Host Live Mode: Boot the Kicksecure Host Operating System into Live Mode

From Kicksecure

Host Live Mode boot option selected in boot menu. (more screenshots)

Users can optionally run Kicksecure ™ as a live system. FREE Either by using:

This is only available for Debian / Kicksecure based hosts and perhaps their derivatives.

One of the primary objectives of Host Live Mode is preventing malware from gaining persistence and having an unchanged system after reboot. This is also useful for improved storage device privacy as well as experimental changes like testing software.

If you are interested in installation of Kicksecure ™ on USB, see Kicksecure ™ on USB.

Introduction[edit]

A persistent malware compromise after reboot would require targeted [1] malware which gains super user (root) access to re-mount the disk for write access.

It is recommended to regularly boot into persistent mode for installation of updates.

There are two choices:

  • grub-live: Boots into persistent mode by default. The grub boot menu has an option to boot into live mode.
  • grub-default-live setting: Boots into live mode by default. The grub boot menu has an option to boot into persistent mode.

This is also a useful tool for better privacy on the hard drive, as well as experimental changes like testing software.

Installation[edit]

Info Kicksecure ™ users: this procedure is unnecessary because the grub-live software package is installed by default in Kicksecure ™.

For operating systems other than Kicksecure ™), please press on expand on the right.

1. Download the Signing Key.

wget https://www.kicksecure.com/derivative.asc

2. Optional: Check the Signing Key for better security.

3. Add Kicksecure ™ signing key.

sudo cp derivative.asc /usr/share/keyrings/derivative.asc

4. Kicksecure ™ APT repository choices.

Optional: See Kicksecure ™ Packages for Debian Hosts and Kicksecure ™ Host Enhancements instead of the next step for more secure and complex options.

5. Add Kicksecure ™ APT repository.

echo "deb [signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/derivative.asc] https://deb.kicksecure.com bullseye main contrib non-free" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/derivative.list

6. Update the package lists.

sudo apt update

7. Install grub-live.

sudo apt install grub-live

Figure: Persistent Mode Boot

Grub-persistent mode indicator in debian.cleaned.png

Figure: Live Mode Boot

Grub-live mode indicator in debian.cleaned.png

After reboot a new live mode entry will appear in the grub boot menu.

Instructions[edit]

1. Shut down Kicksecure ™.

2. Power on Kicksecure ™.

3. During the grub boot menu wait until you see the following.

Develop a very basic understand of the following screenshot. Consider the explanation below. Expected time requirement: 1 - 3 minutes.

Figure: Persistent Mode Boot

Persistent Mode Boot

The following screenshot shows 4 boot options in the boot menu.

  • Asterisk symbol.png Kicksecure GNU/Linux
  • Advanced options for Kicksecure GNU/Linux
  • Kicksecure Live-mode GNU/Linux
  • Advanced options forKicksecure Live-mode GNU/Linux

The Asterisk symbol.png in the first option indicates that this is the currently selected boot option.

The white text color on the blue background further indicates the currently selected boot option. Other boot options currently unselected have light blue text color.

This is also illustrated by the first option with the Asterisk symbol.png Kicksecure GNU/Linux also being written in white color instead of light blue color.

4. Use the arrow key on the keyboard to switch to live mode.

Figure: Live Mode Boot

Live Mode Boot

5. Press enter.

6. Done.

The system is booting into live mode.

Functionality Test[edit]

Create a new file in your home directory then reboot (assuming you were already booted in the live mode from the boot menu) then restart the computer. You should not see that file anymore.

Comparison[edit]

