- 1 Introduction
- 2 Other Virtualization Platforms
- 3 VirtualBox
- 3.1 Is VirtualBox an Insecure Choice?
- 3.2 VirtualBox missing features
- 3.3 Unavailable in Debian stable and backports due to Licensing Issues
- 3.4 Arguments for keeping VirtualBox Support
- 3.5 Why Use KVM Over VirtualBox?
- 3.6 Misc
- 3.7 See Also
- 4 References
Whonix ™ is available for:
In an ideal world, Whonix ™ would support all Virtualization Platforms. Theoretically it could be done using libvirt [archive]. Practically libvirt is out of question. libvirt-users Does libvirt abstract each and any vm specific command? [archive] Libvirt does not (yet) abstract some commands Whonix ™ depends on.
Other Virtualization Platforms
In theory, Whonix ™ could run inside any virtualizer, because its build scripts are very modular and extensible. In reality, Whonix ™ has no man power to test other virtualizers. As soon as contributors join the project and maintain support for other virtualizers, support for them can most likely be easily added.
Whonix ™ would need a maintainer to support the other virtualization platform.
- Someone who runs those Test, LeakTests and tests from Protocol-Leak-Protection_and_Fingerprinting-Protection.
- Someone who otherwise looks around if everything is sane.
- Someone who creates, signs, uploads .ova images for the other virtualization platform (such as VMware, KVM, etc.).
Partially Finished Attempts
Is VirtualBox an Insecure Choice?
For greater security, users with suitable hardware and sufficient skill are recommended to prefer Qubes-Whonix ™ (a bare-metal hypervisor) over Type 2 hypervisors like VirtualBox.
The primary reason Whonix ™ supports VirtualBox is because it is a familiar, cross-platform virtualizer which can attract more users to open source (free/Libre) software, Tor and Linux in general. By remaining highly accessible, Whonix:
- Increases the scope of potential growth in the user base.
- Attracts greater attention as a suitable anonymity-focused operation system.
- Increases the likelihood of additional human resources and monetary contributions.
- Allows novice users to easily test Whonix ™ and learn more about security and anonymity practices.
- Improves the relative security and anonymity of Tor / Tor Browser users by offering a virtualized solution.
If you would like to see the old statement, please press on expand on the right.
Whonix ™ in VirtualBox vs Tor / Tor Browser / Torified Applications on the Host
It is recognized that VirtualBox is not an ideal choice; see Dev/Virtualization Platform. However, there are different goals to bear in mind - Whonix ™ is primarily focused on protecting a user's IP address / location.
A common refrain of critics is that VirtualBox is "too weak". This is a theoretical concern and does not have any practical implications at present, since Whonix ™ in VirtualBox is actually more secure than running Tor, Tor Browser or torified applications on the host in many cases; see Whonix ™ Security in the Real World.
It must be remembered that there are no alternatives for a large segment of the population who do not have sufficiently powerful hardware to run Qubes-Whonix ™, or who are technically incapable of running KVM. In this case, it is safer for them to run Whonix ™ in VirtualBox, rather than continuing to utilize Tor on the host. For example, Whonix ™ helps to protect against future proxy bypass bugs [archive] or software which does not honor proxy settings [archive].
The strength of Whonix ™ and virtualization in general is adherence to the security by isolation principle. VirtualBox critics need to objectively consider how many exploits currently exist for VirtualBox and the track record of exploits. Admittedly, virtual machine exploits may become far more problematic in the future, but at present Whonix ™ is considered to provide more security out of the box running in VirtualBox, than not.
Platforms with Improved Security
Anybody seriously considering Whonix ™ for improved security should refer to the Documentation, particularly the Security Guide and Advanced Security Guide entries, as well as supported platforms other than VirtualBox. Whonix ™ is a poster child for the Isolating Proxy Concept [archive] and Security by Isolation [archive].
Many users still default to running Tor on their Windows or Linux host. Whonix ™ is immediately available to this cohort to substantially improve their real world security. Indeed, Whonix ™ is the only up-to-date OS designed to be run inside a VM and paired with Tor, which is actively maintained and developed. Other similar projects like JanusVM [archive] are seriously outdated and no longer actively maintained. 
