The ultra-secret US National Security Agency has teamed with Software emulation firm VMware to create numerous crack-proof virtual computers cohabiting in one PC. To prevent users of one category of secrets from accessing other categories, the NSA has relied in the past on the “air gap” or the physical separation of differently classified information in different computer systems. This leads, of course, to inconvenience and cost as some spy-types may have six computers on one desk.
VMware’s “NetTop” deals with the problem by building multiple virtual PCs running on one Linux computer that would sit on each worker’s desk. The system entails barriers between categories using VMware’s virtual machine technology that lets users install and run any PC-based operating system on top of Linux. The barriers are believed to be secure because they are based on hardware rather than software emulation. The reason Linux was chosen is that its source code is open to examination by professionally cautious bureaucrats. One security expert said, “You wouldn’t want to do it on Windows NT, because you know nothing about what is going on inside NT.”
In related news, an agent of the US Drug Enforcement Agency, based in Los Angeles, was arraigned Monday on charges that he had sold information gathered by the DEA to a private investigations firm. Some observers believe such practices are common.