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
$111.78
Apple Inc.
-0.87
MSFT
$47.66
Microsoft Corpora
+0.14
GOOG
$516.35
Google Inc.
+5.25

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

NeoOffice 2014.6 - Mac-tailored, OpenOff...
NeoOffice is a complete office suite for OS X. With NeoOffice, users can view, edit, and save OpenOffice documents, PDF files, and most Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. NeoOffice 3.x... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.5.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
CleanApp 5.0.0 Beta 5 - Application dein...
CleanApp is an application deinstaller and archiver.... Your hard drive gets fuller day by day, but do you know why? CleanApp 5 provides you with insights how to reclaim disk space. There are... Read more
Monolingual 1.6.2 - Remove unwanted OS X...
Monolingual is a program for removing unnecesary language resources from OS X, in order to reclaim several hundred megabytes of disk space. It requires a 64-bit capable Intel-based Mac and at least... Read more
NetShade 6.1 - Browse privately using an...
NetShade is an Internet security tool that conceals your IP address on the web. NetShade routes your Web connection through either a public anonymous proxy server, or one of NetShade's own dedicated... Read more
calibre 2.13 - Complete e-library manage...
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 librarian... Read more
Mellel 3.3.7 - Powerful word processor w...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
ScreenFlow 5.0.1 - Create screen recordi...
Save 10% with the exclusive MacUpdate coupon code: AFMacUpdate10 Buy now! ScreenFlow is powerful, easy-to-use screencasting software for the Mac. With ScreenFlow you can record the contents of your... Read more
Simon 4.0 - Monitor changes and crashes...
Simon monitors websites and alerts you of crashes and changes. Select pages to monitor, choose your alert options, and customize your settings. Simon does the rest. Keep a watchful eye on your... Read more
BBEdit 11.0.2 - Powerful text and HTML e...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Galaxy Trucker Pocket (Games)
Galaxy Trucker Pocket 1.0.8 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.8 (iTunes) Description: Galaxy Truckers Wanted!================================================================= (5/5) "Galaxy Trucker isn’t... | Read more »
Make your own Tribez Figures (and More)...
Make your own Tribez Figures (and More) with Toyze Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
So Many Holiday iOS Sales Oh My Goodness...
The holiday season is in full-swing, which means a whole lot of iOS apps and games are going on sale. A bunch already have, in fact. Naturally this means we’re putting together a hand-picked list of the best discounts and sales we can find in order... | Read more »
It’s Bird vs. Bird in the New PvP Mode f...
It’s Bird vs. Bird in the New PvP Mode for Angry Birds Epic Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minec...
Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minecraft: Story Mode – A Telltale Games Series Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
WarChest and Splash Damage Annouce Their...
WarChest and Splash Damage Annouce Their New Game: Tempo Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] WarChest Ltd and Splash Damage Ltd are teaming up again to work | Read more »
BulkyPix Celebrates its 6th Anniversary...
BulkyPix Celebrates its 6th Anniversary with a Bunch of Free Games Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] BulkyPix has | Read more »
Indulge in Japanese cuisine in Cooking F...
Indulge in Japanese cuisine in Cooking Fever’s new sushi-themed update Posted by Simon Reed on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Lithuanian developer Nordcurrent has yet again updated its restaurant simulat | Read more »
Badland Daydream Level Pack Arrives to C...
Badland Daydream Level Pack Arrives to Celebrate 20 Million Downloads Posted by Ellis Spice on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Desti...
Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Destiny, and Beyond – AppSpy Takes a Look at AAA Companion Apps Posted by Rob Rich on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] These day | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Holiday sale: 13-inch 128GB MacBook Air for $...
 Best Buy has the 2014 13-inch 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air on sale for $849.99, or $150 off MSRP, on their online store. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Price valid... Read more
13-inch 2.6GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
Best Buy has lowered their price on the 2014 13″ 2.6GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro to $1149.99 on their online store for a limited time. That’s $150 off MSRP and the lowest price available for this... Read more
Kodak Returns to CES With New Consumer Produ...
Former photography colossus Kodak is returning to CES for the first time in three years where the Kodak booth (#21818 South Hall 1) will showcase a wide range of innovative, imaging-related products... Read more
Invaluable Launches New Eponymously -Named A...
Invaluable, the world’s largest online live auction marketplace, hhas announced the official launch of the Invaluable app for iPad, now available for download in the iTunes App Store. Invaluable... Read more
IDC Reveals Worldwide Mobile Enterprise Appli...
International Data Corporation (IDC) last week hosted the IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Mobile Enterprise Applications and Solutions 2015 Predictions Web conference. The session provided organizations... Read more
Hello Vino Wine App Launches “Safe Ride Home”...
Hello Vino has announced addition of a new “Get a Safe Ride Home” feature in its Food & Drink app with a direct connection to Uber, the technology platform that connects users with rides. The... Read more
DEVON-technologies Releases DEVONthink To Go...
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho based DEVON-technologies, LLC has updated DEVONthink To Go, its mobile companion to DEVONthink, to version 1.5. The update includes an iOS 8 extension, compatibility with the... Read more
The Apple Store offering free next-day shippi...
The Apple Store is now offering free next-day shipping on all in stock items if ordered before 12/23/14 at 10:00am PT. Local store pickup is also available within an hour of ordering for any in stock... Read more
It’s 1992 Again At Sony Pictures, Except For...
Techcrunch’s John Biggs interviewed a Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) employee, who quite understandably wished to remain anonymous, regarding post-hack conditions in SPE’s L.A office, explaining “... Read more
OtterBox Defender Series Case For iPad mini 3...
With their innovative Touch ID technology and ultrathin profile, the latest tranche of Apple iPads are more desirable than ever, and OtterBox has just announced the Defender Series custom-engineered... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Store Leader Program (US) - Apple, I...
…Summary Learn and grow as you explore the art of leadership at the Apple Store. You'll master our retail business inside and out through training, hands-on experience, Read more
Project Manager, *Apple* Financial Services...
**Job Summary** Apple Financial Services (AFS) offers consumers, businesses and educational institutions ways to finance Apple purchases. We work with national and Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the 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.