Whonix ™ cannot serve all target audiences. Users seeking a higher security solution will prefer other supported platforms, like Qubes-Whonix ™. "Hardcore" users may prefer to build their own custom hardened solutions, while still profiting from Whonix ™ research and source code. Hardened solutions like the Hardened Gentoo Whonix-Gateway ™ are more difficult to use and therefore cannot be set as the default installation for Whonix ™.
VirtualBox missing features
Signatures (not important because we offer OpenPGP / gpg signatures):
- https://forums.whonix.org/t/appliance-is-not-signed/4230 [archive]
- https://forums.virtualbox.org/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=94327#p455421 [archive]
The following is non-ideal for verifiable builds, because we have to convert to vdi first:
- export VM using VDI instead of VMDK? [archive]: seems not possible.
- Mount VMDK on Debian jessie? [archive]: seems not possible.
The following is non-ideal, because we can not warn when host operating systems are being used we don't think are the right tool for hosting Whonix ™ VMs:
- VirtualBox uses VMDK version 3. This is non-ideal, because working with these images is difficult.
- Converting these images is difficult.
qemu-img version 1.6.1 (qemu-img: 'image' uses a vmdk feature which is not supported by this qemu version: VMDK version 3, which is a known issue in qemu [archive].As per ) fails with: this [archive], QEMU version equal or bigger than 2.8 should be capable to work with VMDK version 3 disks. TODO: try
- Therefore it is required to convert them with VBoxManage to .vdi first. ( )
Therefore the Free guestmount doesn't support mounting VMDK version 3 as well (because it internally uses qemu-img).(Still true?) It requires proprietary software to mount them, such as the proprietary nbdkit plugin vddk [archive]. We're not aware of a Free Software alternative yet.(Still true?)
- Converting these images is difficult.
When importing VMs these become VDI images nowadays with recent VirtualBox versions.
Quote Whonix KVM:
The VirtualBox developer team have recently taken the decision to switch out the BIOS in their hypervisor. However, it now comes with one that requires compilation by a toolchain that does not meet the definition of Free Software as per the guidelines of the Free Software Foundation. This move is considered problematic for free and open source software projects like Debian, on which Whonix ™ is based.
The issues of the Open Watcom License are explained in this thread [archive] on the Debian Mailinglist. In summary, there are issues surrounding the contradictory language of the license, the assertion of patents against software that rely upon it, and the placing of certain restrictions on software uses. For these reasons, those who care about running FOSS and appreciate its ethical views are recommended to avoid running VirtualBox; also see avoid non free software.
- http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=709899 [archive]
- http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2013/08/msg00057.html [archive]
- "Virtualbox ships a BIOS that requires Watcom to compile from real sources,precompiled copy they ship as well is free but is not the preferred form for modification." http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2013/08/msg00106.html [archive]
- https://lists.torproject.org/pipermail/tor-talk/2013-September/029978.html [archive]
- ticket asking Sybase to fix licensing issues for Watcom compiler [archive]
- ticket asking Oracle to use a compiler different than Watcom [archive]
- This is unrelated to
VirtualBox Oracle VM VirtualBox Extension Pack, which is proprietary, and which was never in Debian.
Arguments for keeping VirtualBox Support
- KVM is not available to Windows users.
- Simplicity, as in: VirtualBox has a VM import GUI feature.
- Available to users not owning computer providing hardware virtualization. (KVM requires that. QEMU may or may not but is unsupported.)
- Due to Windows users and simplicity it leads to greater popularity, which in theory attracts more users, developers, auditors, payments, etc and is therefore good for the overall health of the project.
- Some Windows/VirtualBox users experimenting with their first Linux (Whonix ™) will one day become users who mainly use Linux as their host operating system.
- We have a Whonix ™ Windows Installer which installs VirtualBox Whonix ™ VirtualBox VMs because of these reasons.
Why Use KVM Over VirtualBox?
snapshot_name="before-dev-upgrade" vboxmanage controlvm Whonix-Gateway-XFCE poweroff vboxmanage controlvm Whonix-Workstation-XFCE poweroff vboxmanage snapshot Whonix-Gateway-XFCE restore "$snapshot_name" vboxmanage snapshot Whonix-Workstation-XFCE restore "$snapshot_name"
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