The Department of Defense and its contractors have been the target of a number of hack attacks in the past few months. It looks like the DoD has taken a step to improve its security through a security-focused Linux distribution.
According to PC World:
Targeting telecommuters and others who need to access corporate and government networks from less-than-entirely-secure remote locations, Lightweight Portable Security (LPS) is a lightweight Linux distribution that creates a secure end node from just about any Intel-based PC or Mac computer.
This is a pretty big deal. People who work on defense contracts can't use any old computer and in my personal life, I hear the frustration of this every day.
Apparently, the operating system is run from a CD or USB drive, not from the machine itself and it is designed to run from read-only media. An article at Geek.com said:
LPS has been created to allow any system, secure or not, to be used in a trusted way. LPS does this by running directly from a CD or USB stick, executing only within a machine's RAM, while offering up Internet access, a web browser, file system, and a small range of applications to use.
And as the PC World article pointed out:
The most malware can do, meanwhile, is run within a single session. For heightened security, the DoD recommends rebooting between sessions or just before particularly sensitive ones, such as when online banking is to be done. LPS should also be rebooted after visiting risky websites or when there's reason to suspect malware might have been installed.
Perhaps the best news about this new Linux distribution is that it isn't limited to people working in the DoD or the military. It's a free download from the Software Protection Initiative. According to PC World:
Three versions are available: LPS-Public is a general-purpose solution for using Web-based applications; LPS-Public Deluxe adds OpenOffice and Adobe Reader software; and LPS-Remote Access is for accessing organizational private networks.
LPS-Public and LPS-Public Deluxe are each available as a free download from the DoD's LPS site, but LPS-Remote Access is available only upon request. A quick-start guide (PDF) aims to help users get up and running on the distribution.
For companies that have a lot of telecommuters or have employees who travel frequently, this may be a viable option to improve security on the road.