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'One glitch per 1,000 lines of code' in open-source projects

US bug-fixing scheme reveals worrying findings

A security auditing scheme sponsored by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has uncovered an average of one security glitch per 1,000 lines of code in 180 widely used open-source software projects, including Firefox, Apache and the Linux kernel.

The programme, called the Open Source Hardening Project, is carried out by Coverity and Stanford University. The $300,000 project was launched in March 2006 to review the code of 180 open-source software projects frequently used by developers of government websites and application developers.

All the software scrutinised was found to have significant numbers of security flaws, Coverity said on Wednesday. Since 2006 the project has helped fix 7,826 open-source flaws in 250 projects, out of 50 million lines of code scanned, the company said.

For all the latest security advice, How To workshops and product reviews, visit Security Advisor.

Coverity also scans proprietary software, handling about 400 product lines for private customers, but said its private clients don't tend to disclose information about bugs found in their products.

Many of the open-source projects scanned have promptly repaired the bugs that have turned up. Yesterday Coverity advanced the first batch of 11 open-source projects to its second stage of the bug-cleansing process, called Rung 2. Many more remain on Rung 1 or even Rung 0, meaning they haven't yet begun to fix the flaws identified.

The 11 projects are Amanda, NTP, OpenPAM, OpenVPN, Overdose, Perl, PHP, Postfix, Python, Samba and TCL. Other popular software the project has scrutinised include Apache, the Linux kernel and Firefox.

Rung 2 is the highest security level yet reached under the DHS project, and was attained by eliminating several classes of security and quality defects, according to Coverity open source strategist David Maxwell.

For instance, 236 flaws were uncovered in 450,000 lines of Samba code, of which 228 have been corrected.

Having passed to the next level, Coverity will provide the projects with an updated version of its scanner product, which will allow developers to identify still more flaws.

The Rung 2 scanning service will be upgraded from version 2.4 to version 3.6 of Coverity's Prevent bug-scanning product, Coverity said. The latest version in commercial use is 3.8.

The bug checks are carried out via Coverity's Scan website.


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