Security-focused operating system

Security-focused operating system

This is an alphabetical list of operating systems with a sharp security focus. Their order does not imply rank.

In our context, "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 life time; however, they do 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.


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 writable 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.


Linux itself is not inherently security-focused; however, many distributions and projects attempt to make Linux secure.


Adamantix is a Debian-based, security-focused Linux distribution (formerly named Trusted Debian). It employs a PaX and ProPolice protected base, and utilizes the RSBAC Mandatory access control system.


Annvix was originally forked from Mandriva to provide a security-focused server distribution that employs ProPolice protection, hardened configuration, and a small footprint. Plans are to include full support for the RSBAC Mandatory access control system in the near future.

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 the only mainstream Linux distribution with a concentrated effort to improve system security,Fact|date=July 2008 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 subproject of the Gentoo Linux project.

Hardened Gentoo offers a ProPolice protected and Position Independent Executable base using the exact 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.

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.

Openwall Project

Owl by a developer known as Solar Designer was the first distribution to have a non-executable userspace stack, /tmp race condition protection and access control restrictions to /proc data, 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.

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.


Solaris is a free Unix variant created by Sun Microsystems. Solaris itself is not inherently security-focused. Solaris is based upon the OpenSolaris project which is mostly licensed under the CDDL open source license. OpenSolaris features such as ZFS and refinements to security are merged upstream to the official Solaris variant after Sun certifies quality of the enhancements.

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. (See [] and [] )The most recent version, Trusted Solaris 8, received the EAL4 certification level augmented by a number of protection profiles.

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.

See also

* Common Criteria
* Orange Book
* Comparison of operating systems
* Capability (computers)
* Capabilities vs. ACLs
* Computer security
* IX (operating system)
* OpenBSM
* Security-evaluated operating system
* Security engineering
* Trusted operating system

External links

* [ OpenBSD]
* [ Adamantix]
* [ Hardened Linux]
* [ Security mechanisms in newer operating systems]

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