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"Every Principle of Security is Being Violated," Says O'Dowd

"Every Principle of Security is Being Violated," Says O'Dowd

"There is no way to fix Linux to bring it up to the level of security that is required for national defense systems, a level that is already available in proprietary operating systems," says Dan O'Dowd. He's just released his third white paper in a series focusing on what his company Green Hills Software terms "an urgent security threat posed by the use of the Linux operating system in U.S. defense systems." "Linux Security: Unfit for Retrofit" explains O'Dowd's views on why the security limitations of Linux are innate and cannot be practically remedied.

"There is a widespread misconception that open source software inherently provides better security than proprietary software. But, according to the U.S. Government's database of computer security vulnerabilities maintained by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), there have been more vulnerabilities of the highest severity in the Linux operating system than in Microsoft Windows in every one of the last ten years!" warns O'Dowd.

O'Dowd is concerned that the license governing Linux requires defense contractors to publish the source code of the operating system for any critical defense system using Linux. "There is a widespread misconception that this disclosure improves security by allowing anyone to review the source code for potential vulnerabilities. However, the source code of a defense system's operating system provides a blueprint for its security. Disclosure of the source code makes it possible for our enemies to ascertain the performance, timing, capabilities, and vulnerabilities of the system, including the existence and design of secret devices and encryption chips. This is analogous to publishing the wiring diagrams of our military bases. Our enemies will be able to study our vulnerabilities at their leisure. When it comes to defense systems, secrecy is a critical component of security. Open source code is sure to reduce security for defense systems.

O'Dowd claims that a thorough security evaluation of Linux's use by the military will cost over $1,000 per source code line. "A thorough evaluation of Linux for subversions would cost billions of dollars," O'Dowd holds. He also believes that "Linux has been selected for use in defense systems with insufficient analysis, review, or vulnerability assessment, because the cost of this analysis would be prohibitive."

He warns, "Every principle of security is being violated to enable Linux to spread through our defense systems. This must not be allowed to continue."

The next Linux Security white paper in the series, "Linux in Defense: Free Software is Just Too Expensive," will be published next week, and will attempt to show that Linux is not the lowest cost operating system for defense systems and that Linux does not offer the long-term support model that defense systems need. Prior white papers and articles are archived at http://www.ghs.com/linux.html. LinuxWorld Magazine invites the Linux community to continue to engage in discussion about O'Dowd's series of white papers.

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SYS-CON's Linux News Desk gathers stories, analysis, and information from around the Linux world and synthesizes them into an easy to digest format for IT/IS managers and other business decision-makers.

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