Monday, December 9, 2013

Security-focused operating system

This is a list of operating systems with a sharp security focus. Here, "security-focused" means that the project is devoted to increasing the security as a major goal. As such, something can be secure without being "security-focused." For example, almost all of the operating systems mentioned here are faced with security bug fixes in their lifetime; however, they all strive to consistently approach all generic security flaws inherent in their design with new ideas in an attempt to create a secure computing environment. Security-focused does not mean security-evaluated operating system, which refers to operating systems that have achieved certification from an external security-auditing organization. An operating system that provides sufficient support for multilevel security and evidence of correctness to meet a particular set of government requirements is called a "trusted operating system". The list is alphabetical and does not imply a ranking.

BSD is a family of Unix variants derived from a code base originating at the University of California, Berkeley. All derived BSD operating systems are released under the terms of a BSD-style license. There are several BSD variants, with only one being heavily focused on security.


OpenBSD is an open source BSD operating system that is known to be concerned heavily with security. The project has completed rigorous manual reviews of the code and addressed issues most systems have not. OpenBSD also supplies an executable space protection scheme known as W^X (memory is writeable xor executable), as well as a ProPolice compiled executable base.


TrustedBSD is a sub-project of FreeBSD designed to add trusted operating system extensions, targeting the Common Criteria for Information Technology Security Evaluation (see also Orange Book). Its main focuses are working on access control lists, event auditing, extended attributes, mandatory access controls, and fine-grained capabilities. Since access control lists are known to be confronted with the confused deputy problem, capabilities are a different way to avoid this issue. As part of the TrustedBSD project, there is also a port of the NSA's FLASK/TE implementation to run on FreeBSD. Many of these trusted extensions have been integrated into the main FreeBSD branch starting at 5.x.


The Linux kernel itself has a module, specifically Linux Security Module(LSM), called Security-Enhanced Linux(SELinux) that has enjoyed official integration status with the mainline Linux kernel since 2003. Despite the initial objections of Linus Torvalds, the kernels gatekeeper, the NSA eventually got him to accept their proposal to integrate SELinux. However, there have been specialized distributions and projects which attempt to make Linux more secure for particular scenarios.

Alpine Linux

Alpine Linux is a lightweight uClibc and BusyBox based distribution. It uses PaX and grsecurity patches in the default kernel and compiles all packages with stack-smashing protection. Version 2.5 was released November 7, 2012.


Annvix was originally forked from Mandriva to provide a security-focused server distribution that employs ProPolice protection, hardened configuration, and a small footprint. There were plans to include full support for the RSBAC Mandatory access control system. However, Annvix is dormant, with the last version being released December 30, 2007.


A Linux distribution for penetration testing. It has been superseded by Kali Linux.

Damn Vulnerable Linux

Damn Vulnerable Linux was originally formed from Slackware with the goal of being an intentionally vulnerable system for practice/teaching purposes in regards to Network and Computer Security. It has been discontinued.
The "Securing Debian Manual"[2] contains information for Debian administrators. Debian includes support for SELinux[3] since version 5.0. See also Debian Security information and policy

EnGarde Secure Linux

EnGarde Secure Linux is a secure platform designed for servers. It has boasted a browser-based tool for MAC using SELinux since 2003. Additionally, it can be accompanied with Web, DNS, and Email enterprise applications, specifically focusing on security without any unnecessary software. The community platform of EnGarde Secure Linux is the bleeding-edge version freely available for download.


Fedora is a free, Red Hat sponsored community developed Linux distribution. It is one of those mainstream Linux distribution, with a concentrated effort to improve system security,[4] as a consequence it boasts a fully integrated SELinux MAC and fine-grained executable memory permission system (Exec Shield) and all binaries compiled with GCC's standard stack-smashing protection, as well as focusing on getting security updates into the system in a timely manner.

Hardened Gentoo

Hardened Gentoo is a sub-project of the Gentoo Linux project. Hardened Gentoo offers a ProPolice protected and Position Independent Executable base using exactly the same package tree as Gentoo. Executable space protection in Hardened Gentoo is handled by PaX. The Hardened Gentoo project is an extremely modular project, and also provides subprojects to integrate other intrusion-detection and Mandatory access control systems into Gentoo. All of these can be optionally installed in any combination, with or without PaX and a ProPolice base.
Tin Hat Linux

Hardened Linux

Hardened Linux is a small distribution for firewalls, intrusion detection systems, VPN-gateways and authentication jobs that is still under heavy development. It includes grsecurity, PaX and GCC stack smashing protection.


