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The transformative role of open source in enabling security

MaRS Discovery District embraces open source password management with Bitwarden.

Overview

MaRS Discovery District is a Canadian innovation and advisory accelerator offering services to over 1,400 Canadian science and tech companies at every stage of their growth, from startup to scale-up. Shane Rodness is a MaRS Discovery District Systems Administrator (sysadmin) with a passion for leveraging automation in exciting ways and creating more secure environments for the organization. Rodness, who has experience with LINUX and Mac and on-premises and cloud technologies, is particularly committed to embracing open source as a tool for enabling more secure environments.

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How open source can help organizations build more secure environments

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SysAdmin Challenges + Open Source Opportunities

Rodness says many sysadmins are confronting new challenges today. They include the pandemic-induced continuous shift in employee environments (which opens up new attack vectors) and tools and services used for digital transformation that have proven to be double-edged swords (see SolarWinds breach). But as organizations adjusted to the pandemic and members of the IT security community came together to assess the vulnerabilities that led to the SolarWinds hack, they realized open source-generated patches were particularly effective. 

“Open source has always been a gift for sysadmins and IT professionals everywhere,” says Rodness. “There are countless open source tools, services, and systems in place today that are used in virtually every environment already.”

According to Rodness, there are four core benefits to open source:

  • Community: Allows everyone who wants to contribute, participate, and give back to do so in an open and transparent way, benefiting everyone involved

  • Collaboration: In letting everyone contribute, people are working together to identify the best ideas and enhancing those ideas to strengthen existing projects and solve problems

  • Transparency: The process is available for peer-review, which builds inherent trust

  • Access: Removing barriers gives individuals access to tools that may prove transformative

The evolution of open source security

The security challenges inherent in a modern, tech-driven society, coupled with the ability to leverage open source, has created an environment in which more companies are investing in those tools and development methods, creating a new standard in which open source is synonymous with security. 

Bitwarden, says Rodness, is a prime example of a product that effectively leverages open source principles. Rodness believes Bitwarden is an incredibly powerful tool for organizations to have in their arsenals. The product strengthens the overall security posture of a company and has a superb command line interface that can be used for a multitude of automations. 

Other open source tools he favorably cites include Wazuh and ELK; OSQuery, which offers powerful endpoint monitoring; OpenSCAP, which assists with configuration benchmarking; and traditional industry benchmarks such as endmark, wireshark, and snort. These tools, says Rodness, continue to thrive and grow as more organizations embrace the open source philosophy. 

As Rodness looks to the future, he believes the workplace landscape will continue to shift. He’s also interested in the push towards passwordless environments and aware that security threats will remain constant. With that, he continues to emphasize the proven benefit in utilizing open source.

"As more companies and projects commit to an open source future, we’ll be able to apply those same proven benefits to the security of our organizations. Because of that intersection between open source and security, we’ll collectively build towards a more secure future, one environment at a time.”

Shane Rodness, MaRS Discovery District Systems Administrator

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