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March 2002

Spy-nux update: NSA SELinux draws interest from open source community

A year after the National Security Agency (NSA) released its Security Enhanced Linux (SELinux), only the hardest-core conspiracy theorists have anything but praise for the project. Everyone knows the NSA collects and analyzes signals intelligence. Its lesser-known mission is providing infosec services, including computer security research, to government agencies. SELinux, the latest in a series of NSA OS security projects, is a research prototype to demonstrate the value of mandatory access controls (MAC) to the Linux community. Its history goes back to 1992-'93 when NSA and Secure Computing Corp. (www.securecomputing.com) developed DTMach, an experimental OS incorporating security mechanisms in its kernel. This was followed by another Secure Computing Corp. collaboration, DTOS. Finally, NSA, partnering with Network Associates' NAI Labs and MITRE (www.mitre.org), followed up with SELinux. Choosing Linux both for its openness and popularity, the NSA hoped for -- and got -- feedback and suggestions from the widest possible ...

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