Justin Cormack

Top 5 blogs of 2017: LinuxKit, A Toolkit for building Secure, Lean and Portable Linux Subsystems

In case you’ve missed it, this week we’re highlighting the top five most popular Docker blogs in 2017. Coming in the third place is the announcement of LinuxKit, a toolkit for building secure, lean and portable Linux Subsystems.


linuxKit
 

LinuxKit includes the tooling to allow building custom Linux subsystems that only include exactly the components the runtime platform requires. All system services are containers that can be replaced, and everything that is not required can be removed. All components can be substituted with ones that match specific needs. It is a kit, very much in the Docker philosophy of batteries included but swappable. LinuxKit is an open source project available at https://github.com/linuxkit/linuxkit.

To achieve our goals of a secure, lean and portable OS,we built it from containers, for containers.  Security is a top-level objective and aligns with NIST stating, in their draft Application Container Security Guide: “Use container-specific OSes instead of general-purpose ones to reduce attack surfaces. When using a container-specific OS, attack surfaces are typically much smaller than they would be with a general-purpose OS, so there are fewer opportunities to attack and compromise a container-specific OS.”

The leanness directly helps with security by removing parts not needed if the OS is designed around the single use case of running containers. Because LinuxKit is container-native, it has a very minimal size – 35MB with a very minimal boot time.  All system services are containers, which means that everything can be removed or replaced.

System services are sandboxed in containers, with only the privileges they need. The configuration is designed for the container use case. The whole system is built to be used as immutable infrastructure, so it can be built and tested in your CI pipeline, deployed, and new versions are redeployed when you wish to upgrade.

The kernel comes from our collaboration with the Linux kernel community, participating in the process and work with groups such as the Kernel Self Protection Project (KSPP), while shipping recent kernels with only the minimal patches needed to fix issues with the platforms LinuxKit supports. The kernel security process is too big for a single company to try to develop on their own therefore a broad industry collaboration is necessary.

In addition LinuxKit provides a space to incubate security projects that show promise for improving Linux security. We are working with external open source projects such as Wireguard, Landlock, Mirage, oKernel, Clear Containers and more to provide a testbed and focus for innovation in the container space, and a route to production.

LinuxKit is portable, as it was built for the many platforms Docker runs on now, and with a view to making it run on far more.. Whether they are large or small machines, bare metal or virtualized, mainframes or the kind of devices that are used in Internet of Things scenarios as containers reach into every area of computing.

Learn More about Linuxkit:

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Justin Cormack

Top 5 blogs of 2017: LinuxKit, A Toolkit for building Secure, Lean and Portable Linux Subsystems


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