FreeBSD Security Survey

Scott Long scottl at
Sun May 21 22:44:49 PDT 2006

Brent Casavant wrote:

> On Sun, 21 May 2006, Colin Percival wrote:
>>In order to better understand
>>which FreeBSD versions are in use, how people are (or aren't) keeping
>>them updated, and why it seems so many systems are not being updated, I
>>have put together a short survey of 12 questions.
> I applaud this survey, however question 9 missed an important point,
> at least to me.  I was torn between answering "less than once a month"
> and "I never update".
> While I find ports to be the single most useful feature of the FreeBSD
> experience, and can't thank contributors enough for the efforts, I on
> the other hand find updating my installed ports collection (for security
> reasons or otherwise) to be quite painful.  I typically use portupgrade
> to perform this task.  On several occasions I got "bit" by doing a
> portupgrade which wasn't able to completely upgrade all dependencies
> (particularly when X, GUI's, and desktops are in the mix -- though I
> always follow the special Gnome upgrade methods when appropriate).
> I can't rule out some form of pilot error, but the end result was pain.
> After several instances of unsatisfactory portupgrades (mostly in the
> 5.2 through early 5.4 timeframe), I adopted the practice of either not
> upgrading ports at all for the life of a particular installation on a
> machine (typically about one year), or when necessary by removing *all*
> ports from the machine, cvsup'ing, and reinstalling.  This has served
> me quite well, particularly considering the minimal threat profile these
> particularly systems face.
> So, in short, that's why *I* rarely update ports for security reasons.
> There are steps that could be taken at the port maintenance level that
> would work well for my particular case, however that's beyond the scope
> of the survey.  Thanks for taking the time put the survey together, I
> certainly hope it proves useful.
> Thank you,
> Brent Casavant

I share this frustration with you.  I was once told that the pain in
upgrading is due largely to a somewhat invisible difference between
installing a pre-compiled package, and building+installing a port.  In
theory, if you stick to one method or the other, things will stay mostly
consistent.  But if you mix them, and particularly if you update the
ports tree in the process, the end result is a bit more undefined.  One
thing that I wish for is that the ports tree would branch for releases,
and that those branches would get security updates.  I know that this
would involve an exponentially larger amount of effort from the ports
team, and I don't fault them for not doing it.  Still, it would be nice
to have.


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