FAA Safety-critical Certified Operating Systems Deliver The Reliability and Security Required by Defense Systems; Linux Does Not

Over the last few days, Dan O'Dowd, CEO of Green Hills Software, have received many objections to his warning at the NetCentric Operations Conference that Linux is not secure enough to be used in defense systems. Most of the objections are based on a series of common misconceptions. To avoid unnecessary duplication and to approach this subject rationally, it is necessary to examine these misconceptions systematically. This is part I of a series of articles that will be published over the next few weeks to address these issues.

Just because Linux is good for general purpose desktop computing and servers, for which it was designed, does not mean it is good for everything. Don't be someone who owns only a hammer, to whom everything looks like a nail. If you keep an open mind, O'Dowd will show you why Linux is inappropriate for defense systems, and what kind of operating system should be used for defense systems.

Many people criticized O'Dowd for saying that Linux was unsafe for defense systems without offering any alternatives. His speech was to a defense conference. O'Dowd didn't mention his company's products because he didn't want the issue that he was raising to be dismissed as advertising. But since so many people have asked him what operating system he would propose for defense systems, and how it avoids the security problems of Linux, O'Dowd will oblige.

Many of the objections to his assertion that Linux is not secure enough to be used in national defense systems were based on the misconception that there are no proprietary operating systems that offer substantially better reliability or security than Linux. But Linux is not reliable enough or secure enough to meet U.S. Government safety and security standards that several proprietary operating systems have already met.

We should not move forward with plans to rely on Linux to control our most advanced future defense systems, including the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS), the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), and the Global Information Grid (GIG), until Linux achieves the level of reliability and security required for commercial operating systems.

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