StillSecure Bets on Embedded Security

Cobia platform spurs debate over 'open source'

LAS VEGAS -- Interop -- StillSecure this week took another step in its effort to divorce security software from hardware with new partnership programs for VARs, ISVs, and hardware manufacturers that want to resell, distribute, or port Cobia to hardware. But some experts don't like the security vendor's positioning of the platform as "open source."

Mitchell Ashley, CTO and general manager of StillSecure, says the company is trying to get ahead of the curve in uniting networking and security. "Security is getting embedded in the network -- it will eventually get featured in the network switch and router fabric," Ashley says. "Instead of our playing catch-up," we developed the platform.

StillSecure rolled out the Linux-based Cobia in April for free under a dual-use community and commercial licensed, modular security platform that includes routing, firewall, DNS, IDS/IPS, NAC, spam filtering, WiFi, and VPN. Cobia builds on StillSecure's existing security platform, which also uses Snort and Nessus.

But StillSecure's promoting of Cobia as an "open source" platform has generated some heated controversy. Thomas Ptacek, a researcher with Matasano Security, says Cobia isn't technically "open source" because it doesn't fit the definition of open source.

"It's a proprietary license, plain and simple. You cannot use Cobia's code to build your own products," says Ptacek, who has blogged on this issue before. "It's troubling that they are trying to capitalize on the goodwill that open source justifiably generates, while not providing those same freedoms themselves, and while taking from the open source community by using things like Snort."

Open-source definition debates aside, StillSecure says it envisions its approach as filling a gap, since there are no open standards that address networking and security software. "We are building out a community," Ashley says. And ISVs will add functionality to the Cobia platform: Cymphonix, for instance, is adding content-filtering to it and bandwidth-shaping, he says.

StillSecure also announced it will sell Cobia-based appliances to businesses.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • StillSecure
  • Matasano Security LLC