Cover V04, I02


Publisher's Forum

Could there be a hotter topic than firewalls? In late December, the astonishing story of an in-your-face hack into the home computer of Tsutomu Shimomura, a noted security expert, made headlines throughout the country. As Bjorn Satdeva points out this month, the hack, though reported as new and ingenious, had in fact been identified as a security threat some years ago and ways of preventing it are known. Still, old or new, this kind of story is not calculated to gladden the hearts of system administrators--if this could happen to someone who really knows all the ins and outs, how vulnerable are the rest of us?

The followup, however, proves that knowing how to dribble behind your back doesn't mean you can go one-on-one with Michael Jordan. The story of how Tsutomu Shimomura responded to the attack, and how that response resulted in the arrest of cyber-desperado Kevin D. Mitnick, makes for better reading than the latest LeCarre. It also provides reassurance to system administrators--however hard the hackers may be working to get in, somebody somewhere is working even harder to figure out how to keep them out.

By pure serendipity (since this is not our security issue), we do have a solid overview of the various types of firewalls, their strengths and weaknesses, from Chris Hare this month. Chris' article should help you figure out whether or not a firewall makes sense for your system, and if so, what kind would do the job for you. As many of you know, Chris is a long-time contributor to Sys Admin; as it happens, his career path has brought him to a point where he really needs to know about networks and network security. The spin-off for us is articles like this one, as well as the subnetting article in the January/February issue. With network administration looming as an ever larger component of system administration, we'll hope that Chris' learning curve keeps meshing with our readers'.

On another subject: we're making our annual pilgrimage to UniForum this month. UniForum '95 takes place in Dallas, at the Dallas Convention Center, March 12-16. Sys Admin will be located in booth 1645; we'll be handing out copies of the magazine and will be eager to meet any of you who are attending. This is the one UNIX show that we attend each year; it's the only opportunity we have to meet readers face to face and find out how you think we're doing, so if you're there, please do stop by. You might have a shot at a free Sys Admin ("System Administration. It's a dirty job, but someone said I had to do it") t-shirt.

Sincerely yours,

Robert Ward (". . . !uunet!rdpub!saletter")