"As I escorted him to the elevator after an interview
in 1998, Gordon Eubanks, then president and CEO of Symantec,
made a casual observation that forever changed my perspective on
open source software. At a time when the world's No. 2 computer
security company realized almost all its revenue by protecting
machines running Microsoft and IBM/Lotus Development platforms,
Eubanks noted that open source was inherently easier to protect
than proprietary software.
Using Linux as an example, he said, "Everybody can see what's
under the hood, so we're on equal footing with hackers. With
proprietary systems, intruders often have illegal means of learning
things about the underlying code that are superior to the legal
information at our disposal - even though we get excellent
cooperation and support from Microsoft."
At the time, Symantec was only beginning to explore the Linux
market, so Eubanks' remarks registered as something of a personal
epiphany for me. For the first time, I found myself entertaining
the notion that open source might actually threaten Microsoft and
Sun Microsystems. The fact that Linux was free didn't impress me,
but here was a value proposition that money couldn't buy - an
increasingly stable operating system (OS) that was less prone to
security vulnerabilities in the first place, because so many
interested parties were examining it continuously, and that now
seemed easier for developers to secure."