49.0 Security and Confidentiality

One of the main characteristics of a Linux or UNIX system is its ability to handle several users at the same time (multiuser) and to allow these users to perform several tasks (multitasking) on the same computer simultaneously. Moreover, the operating system is network transparent. The users often do not know whether the data and applications they are using are provided locally from their machine or made available over the network.

With the multiuser capability, the data of different users must be stored separately. Security and privacy need to be guaranteed. Data security was already an important issue, even before computers could be linked through networks. Just like today, the most important concern was the ability to keep data available in spite of a lost or otherwise damaged data medium, a hard disk in most cases.

This section is primarily focused on confidentiality issues and on ways to protect the privacy of users, but it cannot be stressed enough that a comprehensive security concept should always include procedures to have a regularly updated, workable, and tested backup in place. Without this, you could have a very hard time getting your data backā€”not only in the case of some hardware defect, but also if the suspicion arises that someone has gained unauthorized access and tampered with files.