Editor’s note: This is a guest article by Michał Żygowski from 3mdeb about the history of Qubes OS Summits. Thanks for sharing with us today, Michał!
The next Qubes OS Summit 2022 edition is upcoming. This year it will be held in Berlin from September 9th to 11th in hybrid format, in person and live-streamed for remote access. More details here. Don’t miss the event and more importantly how it started. In the article the history and organizer’s perspective of the event will be described.
How did all of this start?
In May 2019 3mdeb funded Linux training for its employees, having no idea who the instructor will be. At some point, it occurred that the mysterious instructor will be none other than Marek Marczykowski-Górecki, the same person who leads the Qubes OS project. As huge fans of Qubes OS and its approach to security, as also fans of Joanna Rutkowska security research in the area of firmware and computer architecture, we were delighted to meet him in person in our office in Gdańsk, Poland. The time has come when the idea of a short event focused on firmware impact on Qubes OS security has been born. We asked Marek if he has some spare time to discuss firmware impacts on Qubes OS security and he liked the idea. The event has been called humorously a “minisummit”. That is how the first Qubes OS summit started, one day, in a small conference room, with a tiny group of people passionate about firmware and system security, nothing outrageous (in the meaning of scale). One may still read what topics have been discussed here. The main focus was on Qubes OS certification and ecosystem as well as the firmware-related security technologies support like TPM 2.0 and DRTM (Anti Evil Maid). The event helped 3mdeb realize how to get involved in Qubes OS project and help to improve it with our expertise.
The past of Qubes OS Summits
Everyone enjoyed that one particular day so much, that we decided to repeat the event next year. The environment we created together, bending and crossing the event horizon between firmware and operating system, was something wonderful, both to hear and to speak about. The potential we saw in that kind of event, to bring various companies together and collaborate on the project on every possible layer, has been pushing us forward to enlarge the community and introduce more open-source firmware to the Qubes OS world.
Another May has come, the year 2020, the pandemic dominated the world. But it didn’t stop us from holding the event again! It even gave us a better opportunity to attract and gather more people virtually to attend the event. Thanks to our 3mdeb colleagues, who set up the live recording and streaming of the whole Qubes OS 2020 Summit, it is possible to see and listen to the talks given by Qubes OS and 3mdeb experts on Youtube over and over again. From 3mdeb side we continued firmware-related topics, for example first time Qubes OS Anti Evil Maid on AMD platform. It was quite a challenge for us because we have organized such a virtual event for the first time. Fortunately, everything went smoothly and finished with success after 4 sessions 2.5 hours long.
In August 2021 we held yet another Qubes OS Summit together with the Qubes OS team, still virtually, unfortunately. However, this year brought more speakers from other companies and projects, which we were very happy about. There were 2 sessions almost 4 hours each and one may watch the talks at Youtube. This time, the 3mdeb’s stage belonged to Piotr Król (CEO of 3mdeb) who presented his adventures using Qubes OS as an everyday device, talking about USB camera and cryptocurrency wallets. Of course firmware-related topics could not be missing and Piotr also showed continuation of his previous year’s efforts of securing the VMs with SRTM and Secure Boot.
The future of Qubes OS Summits
Finally, the time has come when we may meet together in person, after three years! The Qubes OS Summit 2022 is fast approaching, with only a few days left before the start of the event in Berlin. As it is no longer held only virtually (but still possible to attend remotely for those who can’t be with us in person) the organization is more complicated, both from the logistics and presentations side. Every year we try our best to dig into hardcore security topics on the verge of firmware and operating systems. All this time we have been gradually building plans and ideas, and getting closer and closer to the goal of improving the security of Qubes OS, especially in areas we feel best at, i.e. SRTM and DRTM (AEM). In the upcoming event, we have prepared a few interesting projects and ideas around Anti Evil Maid support and open-source firmware on modern hardware. Here you may find the full schedule. Among others we welcome the following speakers:
- Wessel Klein Snakenborg from Novacustom with a story of open-source on modern laptops as a candidate to Qubes OS certification
- Brent Cowing from Protectli talking about security of his small form factor computers also running open-source firmware
- Jan Suhr from Nitrokey talking about how enterprise requirements tied to Windows can be met with Qubes OS
- Arthur Rasmusson from Arc Compute talking about GPU virtualization and its possible benefits to Qubes oS
- Puck Meerburg from Spectrum OS telling about the power of Wayland for GUI isolation and how it benefits systems like Qubes OS or Spectrum OS
- And everyone from 3mdeb, Qubes OS team, and others
We hope that the event and community around it and the Qubes OS project will grow in the future, bringing reasonable trustworthiness and collaboration for everybody. Definitely, 3mdeb will try its best to co-organize the event in the upcoming years.
By a mere coincidence, meeting Marek Marczykowski-Górecki gave birth to a fascinating series of Qubes OS Summits and led us to this day.
Together with Invisible Things Lab we (3mdeb) are very proud to be the co-organizers of the 4th edition of the event. Looking forward to seeing each other again, but most important to talk and share knowledge and passion with everyone again after a long time.
Many thanks to the Qubes OS team for holding up the tradition with us. See you all in Berlin!