Best of open source in security

Top projects in vulnerability scanning, intrusion prevention, anti-virus, anti-spam, firewalls, VPNs, and security testing

In areas such as CRM software and portals, open source gained a foothold because users were willing to compromise -- less could be more, because the price was right. In security, open source rushed in because commercial vendors fell down on the job. As security problems in the enterprise outstripped the capabilities of commercial solutions, a number of talented security researchers stepped into the breach via the open source model.

From folks such as Renaud Deraison of Nessus to Martin Roesch of Snort, great security tools poured forth to the enterprise. There are now thriving open source security projects in anti-virus, anti-spam, personal and application firewalls, VPNs, IDS/IPS, wireless security, vulnerability assessment, and penetration testing to name but a few.

In network vulnerability assessment, our Bossie winner, Nessus, stands alone. The granddaddy of all security tools, Nessus combines an up-to-the-minute vulnerability engine and testing controls, making it an essential member of the toolbox in both well-funded and cash-strapped security organizations. It tests all aspects of a target including the operating system, ports, services, and applications, and it scores consistently as the top security tool based on professional security tester reviews. Reports can be lengthy, but they're comprehensive.

Nessus shows you where intruders might get in. Snort, which takes our Bossie for intrusion prevention, can stop them from doing so. Snort performs real-time traffic analysis and packet logging. In addition to classic protocol analysis, Snort now also performs content monitoring. Its rules language has evolved light-years beyond the version available when Snort was first released. And like Nessus, Snort is at the top of the heap in community support. The Snort project has spawned a range of add-on projects such as ACID (Analysis Console for Intrusion Databases), SnortSnarf, Swatch, and SnortCenter. These add-ons are needed for reporting and centralized control of multiple Snort boxes; Snort itself is strictly the detection and prevention engine.

In the case of anti-virus, one open source solution stands alone, ClamAV. ClamAV was recently purchased by Sourcefire, the owners of Snort. As with most projects on this distinguished list, ClamAV runs on Linux and Unix, and it was designed primarily for e-mail gateways. Virus signature updates are frequent and the detection engine is fast. ClamAV works well with Spamassassin within the MIMEDefang filtering framework for e-mail servers.

Our Bossie winner for anti-spam is the ubiquitous Spamassassin. Powerful, extensible, and effective, Spamassassin uses a trainable neural network engine to identify spam and minimize false positives, in addition to the classic techniques of blacklisting and Bayesian filtering.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Bowers

Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?