Chapter 11. Security

Table of Contents
11.1. Why Security is So Important
11.2. Fixing Security Vulnerabilities
11.3. Keeping the Community Informed

11.1. Why Security is So Important

Bugs are occasionally introduced to the software. Arguably, the most dangerous of them are those opening security vulnerabilities. From the technical viewpoint, such vulnerabilities are to be closed by exterminating the bugs that caused them. However, the policies for handling mere bugs and security vulnerabilities are very different.

A typical small bug affects only those users who have enabled some combination of options triggering the bug. The developer will eventually release a patch followed by a new version of the software, free of the bug, but the majority of users will not take the trouble of upgrading immediately because the bug has never vexed them. A critical bug that may cause data loss represents a graver issue. Nevertheless, prudent users know that a lot of possible accidents, besides software bugs, are likely to lead to data loss, and so they make backups of important data; in addition, a critical bug will be discovered really soon.

A security vulnerability is all different. First, it may remain unnoticed for years because often it does not cause software malfunction. Second, a malicious party can use it to gain unauthorized access to a vulnerable system, to destroy or alter sensitive data; and in the worst case the user will not even notice the harm caused. Third, exposing a vulnerable system often assists attackers to break into other systems that could not be compromised otherwise. Therefore closing a vulnerability alone is not enough: notify the audience of it in most clear and comprehensive manner, which will allow to evaluate the danger and take appropriate actions.

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