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The Hurd: Unix Redesigned

Neal H Walfield
Chaos Communication Congress 18th (18C3) 2001
Indexed on
Mar 27, 2013
File name
File size
14.0 MB

Unix was created more than thirty years ago. It was born from a need: a need to have an operating system that was both powerful and versatile in the vailable, yet extremely limited, environment. The creators were, to say the least, successful in this endeavor. However, after its initial growth during the 1970s and early 1980s, the evolution of Unix's API slowed to a crawl and the tradeoffs of flexibility in favor of performance began to limit the system. The Hurd, a project started by the Free Software Foundation in 1990, undertook the task of redesigning the Unix API. This centered on two important ideas: empowering the user and increasing system security. These two goals, which at first glance appear to be diametrically opposed, could not, in fact, be any closer: the Hurd aims to export as much functionality as possible to the user offering him increased control over the system and, yet, not allowing him to effect other users. This was done by rendering what are traditionally dangerous operations, available only to the superuser, benign. The implication is a dramatic decrease of dependence of normal users and daemons on the system administrator and superuser. This effectively locks down the system by eliminating the window of opportunity for attacks on SUID binaries and daemons running with root privileges.

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