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Security is no secret: NSA takes Flask to the open-source community

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Architecture created by the National Security Agency and expanded with help from the open-source community will save the Defense Department and intelligence agencies millions in hardware costs.

Architecture created by the National Security Agency and expanded with help from the open-source community will save the Defense Department and intelligence agencies millions in hardware costs.

Analysts used to need multiple computers because they worked on separate machines for each classification level of data they accessed. Soon, users will be able to access data from a single console that could cost $500 or less, thanks to the NSA security architecture dubbed Flask.

With Flask, “we can guarantee that high-integrity data can’t be corrupted by untrustworthy entities or that sensitive data doesn’t leak to untrustworthy entities,” said Stephen Smalley, one of the chief developers of Flask at NSA. The best part is that the technology requires no specialized hardware or operating system.

And that is only one of the potential security benefits. NSA officials said they hope software vendors will adopt the technology to better secure their products.

The Linux community was one of the first groups to embrace Flask. With the help of open-source developers, NSA created a Linux security module based on Flask, called Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux). It is now one of the core features in the widely used Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

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