Provably Secure Operating Systems

The operating system: the fundamental part of our computing environment. It is the mothership that controls the software and hardware applications that provide the tools of computing. But the operating system is also a security weak point. Just like other software, operating systems have vulnerabilities, and updates like Patch Tuesday are legendary.

Operating systems have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals to great effect. In the top 50 products with distinct vulnerabilities, seven of the top 10 are operating systems. Vulnerabilities result in exploits, and one such exploit example is the cross-platform remote access RAT Trojan named CrossRAT. This Trojan can infect multiple types of OS — Windows, MacOS, Linux and Solaris operating systems — and manipulate files and run malicious executables remotely.

Having a vulnerable operating system is bad enough if you are an enterprise user. However, what if you are using a vulnerable operating system to pilot a commercial aircraft? Or a vulnerable system that voted a government into power? It’s use cases such as these that have prompted a deeper look into this most fundamental aspects of secure systems — the OS.

What Is a Provably Secure Operating System?

The idea of provable operating systems first came about to solve the issue of proving, mathematically, that something was secure. To prove that X + Y = Z, you need to be able to show mathematical or logical proof. The same can be said for secure systems: Can you show a logic, in a design for instance, that can offer proof the system is secure? “Provable” being a probability that something is secure.

Various papers during the 1970s proposed the idea of having security as an innate requisite in the kernel of an OS. In a 1975 paper by Neumann,, “A Provably Secure Operating (Read more...)

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Infosec Resources authored by Susan Morrow. Read the original post at: