22nd September 2023

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Technology and Computer

Desi Maya OS: ‘Safer’ Ubuntu Wins As India Says NO To Microsoft Windows

It’s free. It’s safer. And no more annoying Windows updates! The Indian government is looking to replace the Windows operating system on computers used in the Defence Ministry with a new indigenous operating system called Maya OS. Having a new operating system (OS), that too for the government is a challenge but the Ministry claims that Maya OS is being introduced to thwart cyber threats and also reduce the dependence on OS made by global tech companies, like Microsoft. Not to forget, Maya OS is free, so, the government will no longer have to spend on getting genuine Windows licences or pay for expensive Microsoft Word and other services.

The idea is pretty simple- cybercriminals create malware and viruses for any platform that is popular. Popularity of the platform helps in spreading malware quickly. With Windows being used by the majority of PC users across the world, it is the primary target for hackers. Another aspect to consider is that, when data is exchanged via emails, USB pen drives, portable hard drives, routers or any other end device or platform, hackers generally transmit a Windows payload because chances of infection increases due to its popularity, which makes PCs of government agencies immensely vulnerable.

Now, when a Windows malware gets transmitted to a PC running Maya OS, the malware will essentially have no effect at all. Emails with malware encoded PDF, JPEG, excel sheet and docs are usually seen as a primary entry point for hackers. So, if a government officer downloads an important PDF file from an email, without knowing that the PDF has embedded Windows malware, on a PC with Maya OS, then malware can’t do much.

The second round of protection comes from ‘Chakravyuh’- the homegrown anti-virus system that isolates data. Chakravyuh comes with Maya OS.

The government is ready to deploy Maya OS by the end of year. But what is the origin of Maya OS, what features will it offer and will the popular apps work on the new operating system? Here’s a detailed explainer on the new desi OS for PCs.

Maya OS has been ‘developed’ by the Ministry of Defence which is going to use it for the Army, Navy and other forces by the year-end. The Ministry claims Maya OS is based on the open-source Ubuntu platform which is a distribution of the Linux operating system. Now, there are around 300 active Linux distributions including Fedora, Peppermint, Kubuntu and Ubuntu. Having said that, Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution and there are at least 50 derivatives of Ubuntu, popular ones include Linux Mint, Elementary OS, Ubuntu Kylin and others.

The reason people choose to develop derivatives of Ubuntu is simple: it allows users to customise as per preferences while allowing access to the Ubuntu apps. Also, for peripherals like keyboard, mouse, printers, etc, finding drivers that support Ubuntu is easy. So, Maya OS is just another Ubuntu derivative with access to free popular Ubuntu apps. The Ubuntu app store offers free alternatives to Microsoft Word, photoshop, browsers, etc. This will drastically reduce software licence costs for the government.

Apart from Apple’s macOS and Microsoft’s Windows, Linux distributions are the most popular operating systems that are used globally for different purposes. In fact, Windows too is ‘hugely inspired’ by Linux.

The Ministry has designed the platform with an interface and functionalities that aim to thwart any possible cyber threats from bad actors. The OS was developed in six months as per reports, with the help of a dedicated team from agencies like Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), and the National Informatics Centre (NIC).

The name Maya OS has been derived from the Hindi word for illusion. It is said that the name Maya refers to the idea of the hackers facing the illusion when they try to breach the system of the Defence Ministry. The OS gets a layer of security in the form of Chakravyuh which is an anti-malware and antivirus version for the Maya OS, looking to deny access to these malicious actors who seek to compromise data.

The UI of Ubuntu-based Maya OS has a very Windows-like feel, which makes it easier for users to understand as they already know the features and functions of the OS. In addition to this, Maya OS also offers support for cloud storage, biometric authentication, and digital signatures. In fact, even for personal use, you can buy a laptop with free DOS or without Windows for a cheaper price and install Ubuntu on it. You get access to the free Ubuntu app store. While the apps may look different, it is just about getting used to.

The Defence Ministry has set a deadline of the end of 2023 for installing Maya OS on all its registered computers. The new indigenous OS is also expected to be deployed for systems used by the Army, Navy and the Air Force in the near future.