Table: Comparison of grub-live and Tails

Aspect grub-live on the host [2] /
grub-default-live on the host
Tails DVD only Tails USB / DVD, with persistent USB Tails read-only medium all other writable disks unplugged [3] [4]
Common [5] mode of operation Yes Yes Yes No [6]
Amnesic / protects against disk modifications [7] Yes Yes Yes Yes
Protects against malware persistence on hard drive after malware compromise No [8] No [8] No [8] Yes [8]
Protects against firmware trojans after malware compromise No [8] No [8] No [8] No [8]
Avoid writing to arbitrary (non-boot) host disks ? Yes [9] Yes [9] Yes [9]
Disables removable drives auto-mounting No Yes [10] [11] Yes [10] Yes [10]
Disables swap ? Yes Yes Yes
Disabled virtual machine shared folders No [12] ? ? ?
Wipe RAM on shutdown No [13] Yes, but with limitations. [14] Yes, but with limitations. [14] Yes, but with limitations. [14]
Wipe video RAM on shutdown No [15] No [16] No [16] No [16]
Emergency shutdown on USB removal No Yes Yes Yes
Live Mode Usability [17] Average [18] Good [19] Good [19] Good [19]
Live Mode Indicator For Xfce only. Not yet documented. [20] Unneeded Unneeded Unneeded
Unified Amnesic + Anonymous User Experience No [21] Yes Yes Yes
Easy standard ("everyday") upgrades [22] Yes ? ? ?
Release upgrades [23] possible anytime [22] Yes No [24] No [24] No [24]
Live boot by default
  • grub-live: No [25]
  • grub-default-live: Yes
Yes Yes Yes
Persistent boot by default
  • grub-live: Yes [25]
  • grub-default-live: No
No No No
Full disk encryption compatibility Yes No No No
Encrypted persistence supported Yes Yes [26] Yes [26] Yes [26]

Forum Discussion[edit]

See: Whonix live mode / amnesia / amnesic / non-persistent / anti-forensics

Footnotes[edit]

  1. Re-mounting the disk for write access is not yet a default feature available to off-the-shelf malware; no such reports have come to our attention.
  2. Meaning, grub-live outside of a virtual machine. For grub-live in a VM, see VM Live Mode.
  3. Assuming Tails on a DVD which can only be written to once, not DVD-RW.
  4. Or Using Tails USB with physical, active and effective (non-circumventable by software) write protection switch enabled.
  5. As in a substantial user group willing and able to do this.
  6. This would be a prudent approach but search engines indicate that no or very few users run this configuration.
  7. Excluding malware compromise.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 Once targeted malware is active it can circumvent read-only settings, mount the harddrive, and add malware which becomes active after next boot.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Quote https://tails.boum.org/contribute/design/

    Tails takes care not to use any filesystem that might exist on the host machine hard drive, unless explicitly told to do so by the user. The Debian Live persistence feature is disabled by passing nopersistence over the kernel command line to live-boot.

  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Quote https://tails.boum.org/contribute/design/#index39h3

    Removable drives auto-mounting is disabled in Tails 0.7 and newer.

    https://gitlab.tails.boum.org/tails/tails/-/blob/master/config/chroot_local-includes/etc/dconf/db/local.d/00_Tails_defaults

  11. https://gitlab.tails.boum.org/tails/tails/-/blob/master/config/chroot_local-includes/etc/dconf/db/local.d/00_Tails_defaults contains a configuration for GNOME only. This is reasonable in the Tails context since its default desktop is GNOME and others are unsupported.
  12. Considered a feature or bug?
  13. It might be possible to create a separate package wiperam. Then a meta package amnesia could depend on both grub-live and wiperam to simplify live boot for users.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 https://tails.boum.org/contribute/design/memory_erasure/
  15. https://github.com/QubesOS/qubes-issues/issues/1563
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 https://gitlab.tails.boum.org/tails/tails/-/issues/5356
  17. The user being aware of currently running in live mode vs persistent mode.
  18. Without Live Mode Indicator (see below) it is not obvious to the user if they booted into persistent or live mode. This might lead to a mistake where live boot is not selected from the grub boot menu (persistent mode is instead set), but the user believes otherwise.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Consistently good because amnesia has always has been a core Tails feature. It is obvious to the user that nothing persists except folders that have selective persistence enabled.
  20. https://github.com/Kicksecure/desktop-config-dist
  21. Kicksecure ™ is primarily run inside virtualizers. grub-live is an extra configuration step on the user's host.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Using standard package managers such as apt.
  23. Such as from Debian stretch to Debian buster.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Release upgrade of Tails from lets say Debian stretch to Debian buster is a non-trivial development effort. See also: https://tails.boum.org/doc/upgrade/
  25. 25.0 25.1 Persistent boot is the default option in grub boot menu.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 https://tails.boum.org/doc/first_steps/persistence/index.en.html


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