Isolation with Qubes OS 4.0

Safe Cube

Article from Issue 217/2018

By isolating complete work environments in virtual machines, Qubes OS offers a significant security boost.

Linux users with an eye on security often turn to Live systems such as Tails [1]. One significant limitation of the leading security distros is that they offer little protection at runtime: All applications run in a common context.

Qubes OS [2] takes a different approach. Security in Qubes is the result of isolation. Chief developer and security researcher Joanna Rutkowska [3] assumes that, with the millions of lines of code and instructions in today's applications, no perfectly error-free desktop user environment can exist. She calls Qubes OS a "reasonably secure operating system."

Isolation has been an option within the Linux scene for years. Technologies such as sandboxes, containers, and virtual machines (VMs) all offer some means to limit an application's access to the system. If isolation is deployed effectively, an intruder who takes over the application won't be able to access the rest of the operating system. Qubes OS is designed with the goal of building this isolation into the user environment, so it is extremely easy to implement. In fact, there is no excuse not to implement it.


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