What it is: OpenBSD is one of the few operating systems designed with security in mind.
Imagine building a house with plenty of open doors and windows along with easy access for outsiders to casually stroll up and walk through your house any time they want. Now after designing a house that’s open and inviting to everyone, how do you suddenly secure that house from intruders?
Now imagine designing a house from the start to be secure. Such a home would be far more secure than a house retrofitted at the last minute with security measures. That’s essentially the story of operating systems.
The goal of most operating systems is never security. Instead, most operating systems try to bolt security features on as an afterthought, which is never as secure as an operating designed for security right from the start. If you’re truly interested in a secure computer, the best option is to use a secure operating system such as OpenBSD.
OpenBSD is not only designed with security in mind, it’s also designed with default settings to maximize security, not necessarily to maximize convenience of the user, which is the way most operating systems work. That means if you install OpenBSD, you can be certain that it’s secure unless you start fiddling with settings and turn off various security features.
OpenBSD highlights the dilemma of computer security. Most products are insecure because security costs time and money. Yet failing to use security can cost even more time and money, especially if someone steals valuable data or simply crashes your computer. Given a choice between paying an initial upfront cost for security or ignoring security and paying a much larger cost in the future, most people prefer the latter option and simply hope nothing bad will ever happen to them.
For individuals, this might be a valid strategy since few hackers will deliberately target individual computers, but for corporations, this type of thinking is a recipe for failure.
Security is going to cost you in one form or another, either today or tomorrow, but there will be a price to pay. Since OpenBSD is also open source and free, there should be no reason why more people shouldn’t be using OpenBSD.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of OpenBSD is that you need to be a tech-savvy user to install and use it. Unlike Windows and macOS that are much easier for novices to use, OpenBSD is really designed for people comfortable with fiddling around with settings and unafraid of command-line user interfaces that are far more primitive than familiar graphical user interfaces.
So the dilemma boils down to ease of use vs. security, and ease of use typically wins every time. That’s good for hackers because they know they can exploit most operating systems easily. OpenBSD is not immune to security threats, but it is far more secure by default than practically every other operating system. To gain security on other operating systems, you need to be tech-savvy as well and be unafraid to fiddle with settings and installing different types of programs. So if you’re going to secure any computer, it makes far more sense to start with a secure operating system rather than use an insecure one and try to make it more secure. After all, doing either task requirers tech-savvy skills and familiarity with computers so you might as well choose the most secure option possible (OpenBSD).
Unfortunately, OpenBSD is unlikely to suddenly become the most popular operating system in the world because ease of use will triumph over security almost every time. Still, don’t say you weren’t warned that a more secure operating system was available. The next time you become a victim of hacking, chances are good a more secure operating system like OpenBSD could have prevented the problem.