Re: My Broadcast

Mark Crispin (MRC%PANDA@SUMEX-AIM.Stanford.EDU)
Mon, 6 Apr 87 00:15:26 PDT

Dan -

     I'm afraid you (and I, and any of the other old-timers who
care about security) are banging your head against a brick wall.
The philsophy behind Unix largely seems quite reminiscent of the
old ITS philsophy of "security through obscurity;" we must
entrust our systems and data to a open-ended set of youthful
hackers (the current term is "gurus") who have mastered the
arcane knowledge.

     The problem is further exacerbated by the multitude of slimy
vendors who sell Unix boxes without sources and without an
efficient means of dealing with security problems as they

     I don't see any relief, however. There are a lot of
politics involved here. Some individuals would rather muzzle
knowledge of Unix security problems and their fixes than see them
fixed. I feel it is *criminal* to have this attitude on the DDN,
since our national security in wartime might ultimately depend
upon it. If there is such a breach, those individuals will be
better off if the Russians win the war, because if not there will
be a Court of Inquiry to answer...

     It may be necessary to take matters into our own hands, as
you did once before. I am seriously considering offering a cash
reward for the first discoverer of a Unix security bug, provided
that the bug is thoroughly documented (with both cause and fix).
There would be a sliding cash scale based on how devastating the
bug is and how many vendors' systems it affects. My intention
would be to propagate the knowledge as widely as possible with
the express intension of getting these bugs FIXED everywhere.

     Knowledge is power, and it properly belongs in the hands of
system administrators and system programmers. It should NOT be
the exclusive province of "gurus" who have a vested interest in
keeping such details secret.

-- Mark --

PS: Crispin's definition of a "somewhat secure operating system":
A "somewhat secure operating system" is one that, given an
intelligent system management that does not commit a blunder that
compromises security, would withstand an attack by one of its
architects for at least an hour.

Crispin's definition of a "moderately secure operating system": a
"moderately secure operating system" is one that would withstand
an attack by one of its architects for at least an hour even if
the management of the system are total idiots who make every
mistake in the book.

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