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Security wars: Novell SELinux killer rattles Red Hat

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Novell Inc. of Provo, Utah, has released the source code for its recently acquired open-source Linux security application, AppArmor, and has also set up a project site in hopes of attracting outside developers to further refine the program. The release of the software has sparked debate in the open-source community, however. Novell stressed that AppArmor is easier to use than another open-source program called SELinux.

First developed by the National Security Agency, SELinux tackles the same job of mandatory access control (MAC) with an unrelenting thoroughness, though it has a reputation for being difficult to manage. "There needs to be a better way to deploy [MAC] so that the average systems administrator doesn't need to go through three weeks of training," said Frank Rego, products manager for Novell. Some observers fear that the AppArmor project will fracture the open-source development community around the demanding science of MAC. "In my opinion, Novell wants to split the market," said Dan Walsh, the principal software engineer of Red Hat Inc. of Raleigh, N.C. Both Red Hat and Novell offer enterprise class Linux distributions. "Rather than working with the open-source community [on SELinux], Novell has thrown out its own competing version." Novell acquired AppArmor last May when it purchased Immunix Inc., which developed the software. Novell has made the application, along with its source code, freely available on the site under the GNU Public License.

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