Linux Rooted in Fiction: ParanoidLinux

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 02, 2008

If the fact that the ParanoidLinux distribution (now in an "alpha-alpha stage") is based on a work of science fiction isn't unsettling, consider two key peripheral issues.

The first unsettling issue is that in some censorship-centric areas of the world, an operating system granting a user anonymity could be literally life-saving.

The second unsettling issue is that an effort is being made to package security tools -- ones that exist in current Linux and BSD systems, or are readily available through repositories -- into yet another distribution.

It's not the "there are already too many distributions" argument that is unsettling. It is more that the project feels a like a waste of human resources -- why is it necessary to put the applications and services designed to protect anonymity, to encrypt files, to make the user nameless and faceless, all together, in one distribution? Let's think in a truly paranoid manner. Wouldn't it be far easier for a nefarious government organization to target that distribution's repositories, mirror that singular distribution's disk images with files of its own design, and leave every last one of that distribution's users in the great wide open? It would take more effort, it would seem, for a despotic goverment to hit every last repository of every last distribution with a bogus security application.

Wouldn't it be far more productive to concentrate on privacy applications and services in the developer's area of interest? Improving the applications at the source, or even packaging the preferred applications for use in existing distributions would grant more security to more users. Yes, users who might actually need these tools, now.

There is no harm in starting a distribution to fill a need. This project is, sadly, highly questionable. It's not a question of need as much as a question of playing with the people who need it. It is attempting, far too enthusiastically, to follow the book it was pulled from, Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. The one book-inspired idea the developers have (wisely) tossed aside was Chaff, an application delivering messages pulled from keystrokes typed using applications that perform a completely unrelated task. The developers state that TOR is a far more secure method for anonymity.

These applications all pre-configured and packaged in a distribution seem a fine idea -- in a novel. In a real life situation requiring a "ParanoidLinux" type operating system, there are more points of failure than any one author's imagination can conjure. That's why the community -- not of any one application, or any one distribution -- the entire community -- is needed to watch, maintain, and develop these projects.