Linux overlord Linus Torvalds has articulated views on security at Linux.conf.au, and seems to be closer to Google's way of thinking than Microsoft's.
Torvalds, along with Debian luminary Bdale Garbee, Samba man Andrew Tridgell, and kernel coder Rusty Russell spent an hour answering conference attendees' questions last week. That session has now made it to YouTube.
During a discussion about Linux security, Torvalds (at about 50:00) says “I'm a huge believer in just disclosing … somewhat responsibly … but security problems need to be made public. And there are people argue, and have argued for decades, that you never want to talk about security problems because that only helps the black hats. The fact is that I think you absolutely need to report them and and you need to report them in a reasonable time frame.”
What's reasonable? Torvalds says on the kernel security mailing list the disclosure time is five working days, “which for some people is a bit extreme.”
“In other projects it might be a month, or a couple of months,” he continues. “But that's so much better than the years and years of silence which we used to have.”
Torvalds did, however, seem to be more sympathetic to Google's approach of giving vendors 90 days to disclose a flaw than other approaches that see vendors sit on bugs until they are ready to release a fix. Microsoft's monthly patch download is one such example of that thinking at work and, we now know, can see the company hold back fixes for bugs it knows about if it can't prepare a remedy in time for a release. Oracle releases patches every 90 days.
Torvalds' talk has also attracted much attention for Torvalds' remarks on his infamous intemperance.
“I am a really unpleasant person. Some people think I am nice and some people are then shocked when they learn different. I'm not a nice person and I don't care about you,” he told the conference.
“I care about the technology and I care about the kernel,” he said, going on to say that disagreements will always erupt once discussions go beyond those topics.
The kernel King went on to make remarks about what he called “diversity in open source” in the Linux community, saying it is “not about gender, not about skin colour” and that the Linux community is already very diverse as it comprises abrasive grumps like himself and others whose skills and personality types enable different types of contributions that advance the cause.
Torvalds went on to say his attitude comes from the fact “I like arguing" and that “I'm just not a huge believer in politeness and sensitivity being preferable over bluntly letting people know your feelings.” ®
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