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India’s Defence Ministry to switch from Windows to locally developed Ubuntu-based OS for security reasons

Maya OS will come with a security feature called Chakravyuh (inspired by the military defence formation in the Mahabharata), an end-point anti-malware and antivirus software, CNBC TV18 reported.

India’s Defence Ministry has decided to shift all its computers from Microsoft’s Windows operating system (OS) to a new OS called Maya, which is a locally developed OS based on open-source Ubuntu, The Hindu reported on August 8.

This is due to the increasing cyber and malware attacks on defence and other critical infrastructure across the country, the report stated. The Defence Ministry also noted that it will help India reduce its dependence on foreign software and promote indigenous innovation, a CNBC TV18 report added.

Defence Ministry computers connected to the internet in South Block have been directed to switch to Maya before August 15 and computers belonging to the Army, Navy, and Air Force would adopt Maya soon, an unnamed official informed The Hindu. The new OS has an interface and functionality similar to Windows making it easier for users to transition to it, the official added.

Maya OS will come with a security feature called Chakravyuh (inspired by the military defence formation in the Mahabharata), an end-point anti-malware and antivirus software, CNBC TV18 reported.

Why does this matter: Cyberattacks, including foreign state-sponsored attacks, targeting government entities and other critical infrastructure have been on the rise. In 2021, there were 48,285 cybersecurity incidents targeted at government entities, in 2022, there were 1,92,439 such incidents, and in 2023, up to June, there have already been 1,12,474 such incidents, the government revealed in the parliament on August 2. Given these statistics, it is pertinent to implement cybersecurity measures to protect government infrastructure, and the Defence Ministry feels that switching from Windows OS to an indigenous OS is a step in the right direction.

Will the new OS be safer than Windows? Although no operating system is considered to be completely secure and safe, Ubuntu-based operating systems have generally been considered to be safer than Windows and macOS for various reasons including:

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  • Open-source nature allows vulnerabilities to be fixed sooner: Ubuntu’s source code is open-source and available for anyone to vet, which means any security vulnerabilities can be found and fixed more quickly. Ubuntu itself is based on the Linux kernel, which is also open-source.
  • Smaller attack surface: Being much less popular than Windows, there are fewer hackers who are targeting Ubuntu-based systems.

Who developed Maya OS: The Defence Ministry started the development of Maya OS in 2021 involving various government agencies, including the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), and the National Informatics Centre (NIC), CNBC TV18 reported. The Ministry also collaborated with Indian software companies and academic institutions to test and improve the OS and it took six months to develop the OS, the report added.

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