almost all of the web servers on a global level were running on some kind of open-source Linux operating system. Linux is by far the most frequently used system for web-facing computers, being installed on 74.2% of all servers.
7. Support is widely available
The majority of open-source software technologies come with support options. Not all of them are free, but most of them are. Even if there isn’t a phone number that you can call at any moment, there is some kind of support - either a forum or a mailing list. Alternatively, you can contact the developers directly.
8. It gives you full access to the source code
Open source indicates that you get complete access to a program’s source code. Still, this doesn’t mean that you necessarily need such access. Most people use open-source software their whole lives without having to get data about the source. However, this can be very useful if you want to make modifications to an app.
9. Open-source technology has yielded many innovations
Without open-source technology, we wouldn’t be able to innovate so much in areas like AI, machine learning, and IoT - not even the cloud. Open-source is the standard for many new cloud technologies including apps and cloud infrastructure.The reality is, we owe a lot in terms of technology innovations to open source.
10. ‘Open’ does not always mean ‘free’
Calling it open does not necessarily make it free. It’s easy to assume that this is free because of the term ‘open’, but if you decide to leverage its powers for research and security, some costs will occur along the way.
Take, for example, setup costs for hardware, integration, customization, replacement, training, and even support in some cases. Next are interface-related costs such as support complaints, extensibility, and bug fixing.
The field of open-source software is growing steadily, yet strongly. More and more companies these days adopt open source and explore the opportunities it offers to them. Whether you do this as a hobby or professionally, it can offer great benefits to you.
This article was a great place to get acquainted with open source and understand what it means. The next move is to learn more about it and start using it.