Red Hat Linux has been given the highest level of security certification, which should make it more attractive to some government buyers.
Last week IBM was granted EAL4 Augmented with ALC_FLR.3 certification for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, putting it on a par with Sun Microsystems' Trusted Solaris operating system, said Dan Frye, vice president of open systems with IBM.
"This is the highest level of security function that anybody has," Frye said. "We have delivered LSPP functionality in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and we have certified that at the EAL4 level of assurance."
This rating is awarded by the US government-funded National Information Assurance Partnership's (NIAP) Common Criteria Evaluation and Validation Scheme for IT Security program, which evaluates the security of commercial technology products.
Red Hat Linux has been certified EAL4 Augmented with ALC_FLR.3 on IBM's mainframe, System x, System p5 and eServer systems.
This level of security certification is not usually required for enterprise contracts, but it is mandatory for some programs within government agencies such as the US Department of Defense and the US National Security Agency, Frye said.
Linux had already been certified at the EAL4 level, but this is the first time that the operating system has received the Labeled Security Protection Profile (LSPP) certification, which relates to its access-control features.
Linux developers have been working to add these "SE Linux" access control features into the operating system for several years. SE Linux shipped as part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, and now it has been certified for government use, Frye said. "You now have a level of fine-grained control for everybody," he added. "You can set security based on groups or based on individuals."
In addition to LSPP, Red Hat Linux has also been certified with Role Based Access Control Protection (RBAC), and that too is noteworthy, said Red Hat.
"Historically, OS vendors have required you buy a separate branched OS to get something that is LSPP and RBAC certified," the company said in a statement. "This is something completely unique for commercial operating systems because the support for multilevel security is native to the OS."
According to Frye, the certification is "big news for the Linux industry" because it shows that open-source software can be used for sensitive computing tasks. "If anyone had any doubts that you could do this with an open-source operating system, we've proved them wrong."