TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Sep 00 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 9
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Viewpoint

By John C. "Hsoi" Daub, Contributing Editor. Austin, Texas USA

What We Can Learn From OpenBSD

Like the whole of the Mac community, I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Mac OS X. Not only will we have the best user experience of any operating system available today, but we'll finally have the muscle under the hood to go places the Mac has never been before. Coupled with hardware like the dual processor Power Mac G4 and the Power Mac G4 Cube, we're now ready to tackle the big server and business markets, right? Well, almost.

During a particular daily pilgrimage to the Slashdot website, I happened upon a few articles about OpenBSD. From the OpenBSD.org web site: "The OpenBSD project produces a free, multi-platform, 4.4BSD-based Unix-like operating system. Our efforts emphasize portability, standardization, correctness, proactive security, and integrated cryptography." The security aspect of OpenBSD is what sets it apart from other operating systems; the OpenBSD project aspires to be number one in the industry for security, if they're not already.

Secure by Default

Mac users have long boasted about the Mac OS's "security by default". When the U.S. Army's websites were cracked June 28, 1999, the Army responded by switching to Macs. Events like these allow Mac users to put a feather in their cap. The Mac OS isn't uncrackable, but lacking a command line and not being Windows nor Unix-like, many of the potential vulnerabilities of an operating system simply don't exist. But wait a minute! Doesn't Mac OS X have a command line? And what about the BSD layer and other Unix-isms present in Mac OS X? Hrm. Perhaps it's time for the Mac community to pay more attention to security issues. A good place to start, especially for us developers, is to take a cue from the OpenBSD project.

One aspect of OpenBSD's security stances is to be "secure by default". That means the operating system is shipped with all non-essential services disabled. As a user becomes more familiar with the system and desires to utilize more services, he or she will have to learn about the process and what needs to be enabled. Hopefully by going through this process, the user is more likely to learn about security issues. By educating a user in a safe and forgiving environment, not only does it lead to a smarter user, but hopefully helps him or her avoid learning about security the hard way.

Granted OpenBSD's target audience is different than Mac OS's, so it's likely what services the two operating systems would provide by default would be different as well. But by the same token, the target audience for the Mac OS is more likely to be less computer savvy than your typical OpenBSD user. With broadband Internet access growing exponentially and more and more people getting online (recall those iMac sales numbers), it becomes even more critical to the Mac user experience to provide a safe and secure environment right out of the box. Remember, according to that iMac commercial there are only three (well, two) easy steps to get on the Internet: plug in, get connected; there's no step three. Being a security expert is not one of the steps.

Improve Code Quality

How many times in the past few years have you heard about security problems due to "buffer overflow?" Ultimately it's just a "simple coding error," but how many of these errors could have been caught and fixed if greater emphasis was placed on quality of code instead of hacking in twenty new features and shipping before the end of the quarter? The potential cost of that simple error could be far greater than the costs involved in having a solid code review and auditing process in place.

The proactive code auditing process utilized by the OpenBSD project isn't as much about looking for security holes as it is looking for coding bugs. They simply perform an extensive analysis of every source file. If new problems are found, then previously audited code gets reviewed again with the new problems in mind. Auditing the code multiple times by multiple people helps to improve not only the security of the code, but also the overall quality of the code. It's a nice double-benefit.

I understand the realities of software development: budgets, marketing requirements, schedules running over, being severely understaffed. Unfortunately due to these realities, quality of code is often sacrificed, which results in less than optimal product quality. And if you ship a shoddy product too many times, people will stop buying your products and lose faith in your company. The OpenBSD project's focus on quality allows them to proclaim at the top of their website that it's been three years without a remote hole and two years without a local hole in the default install. That's the sort of quality consumers are starting to expect these days. Instead of making a fuss over how Mac OS X won't crash if one application crashes, why don't we just have applications that don't crash in the first place? We won't be able to hide behind our disclaimers and licensing agreements forever.

So What Can We Learn?

The Mac OS X public beta should be released by the time you read this. If Apple has already taken steps towards being secure by default, all the better! If not, it is a beta, so that means there's time to fix it. But this isn't just a call for Apple to do something; this is a call to you to rethink your assumptions and consider the implications that come with our new OS paradigm. Every line of code needs to be written and reviewed with security and quality in mind.

If we want Apple, and hence our own businesses, to grow and flourish in the server and business markets, we need to think different from all the other players in that field. Except perhaps the OpenBSD project; their stance on security and quality is where we need to start thinking the same.


John C. Daub spends his days working as a developer for Aladdin Systems, Inc., currently working on the StuffIt Deluxe team. John spends his nights as he always does: playing with his wife and kids. You can contact John at hsoi@hsoi.com.

