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diff -u: What's New in Kernel Development

Alexander Holler wanted to make it much harder for anyone to recover deleted data. He didn't necessarily want to outwit the limitless resources of our governmental overlords, but he wanted to make data recovery harder for the average hostile attacker. The problem as he saw it was that filesystems often would not actually bother to delete data, so much as they would just decouple the data from the file and make that part of the disk available for use by other files. But the data would still be there, at least for a while, for anyone to recouple into a file again. Alexander posted some patches to implement a new system call that first would overwrite all the data associated with a given file before making that disk space available for use by other files. Since the filesystem knew which blocks on the disk were associated with which files, he reasoned, zeroing out all relevant data would be a trivial operation. Read more

8 Linux Security Improvements In 8 Years

At a time when faith in open source code has been rocked by an outbreak of attacks based on the Shellshock and Heartbleed vulnerabilities, it's time to revisit what we know about Linux security. Linux is so widely used in enterprise IT, and deep inside Internet apps and operations, that any surprises related to Linux security would have painful ramifications. In 2007, Andrew Morton, a no-nonsense colleague of Linus Torvalds known as the "colonel of the kernel," called for developers to spend time removing defects and vulnerabilities. "I would like to see people spend more time fixing bugs and less time on new features. That's my personal opinion," he said in an interview at the time. Read more

Linux from Square One

Despite the fact I have a different view of which distros are best for kids — Qimo (pronounced “kim-o,” as in the last part of eskimo, not “chemo”) tops the list, as it should, but the French distro Doudou (add your own joke here) is unfortunately left out — the link there is informative. So for those who are just getting their proverbial feet wet in Linux, this is a godsend. Read more

Explaining Security Lingo

This post is aimed to clarify certain terms often used in the security community. Let’s start with the easiest one: vulnerability. A vulnerability is a flaw in a selected system that allows an attacker to compromise the security of that particular system. The consequence of such a compromise can impact the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of the attacked system (these three aspects are also the base metrics of the CVSS v2 scoring system that are used to rate vulnerabilities). ISO/IEC 27000, IETF RFC 2828, NIST, and others have very specific definitions of the term vulnerability, each differing slightly. A vulnerability’s attack vector is the actual method of using the discovered flaw to cause harm to the affected software; it can be thought of as the entry point to the system or application. A vulnerability without an attack vector is normally not assigned a CVE number. Read more