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Unix at 40: the Robust Ancestor of Modern Operating Systems - page 2

Summer of '69

  • June 18, 2009
  • By Paul Rubens

Server spend ignores pirated Windows servers that are doubtless running in many parts of the world, but it also ignores many Linux implementations. And other Unix offspring are everywhere - from Plan 9 to anything with BSD in it, from OpenSolaris to Mac OS X (and the software running on Apple's iPod Touch for that matter). Lump all these together and Unix and its kin no doubt account for a solid majority of software running on servers around the world. Not bad for a forty year old.

Talking of Apple, the signs are that the company still doesn't "get" security, instead hoping that its small market share will discourage bad guys from attacking its systems. Maybe it's because its developers are too busy bringing out new software for its iPods and phones at the moment, but the company still hasn't gotten around to fixing a serious security vulnerability in its Java VM more than six months after Sun pointed it out and many months since Windows and most Linux distributions got round to fixing it.

Rich Mogull, founder of security firm Securosis, believes the problem is systemic. Unlike Microsoft, for example, Apple has not adopted a secure development lifecycle process, he says. "Based on a variety of sources, we know that Apple does not have a formal security program, and as such fails to catch vulnerabilities that would otherwise be prevented before product releases ... It's clear that Apple considers security important, but that the company also struggles to execute effectively when faced with security challenges," he says in The Register.

It's true Microsoft's processes don't eliminate security vulnerabilities in its software entirely, but then it doesn't have commercials that aim to convince customers its software is completely secure.

If the company wants to be taken seriously as an enterprise operating system maker - and it's not at all clear that it does - then it's going to have to do a lot more than add business features to its phones and point to its Unix credentials. Fixing critical bugs in its computer software before messing about with the firmware in its iPods and iPhones would be a great start. Apple users should demand nothing less.

Paul Rubens is a journalist based in Marlow on Thames, England. He has been programming, tinkering and generally sitting in front of computer screens since his first encounter with a DEC PDP-11 in 1979.

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