Thanx to James Chamberlain, Carl Constantine, Ron Davis, and Jim & Mary Ellen Lee for their input; and to Jessica for being such a sweetie. :-)

 
AAPL
$104.81
Apple Inc.
-0.02
MSFT
$45.73
Microsoft Corpora
+0.71
GOOG
$538.73
Google Inc.
-5.25

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

BusyCal 2.6.3 - Powerful calendar app wi...
BusyCal is an award-winning desktop calendar that combines personal productivity features for individuals with powerful calendar sharing capabilities for families and workgroups. BusyCal's unique... Read more
calibre 2.7 - Complete e-library managem...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital... Read more
Skitch 2.7.3 - Take screenshots, annotat...
With Skitch, taking, annotating, and sharing screenshots or images is as fun as it is simple.Communicate and collaborate with images using Skitch and its intuitive, engaging drawing and annotating... Read more
Delicious Library 3.3.2 - Import, browse...
Delicious Library allows you to import, browse, and share all your books, movies, music, and video games with Delicious Library. Run your very own library from your home or office using our... Read more
Art Text 2.4.8 - Create high quality hea...
Art Text is an OS X application for creating high quality textual graphics, headings, logos, icons, Web site elements, and buttons. Thanks to multi-layer support, creating complex graphics is no... Read more
Live Interior 3D Pro 2.9.6 - Powerful an...
Live Interior 3D Pro is a powerful yet very intuitive interior designing application. View Video Tutorials It has every feature of Live Interior 3D Standard, plus some exclusive ones: Create multi... Read more
The Hit List 1.1.7 - Advanced reminder a...
The Hit List manages the daily chaos of your modern life. It's easy to learn - it's as easy as making lists. And it's powerful enough to let you plan, then forget, then act when the time is right.... Read more
jAlbum Pro 12.2.4 - Organize your digita...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code!... Read more
jAlbum 12.2.4 - Create custom photo gall...
With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly, with pro results Simply drag and drop photos into groups, choose a design... Read more
ExpanDrive 4.1.7 - Access remote files o...
ExpanDrive builds cloud storage in every application, acts just like a USB drive plugged into your Mac. With ExpanDrive, you can securely access any remote file server directly from the Finder or... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

I Am Dolphin Review
I Am Dolphin Review By Jennifer Allen on October 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: NEARLY FIN-TASTICUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Swim around and eat nearly everything that moves in I Am Dolphin, a fun Ecco-ish kind of game... | Read more »
nPlayer looks to be the ultimate choice...
Developed by Newin Inc, nPlayer may seem like your standard video player – but is aiming to be the best in its field by providing high quality video play performance and support for a huge number of video formats and codecs. User reviews include... | Read more »
Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Wi...
Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Witch Review By Jennifer Allen on October 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: CLASSY STORYTELLINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Witch is a sterling... | Read more »
A Few Days Left (Games)
A Few Days Left 1.01 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.01 (iTunes) Description: Screenshots are in compliance to App Store's 4+ age rating! Please see App Preview for real game play! **Important: Make... | Read more »
Toca Boo (Education)
Toca Boo 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: BOO! Did I scare you!? My name is Bonnie and my family loves to spook! Do you want to scare them back? Follow me and I'll... | Read more »
Intuon (Games)
Intuon 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Join the battle with your intuition in a new hardcore game Intuon! How well do you trust your intuition? Can you find a needle in a... | Read more »
Ravenous Rampage (Games)
Ravenous Rampage 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Partia 2 (Games)
Partia 2 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $5.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: Partia 2 is a SRPG (Strategy Role-playing) video game inspired by Fire Emblem and Tear Ring Saga series. In a high fantasy... | Read more »
Puzzle to the Center of the Earth Review
Puzzle to the Center of the Earth Review By Campbell Bird on October 23rd, 2014 Our Rating: :: SPELUNKING PUZZLESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Do some puzzles to make some platforms in this smart and fun free-to-play... | Read more »
Puzzle to the Center of the Earth – Tips...
Dig this: Would you like to know what we thought of all this puzzling-around the deep recesses of the planet? Check out our Puzzle to the Center of the Earth review! Puzzle to the Center of the Earth is a surprisingly deep and challenging puzzle... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple Planning To Sacrifice Gross Margins To...
Digitimes Research’s Jim Hsiao says its analysts believe Apple is planning to sacrifice its gross margins to save its tablet business, which has recently fallen into decline. They project that Apple’... Read more
Who’s On Now? – First Instant-Connect Search...
It’s nighttime and your car has broken down on the side of the highway. You need a tow truck right away, so you open an app on your iPhone, search for the closest tow truck and send an instant... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $949,...
Best Buy has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $949.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Their price is $150 off MSRP. Price is... Read more
Save up to $125 on Retina MacBook Pros
B&H Photo has the new 2014 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $125 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. They’ll also include free copies of Parallels... Read more
Apple refurbished Time Capsules available sta...
The Apple Store has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for up to $60 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $255... Read more
Textilus New Word, Notes and PDF Processor fo...
Textilus is new word-crunching, notes, and PDF processor designed exclusively for the iPad. I haven’t had time to thoroughly check it out yet, but it looks great and early reviews are positive.... Read more
WD My Passport Pro Bus-Powered Thunderbolt RA...
WD’s My Passport Pro RAID solution is powered by an integrated Thunderbolt cable for true portability and speeds as high as 233 MB/s. HighlightsOverviewSpecifications Transfer, Back Up And Edit In... Read more
Save with Best Buy’s College Student Deals
Take an additional $50 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through November 1st. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take advantage... Read more
iPad Air 2 & iPad mini 3 Best Tablets Yet...
The new iPads turned out to be pretty much everything I’d been hoping for and more than I’d expected.”More” particularly in terms of a drinking-from-a-firehose choice of models and configurations,... Read more
Drafts 4 Reinvents iOS Productivity App
N Richland Hills, Texas based Agile Tortoise has announced the release of Drafts 4 for iPhone and iPad. Drafts is a quick capture note taking app with flexible output actions. Drafts 4 scales from... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple Inc. (U...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.