Open-Source Development in a Governmental Playing Field
Thinking of development in and with open-source methods, the government and cyber security partners might not be the first organisations that come to mind. In April 2020, the Dutch Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops stated his intention to stimulate the Dutch government software to be predominantly open-source. An important statement, the potential value of open-source in a security network environment can be surprisingly high. This article, shows you why, by introducing the development of the Open-Source Data Diode (OSDD) demonstrator, showcasing the relevance and necessity of public-private cooperation in this up and coming domain.
A data diode is a device (usually a combination of hardware and software) that makes data transfer possible in only one direction. Data diodes can, therefore, protect networks and systems against external cyber threats. “When the innovation program started, traditional data diodes were primarily aimed at the highly classified domain,” Gertie Arts, strategic advisor resilience FRONT, Ministry of Defense, says. “That is why we wanted to develop a low-end, low-cost, open-source data diode. To lower the threshold for SMEs and startups to raise their level of cyber security and make it easier for them to work with us on innovative solutions.”
The OSDD is still in a prototype stage. After a selection by the Ministry of Defense, Technolution was commissioned to develop a prototype, launched starting 2020. To further develop the OSDD into a product that people can use in order to increase their cyber security, we participate in the Hackathon for Peace, Justice and Security, where both the technical specifics and the practical applicability can be expanded.
Process, Development & Open-Source
To understand this initiative, the background and history of Open-Source (OS) should be known. Initially, the developers of OS were passionate idealists, who coded by the motto: everyone contributes, everyone benefits. But it did not take long before bigger, commercial companies saw the benefits of this development. Despite the lack of a traditional earnings model, open-source provides significant benefits for large companies, such as long-term and (system) maintenance. There are also many reasons for the government to use open-source software. Consider the advantages of license-free software, which makes governments less dependent on external suppliers. Or public-private partnerships and innovation, where government money generates both knowledge in the creation and freely available software for citizens.
The Benefits of Open-Source
The availability of a low-end, low-cost, open-source data diode will lower the threshold for large-scale application of data diodes. This brings data diodes within reach of (lower) governments, the business community (i.e., SMEs), and ultimately even people at home. To make this possible, the price of data diodes must be significantly reduced, the devices must be miniaturized, based on open-source software, and responsible use must be made accessible. Low-end, low-cost, open-source data diodes can make an important contribution to strengthening domains in which currently few digital security barriers are used.
Using open-source software and open standards, the price of these specific data diodes can be kept low. The advantage of this type of software is the publication of the source code on, for example, an open-source platform such as GitHub. The open-source community can then further develop the software and check the source codes to eliminate errors.
Open for Cooperation
State Secretary Knops' statement regarding open-source software and the initiative from the Ministry of Defense indicates that the government is literally ‘open for cooperation.’ As FRONT puts it: “Open-source software gives us the opportunity to make adjustments and customize, without being bound to one company. It makes the process transparent and comprehensible. ”From our perspective, the core of the development of an open-source solution lies in innovative partnership and collaboration between governmental and private partners. Therefore, the key is public-private cooperation to provide innovative security solutions because only together, we secure the future.
Source: E-Magazine One Conference