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I was wondering, is it possible to create a fully volatile computer, with no permanent memory at all (not even in the BIOS), that will be loaded on each boot from a read only live CD?

Such that in order to hack me and spy on my computer, you will need to hack me every single time that I restart the computer.

Have you heard of this kind of solution?

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    If they can leverage a vulnerability against you once, they will simply leverage it again the moment your computer restarts – Torin Feb 9 at 12:54
  • @Torin Agreed, but if I connect each time in different physical place, to different network - it will be less likely – Danny Cohen Feb 9 at 15:19
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    The Tails Live CD does this – paj28 Mar 11 at 17:05
  • The BIOS must exist, or you cannot even boot. – ThoriumBR Mar 12 at 2:53
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Many components in a computer (lets say a complete laptop) require some kind of permanent memory to most of its components (graphics chips, memory modules, keyboard etc) in order to function properly. Early in the startup of the computer there is (or could be) voltage regulation issues, startup sequences that is controlled by code that is stored in permanent memory on most of these components. This kind of firmware or early startup permanent memory is usually stored in small memory chips on each individual component. The memory chip could be an EEPROM or similar. Despite the small memory capacity available, that chip be used to store a small piece of malicious code that could allow an attacker to get a foothold once the computer is fully started.

I do not believe that we could construct a, physical, volatile memory-only computer today.

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In effect, this is already done in organisations where every member of staff has a virtual machine, hosted on Citrix or other service. These are usually created every time you power on, and for those who keep their machine on, usually recycled at least once a day to incorporate updates, patches, etc. and to force attackers down more difficult routes to gain permanence.

It has some definite upsides in that arena, which your volatile machine would also have. I think your volatile machine would be less useful, though, for actual business purposes. What will you be doing with a machine with no storage?

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Joanna Rutkowska's "stateless laptop" idea sounds similar to what you're describing. I don't know of any machines available that meets those goals though. The Qubes OS project (which was started by Joanna Rutkowska) seems interested in seeing the idea implemented, but I don't know of any progress.

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It seems that you could just boot from a live CD (read as USB) every time. Tons of Linus distros already do this as you surely know.

The one area that you need to be careful with is peripherals. You might think that you are safe if you boot from volatile every time, but it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to get something into a USB camera for example.

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