Welcome to the first installment of TOWR Guides, handy infographics that you can save, share, and refer to. This first foray deals with open source alternatives to the software that we’ve all been using for years—the Microsofts and Googles and Facebooks of the world. These companies are the go-to for so many types of things that we do on our computers every day, and yet they’ve become data collection platforms and festering cesspools of personal data, just waiting to be purchased or subpoenaed or even stolen…and that’s not even counting the warrantless searches and worse that are occurring. There’s good news, though—you have options.
Data: The Crime Frontier
Data breaches have almost become a way of life, the new normal. In 2015, it wasn’t just cheating spouses that got hit. VTech’s hack exposed children’s photos and home addresses to any predator savvy enough to access the security hole. The Office of Personnel Management hack compromised 5.6 million sets of fingerprints and much more; the victims of the worst hack in US history were only offered credit monitoring services and a few platitudes. Last week, security giant Juniper found “unauthorized code” running on its servers that showed a level of sophistication found in nation-state level operations—and evidence shows that the code was there for three years before it was discovered.
In a world where true cybersecurity is an elusive and possibly even unattainable prize, it’s even more important to do our part to protect ourselves. Part of that means being very careful what software you use, what sites you visit, and what information you let those programs and websites have. Enter one solution: Open source software.
Open Source What?
For those new to the term, open source software means the code is available for anyone to look at. Other programmers can go through the code and find errors or security holes, or make modifications; they release the modified (or forked) version back to the community.
The benefits of this are huge. When looking for a secure text messaging app, for instance, which app would you have more confidence in: A proprietary program where the company says it’s secure and you’re expected to trust them (and watch their site for any patches coming out after the fact)? Or an open source program with several public audits and discussions on the code, explaining whether it works or not, why it works, and what updates or tweaks it still needs?
All of this can be pretty overwhelming for the average person who’s been ‘in the Matrix’, so to speak, of proprietary commercial big-name software their whole lives. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources to help you make the switch. The first thing you can check out is our infographic. It’ll get you started with some basic alternatives. After you take a look at those, surf over to Alternative.to. It’s a huge database of open source software links for every operating system and program you can think of. Own a Windows laptop and an iPhone? Mac and Android? Whatever you have, there are options.
Click the graphic below to enlarge, and right click to save it. Better yet, use the sharing buttons to spread the information to others! Do you have a favorite open source program? Let us know in the comments. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any of our other guides!