By Barnaby Frumess, September 2015
It is at once pretentious-sounding and completely accurate to call the many distributions built upon the Linux kernel by their proper name: “GNU/Linux”. That said, knowing about Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, and the Open Source Software movement will absolutely increase your popularity at hacking conventions, green room parties and in the Utica Discussion fora.
Linux is a harsh mistress, of that there is no doubt. It is not the fault of Bill Gates that the Windows family of operating systems has dominated both the desktop and the business scene for the past 30 years. But due to this fact, people who are not intimately involved with the backbone of the Internet simply do not have much exposure to Linux. This fact is changing more and more, however the point is that no one is to blame, really, for the steep learning curve that comes when first introduced to a new way of working with an old friend.
To say that computers are a part of human life is trite at this point. Frankly, it is nearly impossible to imagine human life today without computers, unless it’s The Walking Dead we’re talking about. That 75% of the web servers on the Internet run on the Linux kernel, hiding in plain sight, as it were, is almost as extraordinary a feat as “the largest collaborative project in history” itself. That is what Linux is, after all, and that is a daunting prospect for those of us who comprise the uninitiated. I confess that even though I now have wrapped my mind fully around the Linux, one year ago to the day I was just as frustrated, irritated, agitated – well you get the point – last year I was having difficulty learning the ins and outs of Linux just like any other beginner. With hard work and patience, I now teach Linux and penetration testing, or network vulnerability testing.
Penetration Testing and Virtual Machines
In the security field, and in the Utica College program also, we are very much indebted to the Open Source community. The Kali Linux distribution in particular is one that we use in the program to learn about penetration testing. As a Kali Linux instructor, I recommend becoming familiar with the operating system with the help of virtual machines. This approach offers more than one benefit. First, we use virtual machines in the Utica program and, of course, in industry. Second, virtual machines offer a safety net for experimentation. Third, the exposure to both virtual machines and Linux operating systems is free. And finally, virtual machines offer an introduction to networking.
Linux has a support community that is second to none. There are many versions of Linux operating systems, affectionately known as ‘distros,’ each tailored to a specific purpose. The freedom to use a computer without restriction could be likened to an epiphany, a revelation, a religious experience. The Linux kernel is extremely efficient, and one trick is to take old computers and install your Linux operating system of choice on them. This begins the familiarization with both software and hardware. Even if this is all you are able to do before entering the Utica College Cybersecurity program, the exposure to a new method of using a computer will put you in the right frame of mind to study cybersecurity.
About the Author
Barnaby Frumess is a professor at SUNY Orange in the Computer Sciences division. After two decades of playing rock & roll guitar, cooking in restaurants, and living in a van down by the river, he decided to change careers.
Professor Frumess, as he likes to be known, has now finished all coursework in the Utica College MS Cybersecurity program and is working on his capstone project. With the guidance and mentorship of the Utica faculty, he was able to maneuver the hurdles of a new discipline and successfully change careers.
With the opportunity to help new students, new Utica College family members, Professor Frumess dedicates this blog experience to those who take the plunge into new waters and to those who make that plunge possible.