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Anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab developing 'secure' operating system for industry and infrastructure

Anti-virus software firm Kaspersky Lab is taking a stab at protecting the world's critical infrastructure, by developing its own secure operating system.

The Kaspersky OS is aimed at protecting key information systems used in industry and infrastructure, like nuclear power stations, transportation control facilities, telecommunications systems, and other "critically important" installations, Eugene Kaspersky said in a blog post.

Rumours of the lab's project have already surfaced, "so I guess it's time to lift the curtain (a little) on our secret project," Kaspersky wrote.

The KL OS is "highly tailored, developed for solving a specific narrow task," Kaspersky said. It won't be used "for playing Half-Life on, editing your vacation videos, or blathering on social media."

Kaspersky insisted that the effort will not allow attackers to carry out "any behind-the-scenes, undeclared activity," which has helped hackers infiltrate local systems. He pointed to one incident in Australia whereby a disgruntled hacker managed to flood an area of Queensland with sewage after a sewage firm had declined to hire him, but it took officials months to work out what had happened.

"This is the important bit: the impossibility of executing third-party code, or of breaking into the system or running unauthorized applications on our OS; and this is both provable and testable," Kaspersky wrote.

Given the sensitive nature of the project, Kaspersky was light on actual details. The firm is in talks with industrial control system (ICS) operators and vendors, so some information has to remain confidential. Of course, Kaspersky also doesn't want rivals to "jump on our ideas and nick the know-how."

Why is this necessary? While you might think that a network keeping tabs on critical infrastructure like water, electricity, or sewage would be much more sophisticated than the average office system, that's not always the case.

Kaspersky pointed to "always on" industrial systems that are rarely updated because shutting them down for upgrades is often a huge hassle. In an office, however, you can identify an infected system and shut it off from the network while fixing the problem.

There is no word on when the lab will roll out its new OS, but Kaspersky promised more details to come when available.