Immunix is a commercial distribution of Linux focused heavily on security. They supply many systems of their own making, including StackGuard; cryptographic signing of executables; race condition patches; and format string exploit guarding code. Immunix traditionally releases older versions of their distribution free for non-commercial use. Note that the Immunix distribution itself is licensed under two licenses: The Immunix commercial and non-commercial licenses. Many tools within are GPL, however; as is the kernel.

Kali Linux

Kali Linux is a Debian-derived Linux distribution designed for digital forensics and penetration testing.
Openwall Project
Solar Designer's Openwall Project (Owl) was the first distribution to have a non-executable userspace stack, /tmp race condition protection and access control restrictions to /procdata, by way of a kernel patch. It also features a per-user tmp directory via the pam_mktemp PAM module, and supports Blowfish password encryption.

Qubes OS[5]

Qubes OS is a Linux distribution based around the Xen hypervisor that sandboxes each process in its own virtual machine to provide security.Qubes TorVM is proxy virtual machine which provide Tor networking.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux

Red Hat Enterprise Linux - offers the same security benefits as Fedora with the additional support of back-porting security fixes to the released versions of the packages (particularly the kernel) so the sys-admin does not have to perform a significant (and risky) upgrade to get a security fix.
Tails (The Amnesic Incognito Live System)
The Amnesic Incognito Live System or Tails is a Linux distribution aimed at preserving privacy and anonymity. It is the next iteration of development on the Incognito Linux distribution. It is based on Debian, with all outgoing connections forced to go through Tor. The system is designed to be booted as a live CD or USB and no trace is left on local storage unless explicitly told to.

Whonix (Anonymous Operating System)

Whonix is an anonymous general purpose operating system based on VirtualBox, Debian GNU/Linux and Tor. By Whonix design, IP and DNS leaks are impossible. Not even Malware as Superuser can find out the user's real IP address/location. This is because Whonix consists of two (virtual) machines. One machine solely runs Tor and acts as a gateway, called Whonix-Gateway. The other machine, called Whonix-Workstation, is on a completely isolated network. Only connections through Tor are possible.


IprediaOS is an operating system in which all connections goes through I2P.

Liberté Linux

Liberté Linux is a secure, reliable, lightweight and easy to use Gentoo-based LiveUSB/SD/CD Linux distribution with the primary purpose of enabling anyone to communicate safely and covertly in hostile environments.


Solaris is a Unix variant created by Sun Microsystems. Solaris itself is not inherently security-focused. Majority of Solaris source code has been released via the OpenSolaris project, mostly under the Common Development and Distribution License. Enhancements to OpenSolaris, both security related and others, are backported to the official Solaris when Sun certifies their quality.
Trusted Solaris
Trusted Solaris is a security-focused version of the Solaris Unix operating system. Aimed primarily at the government computing sector, Trusted Solaris adds detailed auditing of all tasks, pluggable authentication, mandatory access control, additional physical authentication devices, and fine-grained access control. Trusted Solaris is Common Criteria certified. The most recent version, Trusted Solaris 8 (released 2000), received the EAL4 certification level augmented by a number of protection profiles. Telnet was vulnerable to buffer overflow exploits until patched in April 2001.
Solaris 10 and trusted functionality
Trusted Solaris functionality has now been added to the mainstream version of Solaris. In the 11/06 update to Solaris 10, the Solaris Trusted Extensions feature adds mandatory access control and labelled security. Introduced in the same update, the Secure by Default Networking feature implements less services on by default compared to most previous releases which had most services enabled. RBAC, found in both mainstream Solaris and Trusted Solaris, dramatically lessens the need for using root directly by providing a way for fine grained control over various administrative tasks.
Microsoft Windows Server

The widespread use of Microsoft Windows on personal computers has made the platform a large target for malware and other attacks. Microsoft has attempted to make versions of Windows more likely to be found on critical systems (such as Windows Server) less vulnerable by making compliance with secure practices either an option the operating system's configuration can comply with, or by enforcing it through security policies on the operating system enabled by default. Starting with Windows Server 2008, the server can run in "core" mode. In this mode of operation, the traditional graphical user interface is done away with, and replaced with a Windows command prompt. Roles and software for the server are then installed individually. This serves not only to lessen the strain on system resources produced by unwanted or unneeded applications, but also to reduce the overall "attack surface" of the operating system by virtue of excluding programs that may contain vulnerabilities.
Object-capability systems

These operating systems are all engineered around a different paradigm of security, object-capabilities, where instead of having the system deciding if an access request should be granted (usually through one or several access control lists), the bundling of authority and designation makes it impossible to request anything not legitimate.

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