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Security-focused operating system

This is a list of operating systems with a sharp security focus. Here, "security-focused" means that the project is specifically focused on security. General-purpose operating systems may be extremely secure without being specifically "security-focused."

Other similar concepts include security-evaluated operating systems -- operating systems that have achieved certification from an external security-auditing organization -- and trusted operating systems -- operating systems that provides sufficient support for multilevel security and evidence of correctness to meet a particular set of government requirements.

This list is alphabetical and does not imply a ranking.



  • PrivatOS is a hardened proprietary operating system for BlackPhone.
  • Replicant is a FOSS operating system based on the Android mobile platform, which aims to replace all proprietary Android components with their free software counterparts. It is available for several smartphones and tablet computers.[4][5][6][7] In March 2014, the Replicant project announced the discovery of a backdoor present in a wide range of Samsung Galaxy products that allows the baseband processor to read and write the device's storage,[8][9] sometimes with normal user privileges and sometimes as the root user, depending on device model.[10] It is not generally known whether Samsung's proprietary firmware for the radio chip can be remotely instructed to use these access features and the intentions of creating such a backdoor.


  • Kali Linux is a Debian-derived Linux distribution designed for digital forensics and penetration testing, formerly known as BackTrack.[11]
  • Tails is a security-focused Debian-based Linux distribution aimed at preserving privacy and anonymity.[12]
  • Parrot Security OS is a Cloud oriented GNU/Linux distribution based on Debian and designed to perform security and penetration tests, do forensic analysis, or act in anonymity. It uses the MATE Desktop Environment, Linux Kernel 4.6 or higher and it is available as a live lightweight installable ISO image for 32-bit, 64-bit and ARM processors with forensic options at boot, optimizations for programmers, and new custom pentesting tools.[citation needed]
  • Whonix[13][14] 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.
  • Subgraph is a Linux-based operating system designed to be resistant to surveillance and interference by sophisticated adversaries over the Internet. Subgraph OS is designed with features which aim to reduce the attack surface of the operating system, and increase the difficulty required to carry out certain classes of attack. This is accomplished through system hardening and a proactive, ongoing focus on security and attack resistance. Subgraph OS also places emphasis on ensuring the integrity of installed software packages through deterministic compilation. Subgraph OS features a kernel hardened with the Grsecurity and PaX patchset, Linux namespaces, and Xpra for application containment, mandatory file system encryption using LUKS, resistance to cold boot attacks, and is configured by default to isolate network communications for installed applications to independent circuits on the Tor anonymity network.[citation needed]



  • Qubes OS is a desktop operating system based around the Xen hypervisor that allows grouping programs into a number of isolated sandboxes (virtual machines) to provide security. Windows for programs running within these sandboxes ("security domains") can be color coded for easy recognition. The security domains are configurable, they can be transient (changes to the file system will not be preserved), and their network connection can be routed through special virtual machines (for example one that only provides Tor networking). The operating system provides secure mechanisms for copy and paste and for copying files between the security domains.[16]


  • Pentoo Penetration Testing Overlay and Livecd is a live CD and Live USB designed for penetration testing and security assessment. Based on Gentoo Linux, Pentoo is provided both as 32-bit and 64-bit installable live cd. Pentoo also is available as an overlay for an existing Gentoo installation. It features packet injection patched wifi drivers, GPGPU cracking software, and lots of tools for penetration testing and security assessment. The Pentoo kernel includes grsecurity and PAX hardening and extra patches – with binaries compiled from a hardened toolchain with the latest nightly versions of some tools available.[17]

Other Linux distrosEdit

  • 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 on December 30, 2007.[citation needed]
  • EnGarde Secure Linux is a secure platform designed for servers. It has had 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.[citation needed]
  • Immunix was a commercial distribution of Linux focused heavily on security. They supplied 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. 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.[citation needed]

Object-capability systemsEdit

These operating systems are all engineered around the object-capabilities security paradigm,where instead of having the system deciding if an access request should be granted the bundling of authority and designation makes it impossible to request anything not legitimate.


  • 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.[19][20] 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.[21]

Windows ServerEdit

Starting with Windows Server 2008, Windows Server has added an installation option called "Server Core", in which the traditional graphical user interface is not installed. Administration, in Windows Server 2008, should rely on Windows Command Prompt. Roles and components are then installed individually. This option reduces the Windows Server footprint, the result of which is reduced demand on system resources and reduced number of components that could potentially be exploited via potential security vulnerabilities.[22]

Later, with Windows Server 2016, Microsoft introduced a Nano Server installation option with even more reduced footprint. It is headless and does not support a locally connected keyboard and monitor.[23] Nano Server in Windows Server 1709 (the constantly updated sibling of Windows Server 2016) can only be installed in a container.[24]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Porup, J.M. (9 August 2016). "Copperhead OS: The startup that wants to solve Android's woeful security". Ars Technica UK. 
  2. ^ Corbet, Jonathan (17 February 2016). "CopperheadOS: Securing the Android". 
  3. ^ Linder, Brad (29 March 2016). "F-Droid, Copperhead, Guardian Project partner to create a security-focused, Android-based ecosystem". 
  4. ^ "Overview - Replicant". Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  5. ^ Paul Kocialkowski (February 4, 2012). "WikiStart – Replicant". Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  6. ^ "Android and Users' Freedom - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation". Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  7. ^ "About". Replicant project. Archived from the original on 2013-09-26. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  8. ^ Don Reisinger (13 March 2014). "Samsung Galaxy devices may have backdoor to user data, developer says". CNET. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  9. ^ Michael Larabel (12 March 2014). "Replicant Developers Find Backdoor In Android Samsung Galaxy Devices". Phoronix. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Paul Kocialkowski. "Samsung Galaxy Back-door". Replicant Wiki. Archived from the original on 6 April 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Kali Linux Has Been Released!". 2013-03-12. Retrieved 2013-03-18. 
  12. ^ Vervloesem, Koen (2011-04-27). "The Amnesic Incognito Live System: A live CD for anonymity []". Retrieved 2017-06-14. 
  13. ^ "Whonix/Whonix". GitHub. Retrieved 9 April 2018. 
  14. ^ "Whonix: An OS for the era of Anonymous and Wikileaks". Retrieved 9 April 2018. 
  15. ^ Quinn Norton (January 14, 2006). "Anonyity on a Disc". Retrieved November 6, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Redirecting..." Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  17. ^ Pentoo 2015 - Security-Focused Livecd based on Gentoo
  18. ^ "Tin Hat". D'Youville College. 
  19. ^ "Sun Common Criteria Certification". 13 October 2004. Archived from the original on 13 October 2004. Retrieved 9 April 2018. 
  20. ^ "Wayback Machine". 12 March 2007. Archived from the original on 12 March 2007. Retrieved 9 April 2018. 
  21. ^ "Sun Patch: Trusted Solaris 8 4/01: in.telnet patch". 4 October 2002. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 4734086 in.telnetd vulnerable to buffer overflow ?? (Solaris bug 4483514) 
  22. ^ Lohr, Heidi (1 November 2017). "What is Server Core 2008". Docs. Microsoft. 
  23. ^ Poggemeyer, Liza; Hall, Justin (6 September 2017). "Install Nano Server". Docs. Microsoft. 
  24. ^ Poggemeyer, Liza; Lich, Brian. "Changes to Nano Server in Windows Server Semi-Annual Channel". Docs. Microsoft. Retrieved 27 January 2018.