There’s a new(ish) smartphone operating system aimed at folks who want to be able to run Android apps, but want additional security and privacy features. It’s called GrapheneOS, and it comes from Daniel Micay, the former lead developer of another security-based Android fork called CopperheadOS.
After the founders of Copperhead had a falling out last year, Micay turned his attention to the Android Hardening Project, which he recently renamed GrapheneOS to better reflect what the project has become.
GrapheneOS is currently a custom ROM that can be compiled and installed on phones with unlocked bootloaders, but it’s currently in its early stages and official images are only available for Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 series smartphones. Since it’s an open source project, independent developers may be able to port the operating system to run on additional devices.
Micay explains that “The goal is not making devices with poor security slightly more secure, and choosing the best devices to officially support is an important aspect of it. It will definitely support more than Pixels, but 3rd and 2nd generation Pixels are the best choices for the initial two devices. 1st generation Pixels aren’t currently supported, because the point of the project is not dumping all the resources into device porting.”
So rather than expending resources on porting the operating system to run on as many different devices as possible, he plans to choose devices to support “based on their security properties” including firmware security and security updates.
GrapheneOS is a full-fledged operating system with a security-hardened memory allocator, patches for the Chromium web browser, and an Auditor app that “uses hardware-based security features to validate the identify of a device along with he authenticity and integrity of the operating system.”
Specific components of the operating system are also available as standalone sub-projects, allowing developers of other Android-based ROMs to incorporate features like the memory allocator in their own custom operating systems.
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