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The idea, said Dave Wreski, business director for Guardian Digital, is that by building a secure Linux operating system from the ground up with the latest Linux kernel, Guardian can create a high-security system that does not need lots of user intervention.
Instead of having system administrators go through the program and disable services, as occurs with many server operating systems, all services are turned off in the default installation. That gives companies immediate control over their own network security, Wreski said.
Other Linux distributions could be made as secure as Guardian's version by writing additional code and making tweaks, he said. But each time those operating systems are patched, much of that customised code would be overwritten and would have to be redone. With EnGarde Secure Linux, tweaks would not be needed to core security measures when patches are added, he said.
EnGarde Secure Linux includes mandatory access control to protect critical system files from hacker attacks, Wreski said, while also including security-minded versions of other related applications, such as Apache Web server. The operating system does not include a graphical user interface.
Benjamin Thomas, Guardian Digital's project manager, said that a key benefit of the operating system is that it gives IT departments "the ability to quickly and securely get online without requiring a Linux administrator or security engineer on staff, combined with the ability to build a robust intrusion detection device or firewall."
Pricing is $549 (£371) for the operating system for use on an unlimited number of servers under the open source General Public Licence. A separate workgroup suite with additional applications, including Webmail, file and print sharing for Windows and virtual private network support, is available for $49.95. Support and update services packages are available for $219 per year per server after a 60 day free trial.
Security analyst Eric Hemmendinger at Aberdeen Group said that offering secure operating systems has been tried before, but not always with success.
"Selling secure operating systems is tough," Hemmendinger said. "They don't make good general purpose platforms."
In the past, one reason for their lack of popularity has been that they can be tough to administer and require specialised skills, he said. Another problem, he said, has been that tweaks are often needed when installing popular business applications.