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
$97.03
Apple Inc.
-0.16
MSFT
$44.40
Microsoft Corpora
-0.47
GOOG
$593.35
Google Inc.
-2.63

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Audio Hijack Pro 2.11.0 - Record and enh...
Audio Hijack Pro drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio with Audio Hijack... Read more
Intermission 1.1.1 - Pause and rewind li...
Intermission allows you to pause and rewind live audio from any application on your Mac. Intermission will buffer up to 3 hours of audio, allowing users to skip through any assortment of audio... Read more
Airfoil 4.8.7 - Send audio from any app...
Airfoil allows you to send any audio to AirPort Express units, Apple TVs, and even other Macs and PCs, all in sync! It's your audio - everywhere. With Airfoil you can take audio from any... Read more
Microsoft Remote Desktop 8.0.8 - Connect...
With Microsoft Remote Desktop, you can connect to a remote PC and your work resources from almost anywhere. Experience the power of Windows with RemoteFX in a Remote Desktop client designed to help... Read more
xACT 2.30 - Audio compression toolkit. (...
xACT stands for X Aaudio Compression Toolkit, an application that encodes and decodes FLAC, SHN, Monkey’s Audio, TTA, Wavpack, and Apple Lossless files. It also can encode these formats to MP3, AAC... Read more
Firefox 31.0 - Fast, safe Web browser. (...
Firefox for Mac offers a fast, safe Web browsing experience. Browse quickly, securely, and effortlessly. With its industry-leading features, Firefox is the choice of Web development professionals... Read more
Little Snitch 3.3.3 - Alerts you to outg...
Little Snitch gives you control over your private outgoing data. Track background activityAs soon as your computer connects to the Internet, applications often have permission to send any... Read more
Thunderbird 31.0 - Email client from Moz...
As of July 2012, Thunderbird has transitioned to a new governance model, with new features being developed by the broader free software and open source community, and security fixes and improvements... Read more
Together 3.2 - Store and organize all of...
Together helps you organize your Mac, giving you the ability to store, edit and preview your files in a single clean, uncluttered interface. Smart storage. With simple drag-and-drop functionality,... Read more
Cyberduck 4.5 - FTP and SFTP browser. (F...
Cyberduck is a robust FTP/FTP-TLS/SFTP browser for the Mac whose lack of visual clutter and cleverly intuitive features make it easy to use. Support for external editors and system technologies such... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

THE KING OF FIGHTERS '98 (Games)
THE KING OF FIGHTERS '98 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Series’ masterpiece “KOF ’98” finally joins the battle on iPhone! FEATURES:■ The best game balance in the “KOF”... | Read more »
LEX Goes Free For One Day In Honor of Ne...
LEX Goes Free For One Day In Honor of New Update Posted by Jennifer Allen on July 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Thomas Was Alone Goes Universal, Slashes...
Thomas Was Alone Goes Universal, Slashes Price to $3.99 Posted by Ellis Spice on July 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Meerkatz Challenge Review
Meerkatz Challenge Review By Jennifer Allen on July 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: FONDLY PUZZLINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Cute and challenging, Meerkatz Challenge is a fun puzzle game, particularly for fans of... | Read more »
Book Your Appointment with F.E.A.R. this...
Book Your Appointment with F.E.A.R. | Read more »
It Came From Canada: Epic Skater
For all the hate that it gets for being a pastime for slackers, skateboarding really does require a lot of skill. All those flips and spins take real athleticism, and there’s all the jargon to memorize. Fortunately for us less extreme individuals,... | Read more »
Cultures Review
Cultures Review By Jennifer Allen on July 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: SLOW-PACED EMPIRE BUILDINGiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Cute it might seem, but Cultures is a bit too slow paced when it comes to those pesky timers to... | Read more »
More Paintings Have Been Added to Paint...
More Paintings Have Been Added to Paint it Back! Posted by Jessica Fisher on July 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
The Order of Souls Review
The Order of Souls Review By Campbell Bird on July 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: STORY GRINDUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad The Order of Souls is a free-to-play, turn-based RPG with a genre-mixing art style, interesting... | Read more »
Revolution 60 Review
Revolution 60 Review By Jordan Minor on July 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: LASS EFFECTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Revolution 60 is a bold, cinematic action game with ambition to spare.   | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Mac minis on sale for $100 off MSRP, starting...
Best Buy has Mac minis on sale for $100 off MSRP. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup. Prices are for online orders only, in-store prices may vary: 2.5GHz Mac mini: $499.99 2.3GHz... Read more
Global Tablet Market Grows 11% in Q2/14 Notwi...
Worldwide tablet sales grew 11.0 percent year over year in the second quarter of 2014, with shipments reaching 49.3 million units according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation... Read more
New iPhone 6 Models to Have Staggered Release...
Digitimes’ Cage Chao and Steve Shen report that according to unnamed sources in Apple’s upstream iPhone supply chain, the new 5.5-inch iPhone will be released several months later than the new 4.7-... Read more
New iOS App Helps People Feel Good About thei...
Mobile shoppers looking for big savings at their favorite stores can turn to the Goodshop app, a new iOS app with the latest coupons and deals at more than 5,000 online stores. In addition to being a... Read more
Save on 5th generation refurbished iPod touch...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 5th generation iPod touches available starting at $149. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free. Many, but not all... Read more
What Should Apple’s Next MacBook Priority Be;...
Stabley Times’ Phil Moore says that after expanding its iMac lineup with a new low end model, Apple’s next Mac hardware decision will be how it wants to approach expanding its MacBook lineup as well... Read more
ArtRage For iPhone Painting App Free During C...
ArtRage for iPhone is currently being offered for free (regularly $1.99) during Comic-Con San Diego #SDCC, July 24-27, in celebration of the upcoming ArtRage 4.5 and other 64-bit versions of the... Read more
With The Apple/IBM Alliance, Is The iPad Now...
Almost since the iPad was rolled out in 2010, and especially after Apple made a 128 GB storage configuration available in 2012, there’s been debate over whether the iPad is a serious tool for... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale starting at $799, free s...
B&H Photo has the new 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for up to $100 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. They also include free copies of Parallels... Read more
Apple 27″ Thunderbolt Display (refurbished) a...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 27″ Thunderbolt Displays available for $799 including free shipping. That’s $200 off the cost of new models. Read more

Jobs Board

*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
Sr. Project Manager for *Apple* Campus 2 -...
…the design and construction of one building or building components of the New Apple Campus located in Cupertino, CA. They will provide project management oversight for Read more
WW Sales Program Manager, *Apple* Online St...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring 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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.