The seL4 Microkernel. Security is no excuse for poor performance! The world’s first operating-system kernel with an end-to-end proof of implementation. L4Ka::Pistachio is the latest L4 microkernel developed by the System Architecture Group at the University of Karlsruhe in collaboration with the DiSy group at the. L4 got rid of “long message passing”, in favor of shared memory and interrupt-like IPC. This is great for the kernel – no copying delays and no.

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If done well, formal verification of kernel level services and how these use runtime protection built in hardware can absolutely reduce the attack surface of application level code. CPU manufacturers have been loath to do this for various reasons. Genode is open source and commercially supported by Genode Labs.

Currently Maintained Kernel Implementations

L4Ka Project Microkernels are minimal but highly flexible kernels. On the same day, QNX source code access was restricted from the public and hobbyists. I believe eChronos is just targeted for embedded devices with more constrained hardware. There are efforts to build OSes directly on L4 kernels as well.

Do you mean “seL4 is great”?

The L4 ยต-Kernel Family

Jochen Liedtke set out to prove that a well designed thinner IPC layer, with careful attention to performance and machine-specific as opposed to platform independent design could yield massive real-world performance improvements. Exactly, and then one has to deal with the runtime and GC.

This was demonstrated by team behind Nizza in the paper below with examples including digital signatures, VPN’s, and so on. So even page faults are handled by application code, which IIRC is not part of the current verification.


E1 Distributed Operating System E1 is a distributed operating microernel project based on the concepts of object replication, component model support, and persistence. A new resource-management model that enhances isolation and supports reasoning about it. I’m but a simple application developer but I do care about security and if there were a platform I could develop against that gave me confidence my code was far less likely to be undermined by kernel or TCP stack vulnerabilities I think I’d be encouraged to do a better job of security myself.

But capabilities do solve real application security problems, and this capability system is proven correct.

True, but by having everything on the same memory space, unless a memory safe language is being used, it means the amount of possible exploits is much higher, thus leading to an higher probability of owning the device. For me, SeL4’s verification is important because it can actually provide formal real-time guarantees.

The latter class includes complete virtualised operating systems for legacy support. Comments in this thread also illustrate why it’s hard and frustrating to do constructive work in security. The full verification of seL4 came a lot earlier by about a decade than I thought possible.

L4 was created partly due to how much Mach failed in performance and such. This induced developers of Mach-based operating systems to move some time-critical components, like file systems or drivers, back inside the mocrokernel.

It also runs on Fiasco-UX. But it means that communicating processes have to share some memory pages and cooperate properly.

The MIPS kernel was used heavily for teaching and research. Genode is based on a recursive system structure. It’s a simplified model, but it’s well validated. Workshop papers interesting to L4 microkenel have been added to the L4 Developer’s Bibliography. I won’t pretend to having any kind of statistics on the matter.


The L4Ka team has switched to GitHub for all repositories. Inthe NICTA group commenced a from-scratch design of a third-generation microkernelcalled seL4with the mircokernel of providing a o4 for highly secure and reliable systems, suitable for satisfying security requirements such as those of Common Criteria and beyond.

The researchers state that the cost of formal software verification is lower than the cost of engineering traditional “high-assurance” software despite providing much more reliable results. L4 can be used that way, but in purpose-built systems it can also just be used as a simple stratum on which to build applications directly.

L4Ka – L4Ka Project

Apple will ship million iOS devices in “. I have the impression that it’s mostly poor protocols with default passwords and zero consideration for security that are the problem. As a highly publicized anecdote, the Jeep hack of Miller and Valaseck was done by attacking through microkerel, and replacing the CAN driver code to suit their needs.

Osker, an OS written in Haskelltargeted the L4 specification; although this project focused on the use of a functional programming language for OS development, not on microkernel research per se.

The OKL4 microkernel was also the first L4 kernel with a capability-based access control model. Together these make seL4 the world’s first and still only OS kernel that is provably secure in a very strong sense.