We caught up with Mike “Dop” Dopheide, the author of our new Linux Systems Administration: Fundamentals of Linux Security course to ask him a few questions about the course and the writing experience:
You have a lot of experience working with Linux security systems. How did you translate your experience into writing an advanced Linux course to cover the topic?
The new Linux security course is an extension of the Linux Systems Administration series in the same way that system security is an extension of system engineering. Many of the best security professionals in the industry started their careers managing servers or building networks. I believe it’s this fundamental understanding of how Linux systems work that is a key element to strong, real-world application of system and network security techniques.
What topics will the students find in the new Linux Security course? What tools will they use?
We cover a wide range of topics including password strength, local and remote service assessment, network packet inspection, and host-based firewalls. Most of the tools and techniques discussed in this course are things my colleagues and I use on a day-to-day basis. I like to approach security from the mindset of the attacker and I tried to bring that feel into this course content. It’s hard to know how to fix something if you don’t first understand the details of how it can be broken.
What did you like about writing an OST course? What did you find challenging?
The best part of writing the course was easily the process of developing examples and project objectives. For this I had to work closely with OST’s Systems Administrators, Dan Bassett and Trent Johnson, to determine all of the underlying configuration and software dependencies in the Linux environment to make the course possible. Once the basic structure was in place, the system security had to be broken in very specific ways to create the individual projects, and that created some unique technical challenges, which is the core of what makes this kind of work fun.
I’m not going to lie, authoring an advanced Linux course while also holding down a (sometimes more than) full-time job isn’t easy. I missed a few deadlines dealing with ‘real job’ emergencies.
How did you decide on specific projects to present with each lesson?
I cheated. A lot of the projects we ask students to complete are born from situations I’ve come across throughout my career. In fact, some of the course curriculum itself was based on projects or problems that I already had in mind, then I worked backwards to discuss the tools and techniques that could be used to solve them.
We hear there is an Advanced Linux Security course in the works. What topics do students have to look forward to in that?
While we cover a broad range of topics in the first security course, it’s really only the tip of the iceberg. The security field is huge, but I think the next thing students will see is an expansion from single-system security into topics that address multiple devices. Things like centralized logging and authentication are key to the security of larger Linux environments without getting bogged down configuring changes on every device. From there it’s a short hop to intrusion detection systems, both at the Linux host and network layer.
I’ve also heard whisperings of a web application security course that will build upon the skills of a web developer to add a layer of security in the same way we’re building upon the Linux system administration courses.