QUBES OS, the security-focused Linux-based OS, is looking to offer commercial editions in order to raise funds for expansion.
Up until now Qubes OS, which has been praised by Edward Snowden, has been largely self-supported by the developers themselves, donations and by grants from the Open Technology Fund.
Writing on the Qubes OS website lead developer Joanna Rutkowska explained the team's plans: "In order to continue to deliver on its promise of strong desktop security, Qubes must retain and expand its core team, and this requires substantial funding.
"At this point, we believe the only realistic way to achieve this is through commercialisation, supplemented by community funding."
The new versions will be bespoke creations, she went on: "Commercial editions of Qubes OS will be customised to meet special corporate requirements."
These requirements might include hardened security or special integrations, she added.
"Two features that might be particularly attractive to corporate customers are (1) ‘locking down' dom0 [the Xen hypervisor admin domain] in order to separate the user and administrator roles and (2) integrating our local management stack with a corporation's remote management infrastructure."
Qubes OS provides security by isolation. Based on the hypervisor Xen it supports multiple self-contained virtual machines, which are ‘unaware' of the existence of the others and cannot control the hypervisor layer. The applications are also separated from the data, and networking and connectivity can all be managed on a per-VM basis.
Thus it is possible for users to create a dedicated VM for banking, one for email, plus a vault VM for storing passwords and encryption keys which has no connection to the internet. The Whonix Tor distribution is also installed by default.
While most VM templates are Linux-based, it is possible to run Windows from within Qubes OS too.
One money-raising idea that the Qubes team rejected was creating and selling their own secure laptop.
"There are a number of challenges here, both in terms of making the hardware trustworthy enough to merit our 'seal of approval', and from a business and logistics perspective. For these reasons, we don't plan to pursue this option in the immediate future."
Rutkowska has previously pointed out that it is difficult to trust commonly used hardware such as processors and controllers because much of their workings are impenetrable, arguing for more efforts to be put into open source hardware.
In spite of the push for commercialisation, Rutkowska says Qubes OS will remain open source.
"In the event that any corporate features require reworking the core Qubes code, that new code will remain open source," she wrote.
Qubes OS has also launched a fundraising drive through Open Collective. μ
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