You could say that CopperheadOS is to mobile Android-based Unix-like system software what SEL and Tails are to desktop Linux distributions. While CopperheadOS has offered a security-hardened version of the kernel coupled with an efficient sandboxing system that helps to prevent unauthorized access, it looks like the operating system’s future might very well be in question.
Apparently, the CEO of the company behind the operating system has had an unfortunate disagreement with the primary developer. Daniel Micay, who has worked on the code for the secured distribution, claims to have been fired by CEO James Donaldson.
Most of the details are difficult to discern at this point, though Micay claims that he wanted to eventually move away from Linux security altogether. His ideas had something to do with pairing custom software with a custom kernel built to run on specific types of hardware in order to prevent the need to offer a ROM to users of unlocked phones that could modify their bootloaders.
These ideas might have been considered rather startling because of the fact that very few consumer-oriented devices use something other than the Linux or NT kernels. Nevertheless, there’s certain a market for devices that can transmit secured email messages so it would have been interesting to see what sort of infrastructure was being worked on.
While there is still some hope in the open-source community that all those involved with the project can come to terms, the userspace code for CopperheadOS still seems to be issued under a non-infomercial license. This has helped to fuel hopes that other developers might also help to continue to provide updates for those who run a secured version of the Linux kernel on mobile devices.
The current operating system continues to support a number of mobile devices, including several versions of Google’s Pixel. However, it’s unclear as to how long over-the-air and sideloaded update packages will continue to be available considering what the distribution is going through. It seems that APK and F-Droid packages are still supported at the moment, though, which is good news for those who continue to need a secure and private mobile environment.