Friday, April 16, 2010

Security Feature of OpenBSD

Even though OpenBSD is tightly secured, computers running OpenBSD are still broken into. That might seem contradictory, but in truth it means that the person running the computer didn't understand computer security.

OpenBSD has many integrated security features, but people frequently assume that these features handle security for everything that can be installed on the computer. A moment's thought will show that this really isn't possible. No operating system can protect itself from the computer operator's mistakes. An OS can protect itself from problems in installed software to a limited extent, but ultimately the responsibility for security is in the hands of the administrator.

Consider a web server program running on OpenBSD. OpenBSD will provide the server with a stable, reliable platform, and will do as the server program asks, within the permissions the systems administrator has assigned to it. If the systems administrator has set up the server in a careful and correct manner, something going wrong with the web server will not endanger the operating system. If the sysadmin has integrated the web server with OpenBSD or has chosen to let the web server run with unrestricted privileges, the web server can inflict almost unrestricted damage to the computer software. If an intruder breaks into such a web server, they can use that integration and high permissions setting to lever their way into the operating system itself.

If such a break-in happens, is it OpenBSD's fault? Obviously not. The systems administrator is expected to follow basic security precautions when installing and configuring programs. No operating system can protect itself from an ignorant or careless sysadmin.

Ultimately, security is the responsibility of the systems administrator. Throughout this book, we will discuss some of the basic security precautions you should be taking when installing and running programs. We will also discuss the advanced security features OpenBSD offers in order to protect itself and help in your systems administration duties.

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