Commercial or Open-Source Encryption Software – Whose Side Are You On?

20 Oct 2020 | Michael Waksman

Are you looking for data encryption? Most likely you’ve come across 2 different types of software: commercial and
open-source. So, which is best for your business? Some people speak in favor of open-source encryption software, 
while others believe that commercial solutions are more beneficial for enterprises and home users when it comes
to matters of reliability and support.

Here we’ll evaluate the differences between these alternatives and examine the pros and cons of each.

Young woman comparing two things

Open-Source Encryption Software

Open-source refers to software where the source code is open for anyone to use, inspect, modify and distribute. Are you wondering what is a source code exactly? Well, it’s a part of software used by computer programmers to change how an application works.

Pros

  • Open-source software is generally free to use. 
  • The source code is available for everyone to view.
  • If you have any problems with the software, community support may be available.
  • You can edit and upgrade open-source software to suit your needs, as well as add features.

Cons

  • There’s no guarantee that an open-source tool will work on every system, as there may be compatibility issues with existing software or hardware.
  • Software support may not be available at all times. When it is available, support will come from volunteers and typically not professionals.
  • Open-source tools often aren’t straightforward to use, so you might need a specialist to help you install and maintain the software. 
  • Critical flaws are found on even the most popular open-source tools, which can compromise the security of users. 
  • Although open-source software is likely free, there are hidden costs related to extra maintenance fees, staff training, and security risks.
  • As was the case with TrueCrypt, open-source software can be suddenly discontinued at any time.
  • Open-source tools do not offer central management features.


Commercial Encryption Software

Commercial software is designed and developed for commercial purposes. Customers must purchase the software and there may be additional costs for support. Regular maintenance and upgrades to the software are provided by the vendor.

Pros

  • Customers receive effective and reliable technical support from professionals. 
  • Commercial tools are regularly updated, which lessens the chances of technical failure and ensures the software is more secure. 
  • Commercial software is designed to be user-friendly and easy to install. 
  • Central management features are available with most commercial solutions. 

Cons

  • Commercial software is not available for free. 
  • Source codes are not publicly available in nearly all cases – meaning they can’t be independently edited or customized. 
  • Despite regular updates and the help of technical support, customers may still occasionally experience software failure.


Let’s Talk About the Code

Although both alternatives have their pros and cons, the biggest benefit of open-source encryption software is often thought to be the publicly available source code. Some people argue that accessing the code makes the software more secure, but this matter isn’t completely straightforward. Let’s take a look at 3 reasons why. 

  1. Backdoors are pieces of code that allow third parties to access a system without user awareness or consent. Seeing as codes are publicly available with open-source software, it is widely believed that backdoors cannot be created. Even if this is the case, that doesn’t stop hackers injecting backdoors into the binaries that users download. 
  2. Even if source codes can be openly viewed, that doesn’t mean they are actually checked at all. In 2019, there were 21,448 new open-source releases per day – showing how impossible it would be to manually inspect all the code of every new type of open-source software. Instead the inspection may often be automated, which probably makes a hacker's job easier.
  3. Reading source code isn’t as easy as you might think. Even programmers struggle to make sense of code. Unless you’re a specialist you will probably need to ask for help. 
     

What’s Right for Your Business?

Open-source tools absolutely have some benefits. Yet as we see above, the fact that this type of software offers publicly available source codes is not necessarily positive from a security standpoint. When also considering unreliable support and potential hidden costs, you see how dealing with open-source software can be risky for companies.

To avoid these troublesome issues, you could try commercial tools instead. Yes, you would need to pay something for the commercial software, but in return you’d get a product that is regularly updated, offers improved security and provides professional customer support. Keeping all this in mind, you must decide for yourself which option is best for your business.

BestCrypt by Jetico

BestCrypt is a commercial encryption solution that protects your sensitive data from physical risks and virtual threats. Beyond reliable customer support and central management for administrators, Jetico also guarantees there are no backdoors in BestCrypt. To prove this claim, Jetico has published source codes of its encryption and key generation modules.

Start your free trial of BestCrypt today!

Michael Waksman Jetico CEO bio image
Michael Waksman

Michael Waksman has been serving as CEO of Jetico since 2011, more than doubling the size of the company during his tenure. He brings more than 20 years of communications, technology and leadership experience.

At Jetico, Waksman has lead creation of the corporate identity, raising global brand awareness, building a more commercially-driven team and initiating enterprise customer relations. Jetico has maintained a wide user base throughout the U.S. Defense community, in the global compliance market and for personal privacy.

Waksman served as vice-chairman of the Cyber Group for the Association of Finnish Defense and Aerospace Industries. Recognized as a security and privacy advocate, he is a frequent speaker at international events, occasionally on behalf of the Finnish cyber security industry. In 2012, Waksman was honored with The Security Network's Chairman's Award for fostering collaboration between the United States and Finland. As dual citizen, he is a native New Yorker and has been living in the Helsinki region for over 15 years.

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