Linux vs. BSD

Many of you operate networks that involve a mix of OSs, or maybe you're considering adding systems that run on other platforms. Windows and the many Linux varieties are the dominant platforms of the day, but a few other OSs--varieties of Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) UNIX, Apple Computer's Mac OS X (which is based on BSD), and IBM AIX, HP-UX, and Sun Microsystems' OSs--are dear to the hearts of many computer users.

Many respectable varieties of Linux exist, such as SUSE LINUX (recently purchased by Novell), Red Hat Enterprise Linux, MandrakeSoft's Mandrake Linux, and Debian GNU/Linux. Multiple varieties of BSD also exist, including NetBSD, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Wind River's BSD/OS. Did you know that even though BSD and Linux are both UNIX variants, they have fundamental differences?

Last week, Richard Bejtlich in his TaoSecurity Weblog (see the first URL below) discussed Matt Fuller's rant "BSD vs Linux" (see the second URL below), which explains some of the history and background of BSD and Linux. The backgrounds of the two OSs are different, yet both were developed as open-source projects.

Fuller gives a brief background on a variety of points about BSD and Linux, including their respective base systems, OS add-on mechanisms, update releases, and upgrading. In summary, Fuller's opinion is that BSD is developed in a more controlled fashion than most Linux varieties and uses more effective methods for updates, upgrades, and add-ons.

Many security professionals prefer BSD because of the attention it pays to the overall security of the OS. For example, NetBSD historically has been considered a well-secured OS, much more so than most of the Linux varieties. OpenBSD and FreeBSD also focus intensely on security. In fact, the OpenBSD home page boasts, "Only one remote hole in the default install, in more than 7 years!" in big, bold, red letters. That's an impressive record.

If you're deciding among OSs, consider BSD. Among the Linux varieties, SUSE is considered to be one of the most secure. And don't overlook the fact that Windows Server 2003 is a great improvement over its predecessors. Microsoft's effort to improve overall out-of-the-box security shows, so you might consider upgrading from Windows NT or Windows 2000 to Windows 2003.

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