Monday, May 19, 2008

Opinion: Responses to OpenSSL Vulnerability

As those of you in the IT Security world know, last week there was a serious vulnerability in Debian's/Ubuntu's OpenSSL random number generator [link].

The vulnerability in OpenSSL was announced by the Debian Project on Thursday, May 13th, 2008 [link]. That same day updated OpenSSL packages were released for Debian, Ubuntu and Debian-based distributions [e.g., link]. Shortly thereafter code was being posted to Full Disclosure and other lists to exploit this vulnerability on unpatched systems.

I was very surprised by people's reaction regarding this vulnerability. In particular, there was a noticeable amount of OS bashing; discrediting the affected operating systems. That irony is that majority of this negative publicity came from from other *NIX centric individuals who simply stood back while proudly saying, "look, my superior OS wasn't affected." It's funny that the elitist OS wars of past still continue continue today. It's also entertaining - but that's besides the point. Unfortunately, this type of negative publicity doesn't contribute to building and strengthening the communities that are working so hard to build incredible flavors of their OS of choice. In one way or another, some requiring more creativity than others, the family of *NIX operating systems share a common ancestry [see UNIX family tree image below].

Click on above image to enlarge [image:
For a more complete timeline, see Eric Levenez's UNIX History [link].

I can imagine Rodney King, while waiving a black flag with a the Linux penguin mascot, now saying, "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?"

I agree, it's too bad that the code that made the latest OpenSSL vulnerability a reality existed. It also highlights the blind trust people generally place into the operating systems that they use. However, what I also clearly see is how the community quickly worked together and released fixes prior to exploit code being widely disseminated. Now, that's awesome! There was no Patch Tuesday to wait for. Rather, the fixes were created, tested, and distributed as soon as possible.

Without a doubt I'm very glad to have moved my desktop OS of choice to Ubuntu two years ago. Sure, I'd be happy with SUSE, Fedora, RedHat, FreeBSD, OpenBSD. I've used them all. However, for reasons that work for me I've settled on Ubuntu ... for now.

No comments: