OpenSuSE security is pretty good

I have a System76 Lemur Ultra Thin (lemu4) notebook PC and I used to run Ubuntu 12.04.1 64 bit Long Term Service and 12.10 64 bit Beta 2 bare metal roughly one month ago. I had an ASUS N61JV-X2 notebook PC with Microsoft Windows 7 64 bit Ultimate Edition Service Pack 1, but I switched to Ubuntu 11.10 64 bit on January 4th, 2012. Today, I am using OpenSuSE 64 bit Tumbleweed. As an aside, I use Opera Next 12.10 64 bit as my primary web browser of choice.

I find that OpenSuSE 12.2 and Tumbleweed 64 bit offer strikingly similar levels of security tools and capability for further hardening processes to Ubuntu 12.04.1 64 bit LTS or 12.10 64 bit. However, I also found that YaST 2 makes the hardening process much easier and more streamlined because there is a nice graphical user interface to interact with rather than relying on the terminal commands and output in Ubuntu. Overall, I find that both Ubuntu and OpenSuSE are much safer, offer better privacy control features, and they are much more secure than Microsoft Windows 7 64 bit Ultimate Edition or Microsoft Windows 8 64 bit Pro versions, but it is a close race among these disparate operating systems. It does really depend upon the individual user and his choices that determines the level of confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the user’s identity and user data. Obviously, I prefer OpenSuSE 64 bit Tumbleweed for now because it offers security through obscurity and security through correctness in information assurance compared to the much more ubiquitous and popular Microsoft Windows 7 or 8 products. For a general purpose operating system used by a security focused user like myself with multiple IT certifications, OpenSuSE 64 bit Tumbleweed is not a bad choice at all. I have my CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+ along with MCSA, CISSP CBK, CEH, and I also have Ubuntu, BSD, and VM Ware Professional IT certifications and they are up to date.

The most important factors that swayed me to switch from Ubuntu to OpenSuSE 64 bit came down to up to date and clear documentation and guides, YaST 2, zypper’s robustness, Novell AppArmor, and the RPM system. Combined together, it makes my job of being the IT help desk and support technician, systems administrator, network administrator, and tinkerer at heart much easier and more manageable. OpenSuSE 64 bit makes these different jobs more centralized and cohesive compared to Ubuntu which relies on the more traditional *NIX mindset and tools to get the same job done using the terminal and separate software packages. As a result, I have made my share of mistakes, but they have been more inconsequential and fewer. The other major factors influencing my decision to switch from Ubuntu to OpenSuSE 64 bit Tumbleweed come down to the increased stability and performance issues. Ubuntu relies on upstream, Compiz, and Ubuntu Unity which are works in progress with teething issues with each iteration. Software broke compatibility with each update or version upgrade on Ubuntu and performance severely degraded with Ubuntu 12.10 64 bit release especially with Ubuntu Unity 6.8.

I found that OpenSuSE 64 bit takes a slightly more weighted position to ship a stable and reasonably secure default operating system than Ubuntu. After perusing the OpenSuSE 12.2 security guide, I found that I had fewer tasks to perform to harden it compared to Ubuntu which favors usability and user friendliness to appeal to a wider audience. OpenSuSE’s package management system allows finer granularity and greater control over software package versions, updates, and upgrades which offers users more flexibility, control, and freedom than Ubuntu. YaST 2’s security center and hardening, Novel AppArmor, sudo, and user and group management features offer a great deal of configuration options, flexibility, finer granular controls, and a more streamlined approach toward hardening the operating system and software applications than Ubuntu as an example. One of the things that I most appreciated about switching to OpenSuSE 64 bit was this specific feature as it made my job much easier and more accessible in one centralized console. Managing users, services, processes, and system along with network monitoring is easier as a result. Changes are applied immediately and they usually do not require me to restart the service manually in the terminal.

Finally, OpenSuSE 64 bit Tumbleweed offers me the latest stable software packages including the Linux kernel versions. This is important for power GNU/Linux users like myself as I can test new updates individually without having to worry about breaks in compatibility or changes in my system configuration settings every time I wish to upgrade to a newer OpenSuSE 64 bit release version over time. This ensures a more stable and reliable operating system that I can enjoy using on a daily basis. Rolling release GNU/Linux distributions offer clear advantages if I am willing to closely monitor software packages upon each software update and I find this trade off to be more acceptable than rolling the dice every time I want to upgrade to a new release version of my GNU/Linux distribution over time. It also makes rolling back updates easier and more manageable if I run into a bug.

I also found the OpenSuSE community to be more useful and helpful than Ubuntu. The community here is more knowledgeable and friendlier to newbies and die hard veterans alike. I was able to get help and support for specific localized issues faster and all of my problems were fully resolved within a few hours on the same day that I created a new thread requesting specific support. Ubuntu tends to have a mixture of recent Microsoft or Apple converts and I was not able to resolve some specific issues to my satisfaction at all.

What are your experiences and opinions? Please reply and share with the community.