New Open-Source OS Will Feature 'Disposable' Virtual Machines

New Open-Source OS Will Feature 'Disposable' Virtual Machines
New Open-Source OS Will Feature 'Disposable' Virtual Machines 

By Kelly Jackson Higgins
Jun 03, 2010

A new open-source operating system will come with the option of creating 
one-time, disposable virtual machines on the fly as a way to protect 
against malicious files.

Invisible Things Lab is creating these lightweight, throwaway VMs that 
work with traditional virtual machines in Qubes, the open-source, 
Xen-based OS it plans to release in beta later this summer. Qubes was 
architected to minimize the attack surface in the VM environment.

Disposable VMs don't provide persistent storage and are launched on a 
per-document basis to open a PDF, PowerPoint, or music or video file, 
for instance, according to Joanna Rutkowska, founder and CEO of 
Invisible Things Lab. They provide a safe sandbox for opening a file or 
attachment: If a file opened by a disposable VM is infected, the only 
thing it can hurt is the throwaway VM itself, not any other applications 
or files.

The disposable VM is clean, and its only purpose is for viewing the 
file, for instance; then it gets tossed away. "You still run your email 
client in a 'work' AppVM -- which is not disposable [because] you need 
to store your email client configuration, archived emails, your 
documents, etc. -- but you open attachments in disposable VMs," 
Rutkowska says.

Invisible Things Lab also plans to ultimately release a commercial 
version of the OS, Qubes Pro, that can run Windows applications using 
Windows-based application VMs.


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