On Friday, Aug. 22, openSUSE announced that its newest version, 11.1, will support Security Enhanced Linux, or SELinux. Novell’s security tools, AppArmor and SELinux, have traditionally been considered intense rivals. In this interview, openSUSE’s Andreas Jaeger, Roman Drahtmüller and Matthias Eckermann discuss openSUSE’s support of SELinux.
OpenSUSE now has basic enablement with SELinux. That’s great for SELinux users now, but will openSUSE be able to integrate new patches for SELinux?
Andreas Jaeger : OpenSUSE is developed with a community approach; We are proud to have opened the openSUSE build service to the community, with the option to develop and package open source software cross-distribution.
As SELinux is a cross-distribution effort, we encourage members of the SELinux community to participate in the openSUSE build service: to develop, test-drive and integrate new user land patches and tools into openSUSE and other distributions using our cross-distribution service. This way, all distributions running with SELinux enabled in the Linux kernel will benefit.
Is support of SELinux indicative of a larger industry trend toward interoperability?
Roman Drahtmüller: Novell observes a tendency in the industry to increase the security value of a system by introducing additional controls beyond the scope of the application. This means the application is exposed to these controls but cannot change them.
In moving from AppArmor to SELinux, does a company sacrifice compliance benefits?
Drahtmüller: AppArmor profiles for application containment and confinement are comparatively easy to manage throughout an infrastructure. Creating them is a distinct, low-pain checkmark item. The same applies to evaluating log messages that record possible violation attempts against protected system services.
For customers, the transition to SELinux may need a change in thinking and architecture, but also allows for the definition of a complete policy in a system. It helps to disallow actions that are not subject to a defined policy. There are environments that require such a functionality — regardless of the cost associated with it — for compliance reasons.
We anticipate that customers with these requirements will aim for a SUSE Linux Enterprise operating system, as it targets the special needs of customers working in compliance-bound environments.
Security tools have created a tradeoff between capability (SELinux) and usability (AppArmor). Is Novell’s approach to this tradeoff changing with its basic enablement of SELinux?
Matthias Eckermann: As in earlier releases of our product, openSUSE 11.1 reflects our belief in the value of additional security mechanisms in the operating system. The benefit of such mechanisms is maximized if the configuration and administration is as transparent, straightforward and as easy as possible for administrators.
Security needs that aim toward mandatory access control, mandatory integrity control or even multi-level security require a suitable architecture. With the basic SELinux enablement, we will allow our partners and customers to use such an architecture to implement solutions that fulfill their specific needs.
Nevertheless, we want our users to be able to choose their own priorities between administrative effort and functional benefit.
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