[ISN] Start-up banks on hack-proof Linux

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Sep 25 2002 - 23:35:31 PDT

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    By Stephen Shankland 
    Staff Writer, CNET News.com
    September 24, 2002, 6:15 PM PT
    Start-up Guardian Digital has launched an effort to sell a version of
    Linux that's less vulnerable to attack, a niche the company hopes will
    gain it a foothold in the market for the Unix-like operating system.
    The Allendale, N.J.-based start-up released its EnGarde Secure
    Professional product Tuesday, a version of Linux that comes with
    management tools and server software designed to thwart attacks. The
    product costs $549, plus $219 per year for a mandatory software update
    Linux, like the Unix operating system on which it's based and other
    operating systems, has had its share of security problems, but often
    the problems come with higher-level software such as the SNMP service
    for letting administrators manage servers or the Apache program for
    sending Web pages to browsers. Guardian Digital aims to stomp out many
    of those problems by what software is used, testing it with the other
    software and in some cases writing new programs, said Chief Executive
    Dave Wreski.
    For example, the company wrote management software that substitutes
    for SNMP. It's not as vulnerable to attack, Wreski said, though widely
    used management software such as IBM's Tivoli can't control it.
    "It's a viable niche for a select group of customers," said Giga
    Information Group analyst Stacey Quandt of Guardian Digital's product.  
    But it's not easy to find a place at the Linux table where revenue is
    sparse and Red Hat dominates.
    Competition is plentiful. Red Hat is billing better security as one
    advantage of its Advanced Server edition. The Cyberspace Security and
    Policy Research Institute, a technology think tank at George
    Washington University, is pushing for Linux to be certified under the
    Common Criteria, a standard that must be met before the United States
    and other countries can use products for sensitive government
    applications. Hewlett-Packard is working on its own Secure Linux
    Perhaps the most direct competitor is WireX, which sells a secure
    Linux version called Immunix. WireX has sales partnerships with HP and
    Dell Computer.
    Those sales partnerships are crucial, Quandt said. "It's not going to
    be successful unless they have a relationship and alliance with a
    hardware vendor," Quandt said.
    Guardian Digital is "working with large hardware companies" on
    partnerships, Wreski said, but declined to say which companies. His
    company also is working on partnerships with software companies to
    have EnGarde used as the foundation for specific tasks such as
    screening out viruses and unwanted spam e-mail.
    Guardian Digital has a start, though. The 20-person company is
    profitable, in part because of consulting services it sells. Its
    EnGarde customers include Sony, Hong Kong University, AT&T New Zealand
    and Piedmont Natural Gas.
    Because of the cooperative nature of the open-source community, the
    company doesn't have to start from scratch. Building a secure
    operating system from the ground up would have been an "insurmountable
    task," Wreski said, but Guardian Digital can pluck the best of what it
    For example, the company, like SuSE, MandrakeSoft and other Linux
    companies, opted to use the Red Hat Package Manager, which makes it
    easier to install or uninstall software. Guardian also used the
    network configuration utility supplied by the noncommercial Debian
    version of Linux.
    Staying on top of all the software updates produced by the open-source
    community is a challenge, Wreski acknowledges. "How do we do what Red
    Hat does with 600 people? That's a significant challenge for us," he
    said. But Wreski is convinced Guardian Digital's security specialty
    will ensure the company a place.
    "We use much of the same code as Red Hat," Wreski said, adding that
    Guardian Digital has "gone through and configured them to work as
    securely as possible."
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