For years, developers of free, open-source software have been telling anyone who will listen that their projects needs better financial assistance and more oversight. Now, after a number of disastrous incidents involving open-source code, the federal government and Silicon Valley may finally be listening.
A meeting at the White House on Thursday saw executives from some of the tech sector’s biggest companies meet with administration officials to discuss the need for better security in the open-source community. The list of attendees included big names like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, and Apple, among others.
Unlike proprietary software, open-source software is free, publicly inspectable, and can be used or modified by anybody. Because of how useful open-source tools can be, big corporations will often utilize them for development purposes. But, unfortunately, open-source projects need oversight and funding to remain secure—and they don’t always get it. For years, open-source developers have complained that their software needs better support from Big Tech and other institutional actors—an issue that is finally gaining some mainstream attention.
It’s not hard to see why the White House has convened its meeting right now. Just a month or so ago, a pernicious bug was found in the popular open-source Apache logging library log4j. The troubled program, which is used by just about everybody, led to widespread panic throughout the tech industry, as companies scrambled to patch the systems and products that relied upon the library for success. (Officials from the Apache Software Foundation were also present at Thursday’s meeting.)