Kaspersky promises the impossible: A fully secure OS

Eugene Kaspersky had something of a Larry Ellison moment this week, making the bold claim that he and his company are doing what no one else has ever even attempted: developing a secure operating system. Not only is the assertion inaccurate (of course companies have attempted to develop secure OSes in the past), but the pledge of delivering a completely secure OS -- even for something as specifically nichey as SCADA systems and ICSes -- borders on irresponsible in that it's all but impossible to keep.

By way of context, Kaspersky used Threatpost (The Kaspersky Lab Security News Service) and his personal blog to talk up a project under way at Kaspersky Labs: a new secure-by-design operating system for the operation of SCADA and ICSes. The case for such a system is abundantly clear. In recent months, hackers have successfully infiltrated antiquated controls systems for water utilities, power plants, heavy industry, and other critical infrastructure. The trend points to an increasingly realistic doomsday scenarios, such as cyber terrorists pulling off a coordinated hack on America's power grid, causing massive blackouts and leaving more than 300 million people without electricity for days. Or perhaps worse yet, a U.S.-based nuclear power plant could be targeted with a Stuxnet-like virus, leading to a catastrophic meltdown.

Kaspersky's vision to eradicate these threats is to develop a secure-by-design operating system, "one onto which [existing] ICS can be installed, and which could be built into the existing infrastructure -- controlling 'healthy' existing systems and guaranteeing the receipt of reliable data reports on the systems' operation," he explained in his blog.

There are several key ingredients to this system, per Kaspersky. "First: Our system is highly tailored, developed for solving a specific narrow task, and not intended for playing Half-Life on, editing your vacation videos, or blathering on social media. Second: We're working on methods of writing software that by design won't be able to carry out any behind-the-scenes, undeclared activity. This is the important bit: The impossibility of executing third-party code, or of breaking into the system or running unauthorized applications on our OS; and this is both provable and testable."

Maintaining secrecy for the sake of security is also part of the plan: "There are some details that will remain for certain customers' eyes only forever, to ward off cyber-terrorist abuses."

Kaspersky's vision is admirable (if not slightly opportunistic). Yes, we need to better secure outdated ICSes and SCADA systems that weren't built with the Internet in mind. Also, Kaspersky is still in the early stages of development, so it's imprudent to judge the merits of the project. Still, there are some issues that need addressing.

First, Kaspersky made a somewhat broad and misleading assertion. He told Threatpost that "no one else ever tried to make a secure operating system. This may sound weird because of the many efforts Microsoft, Apple, and the open source community have made to make their platforms as secure as possible."

Kaspersky promises a impossible: A entirely secure OS

Kaspersky promises a impossible: A entirely secure OS

Eugene Kaspersky had something of a Larry Ellison impulse this week, creation a confidant explain that he and his association are doing what no one else has ever even attempted: building a secure handling system. Not usually is a avowal false (of march companies have attempted to rise secure OSes in a past), though a oath of delivering a totally secure OS — even for something as privately nichey as SCADA systems and ICSes — borders on insane in that it’s all though unfit to keep.

By approach of context, Kaspersky used Threatpost (The Kaspersky Lab Security News Service) and his personal blog to speak adult a plan underneath approach during Kaspersky Labs: a new secure-by-design handling complement for a operation of SCADA and ICSes. The box for such a complement is extravagantly clear. In new months, hackers have successfully infiltrated superannuated controls systems for water utilities, power plants, complicated industry, and other vicious infrastructure. The trend points to an increasingly realistic doomsday scenarios, such as cyber terrorists pulling off a concurrent penetrate on America’s energy grid, causing large blackouts and withdrawal some-more than 300 million people but electricity for days. Or maybe worse yet, a U.S.-based chief energy plant could be targeted with a Stuxnet-like virus, heading to a inauspicious meltdown.

Kaspersky’s prophesy to exterminate these threats is to rise a secure-by-design handling system, “one onto that [existing] ICS can be installed, and that could be built into a existent infrastructure — determining ‘healthy’ existent systems and guaranteeing a receipt of arguable information reports on a systems’ operation,” he explained in his blog.

There are several pivotal mixture to this system, per Kaspersky. “First: Our complement is rarely tailored, grown for elucidate a specific slight task, and not dictated for personification Half-Life on, modifying your vacation videos, or blathering on amicable media. Second: We’re operative on methods of essay program that by pattern won’t be means to lift out any behind-the-scenes, undeclared activity. This is a critical bit: The stupidity of executing third-party code, or of violation into a complement or using unapproved applications on a OS; and this is both provable and testable.”

Maintaining privacy for a consequence of confidence is also partial of a plan: “There are some sum that will sojourn for certain customers’ eyes usually forever, to sentinel off cyber-terrorist abuses.”

Kaspersky’s prophesy is excellent (if not rather opportunistic). Yes, we need to improved secure old-fashioned ICSes and SCADA systems that weren’t built with a Internet in mind. Also, Kaspersky is still in a early stages of development, so it’s incautious to decider a merits of a project. Still, there are some issues that need addressing.

First, Kaspersky done a rather extended and dubious assertion. He told Threatpost that “no one else ever attempted to make a secure handling system. This might sound uncanny since of a many efforts Microsoft, Apple, and a open source village have done to make their platforms as secure as possible.”