Maya OS is set to replace Windows as the operating system on the Defence Ministry’s computers, according to a report. Instead of Microsoft’s widely used proprietary operating system (OS), the Ministry of Defence will use a Linux-based OS based on the popular Ubuntu distribution. The OS was reportedly developed by government agencies over a period of six months in response to rising cybersecurity threats and is equipped with built-in malware protection for computers that are connected to the Internet.
The Hindu recently reported that the Ministry of Defence has begun to replace Internet-connected computers with a new operating system called Maya OS. It is based on the free and open-source Linux distribution Ubuntu that is maintained by British firm Canonical. However, unlike traditional Linux-based distros, the Maya OS interface looks similar to Microsoft Windows, which could aid in the transition process.
According to the report that cites a government official, Maya OS is being installed on all Ministry of Defence computers connected to the Internet in the South Block before August 15 — or Independence Day. While it is yet to be installed on computers operated by the three defence services, it has been cleared by the Navy, while the Air Force and Army are conducting their evaluation of the operating system, the official told The Hindu.
Microsoft’s Windows operating system is set to be replaced in response to the growing number of cases of ransomware and malware attacks in the country, as per the report. In order to protect computers that are connected to the Internet, the OS will feature a system called Chakravyuh that is capable of detecting malware and protecting the device. Government agencies worked on Maya OS for a period of six months, according to the report.
It is worth noting that traditional Linux-based operating systems like Ubuntu are not inherently more secure than Windows, macOS, or ChromeOS. Many popular Linux-based operating systems offer limited sandboxing (the process of limiting application access, preventing unauthorised system and file access) compared to these other operating systems. However, some distributions like Qubes OS have been developed to offer “reasonably secure” support for secure isolation and compartmentalisation of software on the computer.
Meanwhile, Maya OS is not the first locally developed operating system — Bharat Operating System Solutions (BOSS) is an existing Linux-based operating system that has been in development for over 16 years and previously tested by the Army. This indigenous OS was developed by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and the National Resource Centre for Free and Open Source Software (NRCFOSS). The latest version, BOSS 9.0 — codenamed Urja — was released on February 19, 2021.
According to analytics firm StatCounter, Linux reached a 3 percent market share in June, after a period of 30 years. Microsoft’s Windows commands the highest share, followed by Apple’s macOS, and both companies take various measures, including ongoing bug bounty programs for responsible disclosure of security flaws. Government agencies will need to commit adequate resources consistently — both in terms of funds and manpower — to continue evolving Maya OS as a secure operating system that can keep malware and ransomware groups at bay.