License Compliance in Open Source Cybersecurity Projects

TitleLicense Compliance in Open Source Cybersecurity Projects
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsShah, Ahmed, Selman Selman, and Abualhaol Ibrahim
Secondary TitleTechnology Innovation Management Review
Date Published02/2016
PublisherTalent First Network
Place PublishedOttawa
ISSN Number1927-0321

Developers of cybersecurity software often include and rely upon open source software packages in their commercial software products. Before open source code is absorbed into a proprietary product, developers must check the package license to see if the project is permissively licensed, thereby allowing for commercial-friendly inheritance and redistribution. However, there is a risk that the open source package license could be inaccurate due to being silently contaminated with restrictively licensed open source code that may prohibit the sale or confidentiality of commercial derivative work. Contamination of commercial products could lead to expensive remediation costs, damage to the company{\textquoteright}s reputation, and costly legal fees. In this article, we report on our preliminary analysis of more than 200 open source cybersecurity projects to identify the most frequently used license types and languages and to look for evidence of permissively licensed open source projects that are likely contaminated by restrictive licensed material (i.e., containing commercial-unfriendly code). Our analysis identified restrictive license contamination cases occurring in permissively licensed open source projects. Furthermore, we found a high proportion of code that lacked copyright attribution. We expect that the results of this study will: i) provide managers and developers with an understanding of how contamination can occur, ii) provide open source communities with an understanding on how they can better protect their intellectual property by including licenses and copyright information in their code, and ii) provide entrepreneurs with an understanding of the open source cybersecurity domain in terms of licensing and contamination and how they affect decisions about cybersecurity software architectures.