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14 April 2011, 12:33

Virtual security: release of the first beta Qubes OS

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Zoom The architecture of Qubes relies heavily on virtualisation.
Source: Invisible Things Lab

The team led by security expert Joanna Rutkowska has released the first beta version of the Qubes OS Linux distribution. The operating system can also be installed on a USB stick thanks to its new installer.

Qubes aims to provide security through virtualisation. It uses a Xen hypervisor to run applications in separate virtual machines based on Fedora 14. As a result, online banking data are not at risk when a game running in its own VM turns out to be a trojan.

Zoom The colour of the window frame indicates which domain the program is running in.
Source: Invisible Things Lab
To reduce resource consumption, multiple processes can run in each VM. The processes are assigned to virtual machines based on security stages (domains). During installation, three domains – work, personal, and red (not trustworthy) – are created, but additional domains can be added manually after installation. The colour of the window frame shows which domain an application is running in. All domains have read access to the root file system. Files can be shared and the clipboard used across domain borders. The project's Wiki provides documentation.

Joanna Rutkowska says the beta version is already very stable. A second version is to be released in two months and will mainly contain improvements to the user interface. After the summer break, the final version is to be published. In addition to the further development of an open source branch, the team also plans a commercial development branch, which could be expanded to include support for Windows-based domains.


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