Astra Linux, the new secure OS used by the Russian Army

A few days ago, web applications security testing reported the Chinese army’s decision to stop using the Windows operating system to start working with a new vendor. To date, further details are unknown, although it is speculated that China’s military forces could have switched to a Linux-based operating system.

Now, news had spread on a similar decision of the Russian army, which would be in the process of replacing the Windows system with Astra Linux, developed in Russian territory. Astra is a Debian-based Linux distribution created by the company RusBITech about ten years ago.

Originally employed only by private companies, this distribution began to be admitted by Russian government agencies in recent years. To guarantee the adoption of the operating system among the Russian government institutions, Astra Linux has certifications to handle classified information, the web applications security testing mentioned.

Currently, Astra Linux has security clearance from the Russian Federal Service for Technical Control of Exports (FSTEC); in other words, this means that this operating system has a ‘special importance’ authorization to work with information from the Russian government with the highest standards of data privacy and secrecy.

When the developers were asked about this project, they stated that the use of Astra Linux will reduce the costs for system integrity and security verification used by the Russian armed forces.

According to web applications security testing specialists from the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS), the plan to implement Astra Linux in Russian defense systems dates back to the beginning of 2018. Back in time, officers of the Russian armed forces raised the possibility of the existence of hidden backdoors in the Windows operating system, installed by U.S. intelligence agencies for espionage purposes, allegation that both the technology company, as the U.S. government has repeatedly denied.  

On the other hand, the Chinese government would also allege internal security reasons to justify the decision to stop using the Microsoft operating system.