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Users of SELinux Now Have a Choice on Security

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The release of a new open-source security package has sparked debate over how many Mandatory Access Control applications Linux really needs, and if more than one would just dilute volunteer efforts.

Novell Inc. of Provo, Utah, recently released the source code for its recently acquired Linux security application, AppArmor. It also set up a project site in hopes of attracting outside developers to further refine the program.

MAC software tackles the growing problem of applications executing malicious tasks on their host systems. It keeps profiles of routine actions that each application on a computer usually takes. When a program starts behaving in an unusual fashion, the MAC software can call on the operating system to halt that errant operation.

Novell has stressed that AppArmor is easier to use than SELinux, another MAC program first developed by the National Security Agency. Novell admits that SELinux tackles mandatory access control with more rigor than AppArmor, but questions if most users really need that degree of protection.

"There needs to be a better way to deploy [MAC] so that the average systems administrator doesn't need to go through three weeks of training," said Frank Rego, products manager for Novell.

Some observers fear that the AppArmor project will fracture the open-source development community around the demanding science of MAC.

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