QubesOS, Invisible Things Lab, and Purism

Purism ships Debian-derived PureOS, and used to ship QubesOS. Now, Qubes is not really an option. I don’t know the full story, below posts give some background.










Joanna announces codehash.db, a software/firmware code hash database

Joanna Rutkowska of Invisible Things Lab posted a message to the Secure Desktops list, announcing a new public hash database for software and firmware! lightly-edited announcement below, see the list archive for full announcement:

Introducing a public db for software and firmware hashes:
I’ve recently created this simple repo which is an attempt to somehow addresses a problem of software and firmware “verifiability” (the word is somehow loaded, hence in quotation marks).  I imagine that once more and more vendors, such as e.g. Tails or Subgraph, or secure messenger app devs, or various firmware projects (coreboot, Trezor, OpenWRT, etc) agreed to stick to this format, we could expect each of them to submit hashes + signatures with each new release of their software.  These hashes would then be subsequently verified and submitted by other witnesses.  Each person or organization will be free to host a repo similar to the one above, only with the “proofs” from the select witness they consider somehow trusted or meaningful.


(Now if OEMs and IBVs would only publish their golden image hashes, including after each update….)

ITL’s Stateless Laptop proposal

Joanna Rutkowska of Invisible Things Lab (ITL) has proposed the Stateless Laptop, and will be presenting at CCC in a few days (2015/12/27) on the topic.


Click to access state_harmful.pdf


I can’t begin to create a list of tags this article covers… This article is all about firmware security (and hardware security) for x86 systems, a MUST READ!!

Purism must consider this a holiday gift from ITL: the spec for their next Librem box. Looking forward to this box, built with fully Open Source Hardware designs/parts, hopefully from multiple OEMs next year! 🙂

New ITL research on x86 security!!

Joanna of Invisible Things Lab has a new blog post on Intel x86 security!!


Click to access x86_harmful.pdf



And there’s a second paper in the works, as well!

Joanna Rutkowska to speak in Sweden next month

Joanna Rutkowska is one of the speakers at “Next Generation Threats“, taking place in Stockholm, Sweden in September.

Trust as the no. 1 enemy of security: the client systems study

We are forced to trust a lot of things: the files we receive or websites we visit, that they are not going to exploit bugs in our (trusted) apps, the (trusted) software we use has no backdoors built in or added by 3rd parties. Also that the (trusted) OS components are secure and can protect our data, that the underlying (trusted) firmware and hardware is not subverting security mechanisms implemented by our (trusted) Operating System. The more trust we are forced into, the less secure our digital lives are, of course. Trust is the #1 enemy of security. Is there anything we can do about it? What’s the smallest reasonable amount of trust we need in case of a typical client (desktop) system today? Can trust be distributed?

Joanna Rutkowska is a founder of Invisible Things Lab and the Qubes OS project, which she has been leading since its inception in 2010. Prior to that she has been focusing on system-level offensive security research. Together with her team at ITL, she has presented numerous attacks on virtualization systems and Intel security technologies, including the famous series of exploits against the Intel Trusted Execution Technology (TXT), the still-only-one software attack demonstrating Intel VT-d escape, and also supervised her team with the pioneering research on breaking into the Intel vPro BIOS and AMT/MT technology. She is also known for writing Blue Pill, the first hardware virtualization-based rootkit, introducing Evil Maid attack, and for her prior work on kernel-mode malware for Windows and Linux in the first half of the 2000s.


Qubes 3.0-RC alpha of LiveUSB release

Joanna Rutkowska of Invisible Things Lab posted a message to the qubes-users mailing list today, announcing a new Live USB image format of Qubes OS.

“We have built and uploaded the first ever working Qubes Live USB image! 🙂 It’s based on the recently released 3.0-rc2 release. Now you should be able to run and try Qubes OS of any laptop without needing to install it anywhere!”

Note that it currently does not work with UEFI:

“We have faced several challenges when making this Live USB edition of Qubes OS, which traditional Linux distro don’t need to bother with:
1. We needed to ensure Xen is properly started when booting the stick. In fact we still don’t support UEFI boot for the sitck for this reason, even though the Fedora liveusb creator we used does support it. Only legacy boot for this version, sorry.
Current limitations
7. UEFI boot doesn’t work, and if you try booting it via UEFI Xen will not be started, rendering the whole experiment unusable.”

Read the full announcement here:


Genode OS v15.05

Found on Joanna’s Twitter feed:

Genode is new to me. Genode Labs makes the “Genode OS Framework”. Genode is a new OS, not a new Linux distribution. It is “a GPLv2-licensed construction kit for building specialized operating systems out of small building blocks including different kernels, device drivers, protocol stacks, and applications”. This current release is a major release for Genode. The new documentation is a large 472 page PDF. The current release adds “rudimentary GPT” support. GPT aside, I don’t see any other UEFI-related technology support, only “BIOS” references to firmware.

Version 15.05 represents the most substantial release in the history of Genode. It is packed with profound architectural improvements, new device drivers, the extension of the supported base platforms, and a brand new documentation.

We understand the complexity of code and policy as the most fundamental security problem shared by modern general-purpose operating systems. Because of high functional demands and dynamic workloads, however, this complexity cannot be avoided. But it can be organized. Genode is a novel OS architecture that is able to master complexity by applying a strict organizational structure to all software components including device drivers, system services, and applications.”

“The current implementation can be compiled for 8 different kernels: Linux, L4ka::Pistachio, L4/Fiasco, OKL4, NOVA, Fiasco.OC, Codezero, and a custom kernel for running Genode directly on ARM-based hardware. Whereas the Linux version serves us as development vehicle and enables us to rapidly develop the generic parts of the system, the actual target platforms of the framework are microkernels. There is no ‘perfect’ microkernel – and neither should there be one. If a microkernel pretended to be fit for all use cases, it wouldn’t be ‘micro’. Hence, all microkernels differ in terms of their respective features, complexity, and supported hardware architectures.

Genode allows the use of each of the kernels listed above with a rich set of device drivers, protocol stacks, libraries, and applications in a uniform way. For developers, the framework provides an easy way to target multiple different kernels instead of tying the development to a particular kernel technology. For kernel developers, Genode contributes advanced workloads, stress-testing their kernel, and enabling a variety of application use cases that would not be possible otherwise. For users and system integrators, it enables the choice of the kernel that fits best with the requirements at hand for the particular usage scenario.

Inverse Path’s USB Armoury supports Genode as of 15.02:  “The Genode OS Framework supports the USB armory since version 15.02 implementing a TrustZone Secure virtual-machine monitor (VMM) supervising Linux running in the Normal world. Support is in the very early stages. The Linux kernel requires minimal patching to be executed in the Normal world, at the moment Martin Stein from Genode Labs provides a repository with a patched kernel.


Qubes 3.0-RC2 released

Today the Qubes OS released v3.0 release candidate 2.

They ALSO created a new Twitter feed, @QubesOS.

Qubes is a Linux distribution created by Invisible Things Lab (ITL), a security research firm that specializes in hardware/firmware security; Qubes includes virtualization technology to isolate each process from each other in ways to help increase security.

“There have been no new features in this release compared to Qubes 3.0-rc1 that we released in April, only bugfixes. Although Qubes 3.0-rc2 is major improvement over Qubes 3.0-rc1, there are still some issues to be resolved – check “Known Issues” section of installation guide. Qubes 3.0.0 will follow soon (coming weeks), together with 3.1-rc1 that is currently being merged (and which is bringing a bunch of cool new features, as discussed in the previous annoucment).

More Information: