Risk
7/22/2011
12:24 PM
50%
50%

Not Your Average Linux Distribution: DOD's Flavor

The Department of Defense has released a unique Linux distribution with special security considerations for telecommuters.

Obama's Tech Tools
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Obama's TechTools
The Department of Defense (DOD) has released a unique Linux distribution designed to be a secure option for people, such as telecommuters, who need remote access to internal government and corporate networks from potentially insecure desktops.

Created by a collaboration between the DOD and the Air Force Research Laboratory, Lightweight Portable Security (LPS) can be booted from a CD or flash drive onto nearly any Intel-based PC or Mac, according to information posted on the project's website.

The idea behind the distribution is to give people a secure option for accessing firewall-protected networks and the Web from home or shared PCs or Macs, the military said.

"LPS-Public turns an untrusted system (such as a home computer) into a trusted network client," according to the DOD. "No trace of work activity (or malware) can be written to the local computer," nor is there any record of what users did on the PC during the session.

While a public image of LPS is available online for free download for anyone, the DOD may have created it with federal government teleworkers in mind.

In December, President Obama signed the Federal Telework Act of 2010 into law, codifying an activity the federal government already was beginning to embrace on a wider scale. Just this week, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released security guidelines for those teleworkers to ensure they are not exposing federal networks to vulnerabilities while working outside of the office.

The DOD also has released a quick-start guide to help people use the distribution.

LPS does not install any software onto a local machine, nor are administrator privileges required to use the software. Once users boot up LPS from an external storage source, they can use a computer for general Web browsing and connecting to a remote network.

The distribution includes a smart-card enabled Firefox browser supporting common access card (CAC) and personal identity verification (PIV) cards, a PDF and text viewer, Java, and Encryption Wizard-Public, according to the DOD.

LPS is different from other Linux distributions in several ways, the DOD said. Since it's designed to run from read-only media, it has no persistent storage and has no need to be continually patched. However, the software will be patched on at least a quarterly basis, and the DOD will release maintenance updates periodically, it said.

Even if malware infiltrates the OS it can only run within the session in which it infects LPS, the military said. To add even more security to LPS, users can reboot between sessions or before engaging in activity that's particularly sensitive or vulnerable.

For example, LPS developers suggest booting LPS immediately before performing online banking transactions, and after visiting risky websites or if they think the machine may have been infected with malware.

See the latest IT solutions at Interop New York. Learn to leverage business technology innovations--including cloud, virtualization, security, mobility, and data center advances--that cut costs, increase productivity, and drive business value. Save 25% on Flex and Conference Passes or get a Free Expo Pass with code CPFHNY25. It happens in New York City, Oct. 3-7, 2011. Register now.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2011-4720
Published: 2014-12-27
Hillstone HS TFTP Server 1.3.2 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (daemon crash) via a long filename in a (1) RRQ or (2) WRQ operation.

CVE-2012-1203
Published: 2014-12-27
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in starnet/index.php in SyndeoCMS 3.0 and earlier allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that add user accounts via a save_user action.

CVE-2013-4663
Published: 2014-12-27
git_http_controller.rb in the redmine_git_hosting plugin for Redmine allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary commands via shell metacharacters in (1) the service parameter to info/refs, related to the get_info_refs function or (2) the reqfile argument to the file_exists function.

CVE-2013-4793
Published: 2014-12-27
The update function in umbraco.webservices/templates/templateService.cs in the TemplateService component in Umbraco CMS before 6.0.4 does not require authentication, which allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary ASP.NET code via a crafted SOAP request.

CVE-2013-5958
Published: 2014-12-27
The Security component in Symfony 2.0.x before 2.0.25, 2.1.x before 2.1.13, 2.2.x before 2.2.9, and 2.3.x before 2.3.6 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (CPU consumption) via a long password that triggers an expensive hash computation, as demonstrated by a PBKDF2 computation, a si...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.