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. :-)

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Is there cross-platform play in slither....
So you've sunken plenty of hours into crawling around in slither.io on your iPhone or iPad. You've got your stories of tragedy and triumph, the times you coiled four snakes at one time balanced out by the others when you had a length of more than... | Read more »
Rodeo Stampede guide to running a better...
In Rodeo Stampede, honing your skills so you can jump from animal to animal and outrun the herd as long as possible is only half the fun. Once you've tamed a few animals, you can bring them home with you. [Read more] | Read more »
VoxSyn (Music)
VoxSyn 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $6.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: VoxSyn turns your voice into the most flexible vocal sound generator ever. Instantly following even subtle modulations of pitch and... | Read more »
Catch Battleplans on Google Play from Ju...
Real-time strategy title Battleplans is due for release on Google Play on June 30th, following its release for iOS systems last month. With its simple interface and pretty graphics, the crowd-pleaser brings a formerly overlooked genre out for the... | Read more »
iDoyle: The interactive Adventures of Sh...
iDoyle: The interactive Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - A Scandal in Bohemia 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Books Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Special Release Price $1.99 (Normally $3.99) | Read more »
Five popular free apps to help you slim...
Thanks to retail and advertising, we're used to thinking one season ahead. Here we are just a week into the summer and we're conditioned to start thinking about the fall. [Read more] | Read more »
How to ride longer and tame more animals...
It's hard to accurately describe Rodeo Stampede to people who haven't seen it yet. It's like if someone took Crossy Roadand Disco Zoo and put them in a blender, yet with a unique game mechanic that's still simple and fun for anyone. [Read more] | Read more »
Teeny Titans - A Teen Titans Go! Figure...
Teeny Titans - A Teen Titans Go! Figure Battling Game 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Teeny Titans, GO! Join Robin for a figure battling RPG of epic proportions! TEENY... | Read more »
NinjAwesome: Tips and tricks to be a mor...
Sorry about that headline, but I'm going to go ahead and assume that GameResort would not have named its game NinjAwesome without expecting some of that. It is, in fact, pretty awesome the way it combines an endless runner and old school arcade... | Read more »
Into Mirror (Games)
Into Mirror 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: "Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?"- Edgar Allan Poe New game by Lemon Jam Studio, the team behind Pursuit... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

15-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $200-...
B&H Photo has 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $210 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799.99 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz... Read more
Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $449 $50 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $649 $50 off MSRP - 2.8GHz Mac mini... Read more
Clearance 2015 13-inch MacBook Airs available...
B&H Photo has clearance 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available for $300 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB MacBook Air (MJVE2LL/A): $799.... Read more
Apple refurbished Mac minis available for up...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac minis available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $80 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
ABBYY TextGrabber: 1,000,000 Installs in 5 Da...
ABBYY, an international OCR technologies provider, has announced that their image-to-text application TextGrabber, got installed 1,000,000 times in just five days while being featured by the App... Read more
New SkinIt Waterproof Case For iPhone 6
With its impact and waterproof design, the Skinit Waterproof case provides security and protection to guarantee your phone will get you through even the most demanding outdoor conditions. The impact-... Read more
iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ and 27″ iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 27″ 3.3GHz iMac 5K: $2181.11 $118 off MSRP - 27″ 3.2GHz/1TB Fusion iMac 5K: $1949... Read more
12-inch 1.1GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for $5...
B&H Photo has 2016 12″ 1.1GHz/256GB Retina MacBooks on sale for up to $50 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook: $1249 $50 off MSRP... Read more
WWDC Announcements Revisited Still Underwhelm...
I was disappointed that no new MacBook hardware was announced at this year’s all-software World Wide Developer’s Conference. Not even a hint about what’s in the development pipeline. Of course, we... Read more
Twelve South Compass 2 iPad Stand Now Availab...
Twelve South has updated its most popular iPad stand, Compass 2, with the introduction of two new colors — Gold and Rose Gold. These new color options n perfectly complement the new Rose Gold iPad... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* iPhone 6s and New Products Tester Ne...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
Music Marketing Lead, iTunes & *Apple*...
…Music Marketing Lead is responsible for developing robust marketing campaigns and programs for Apple Music and iTunes across the whole of Apple ecosystem. This Read more
*Apple* Valley Medical Clinic is Hiring - AP...
Apple Valley Medical Clinic is Hiring! Apple Valley Medical Clinic is an independently owned practice operating a Family Medicine Clinic, a 24/7 Urgent Care, Read more
*Apple* New Products Testers Needed - Apple...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - APPLE (United...
Job Summary As an Apple Solutions Consultant, you'll be the link between our future customers and our products. You'll showcase your entrepreneurial spirit as you Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.