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MesaLock Linux: A Memory-Safe Linux Distribution

GitHub Release Build Status Docker Pulls Chat on Matrix IRC: #rocket on

MesaLock Linux is a general purpose Linux distribution which aims to provide a safe and secure user space environment. To eliminate high-severe vulnerabilities caused by memory corruption, the whole user space applications are rewritten in memory-safe programming languages like Rust and Go. This extremely reduces attack surfaces of an operating system exposed in the wild, leaving the remaining attack surfaces auditable and restricted. Therefore, MesaLock Linux can substantially improve the security of the Linux ecosystem. Additionally, thanks to the Linux kernel, MesaLock Linux supports a broad hardware environment, making it deployable in many places. Two main usage scenarios of MesaLock Linux are for containers and security-sensitive embedded devices. With the growth of the ecosystem, MesaLock Linux would also be adopted in the server environment in the future.

To get better functionality along with strong security guarantees, MesaLock Linux follows the following rules-of-thumb for hybrid memory-safe architecture designing proposed by the Rust SGX SDK project.

  1. Unsafe components must not taint safe components, especially for public APIs and data structures.
  2. Unsafe components should be as small as possible and decoupled from safe components.
  3. Unsafe components should be explicitly marked during deployment and ready to upgrade.

Quick Start

You can quickly experience MesaLock Linux in the container environment using Docker.

$ docker run -it mesalocklinux/mesalock-linux


Currently, MesaLock Linux is provided in two versions: live ISO and rootfs. The live ISO image can be used to create a bootable live USB, or boot in a virtual machine. The rootfs (i.e., root file system) can be used as a minimal root image for a container.


Clone MesaLock repository

Clone mesalock-distro and pacakges repositories.

$ mkdir mesalock-linux && cd mesalock-linux
$ git clone
$ git clone
$ cd mesalock-distro

Build in Docker

We provide a Dockerfile for building MesaLock Linux with all dependencies installed. You can build the docker image first and then in the building container environment, you can build packages, live ISO, and rootfs.

$ docker build --rm -t mesalocklinux/build-mesalock-linux -f .
$ docker run -v $(dirname $(pwd)):/mesalock-linux -w /mesalock-linux/mesalock-distro \
    -it mesalocklinux/build-mesalock-linux /bin/bash

The image of building environment are also provided from Docker Hub. You can pull and run the container with the repo name mesalocklinux/build-mesalock-linux.

Build on Ubuntu

You can also build a Ubuntu machine, please install these building dependencies first:

$ # install packages
$ apt-get update && \
  apt-get install -q -y --no-install-recommends \
           curl \
           git \
           build-essential \
           cmake \
           wget \
           bc \
           gawk \
           parallel \
           pigz \
           cpio \
           xorriso \
           fakeroot \
           syslinux-utils \
           uuid-dev \
           libmpc-dev \
           libisl-dev \
           libz-dev \
	   python-pip \
	   python-setuptools \

$ # install dependencies of building pypy
$ apt-get install -q -y --no-install-recommends \
        pypy \
        gcc \
        make \
        libffi-dev \
        pkg-config \
        zlib1g-dev \
        libbz2-dev \
        libsqlite3-dev \
        libncurses5-dev \
        libexpat1-dev \
        libssl-dev \
        libgdbm-dev \
        tk-dev \
        libgc-dev \
        python-cffi \
        liblzma-dev \

$ # install wheel and sphinx
$ pip install wheel
$ pip install sphinx

$ # install Go
$ add-apt-repository -y ppa:gophers/archive && \
  apt-get update && \
  apt-get install -q -y --no-install-recommends \

$ # install Rust
$ curl -sSf | sh -s -- -y && \
    rustup override set nightly-2018-01-14

$ # setup PATH
$ export PATH="$HOME/.cargo/bin:/usr/lib/go-1.9/bin:$PATH"

Build packages, live ISO, and rootfs

After installing building dependencies, you can run following commands to build packages, live ISO, and rootfs.

  • First build all packages: ./mkpkg
  • Build the live ISO: ./mesalockiso
  • Build the container rootfs: ./mesalockrootfs
  • Build a specific package only: ./mkpkg <package_name>

The live ISO (mesalock-linux.iso) and rootfs (rootfs.tar.xz) can be found in the build directory.


MesaLock Linux can be run in real devices (e.g., boot from a Live USB), virtual machines, and docker containers.

Virtual machine

You can try MesaLock Linux with Live ISO or in a docker container. Here are steps to try MesaLock Linux in VirtualBox.

  1. Open VirtualBox and "New" a VM.
  2. In the VM settings, choose mesalock-linux.iso as "Optical Drive".
  3. Start the VM and explore MesaLock Linux.

Docker container

We provide a simple Dockerfile for MesaLock Linux. Here are steps to try MesaLock Linux in a docker container.

  1. Build packages and rootfs: ./mkpkg && ./mesalockrootfs
  2. Build the docker image: docker build --rm -t mesalocklinux/mesalock-linux .
  3. Run the image and expeience MesaLock Linux: docker run --rm -it mesalocklinux/mesalock-linux

The latest rootfs image with all pacakges are pushed to Docker Hub. You can also directly run the image with the repo name mesalocklinux/mesalock-linux.


Hosting web servers

The mesalock-demo package provides several examples and will be installed under the /root/mesalock-demo directory. For instance, we made several web server demos written in Rocket, which is a web framework written in Rust. To try these demos in the VM, please follow these instructions.

  1. In the VM settings, select "NAT" for network adapter and use port forwarding function in the advanced settings to bind host and guest machines. Here we add a new rule to bind host IP ( with guest IP (
  2. Start MesaLock Linux.
  3. Bring up all network devices. Here we use ip command:
$ ip link set lo up
$ ip link set eth0 up
  1. Setup IP address of the network devices.
$ ip address add dev eth0
  1. Run a web server.
$ cd /root/mesalock-demo/rocket-hello-world && ./hello_world
$ # or
$ cd /root/mesalock-demo/rocket-tls && ./tls
  1. Finally, connect to the web server using a browser. In this example, type in in the browser.

You can also try our demos in the docker image directly.

  1. Run the MesaLock docker and export port 8000 to 8000: docker run -it -p 8000:8000 mesalocklinux/mesalock-linux
  2. Run a web server in the /root/mesalock-demo/ directory.
  3. Visit the website in the browser.

Working on machine learning tasks

Rusty-machine is a general purpose machine learning library implemented entirely in Rust. We put several demo examples of machine learning tasks in the mesalock-demo package. You can find them in the /root/mesalock-demo/rusty-machine/ directory.


MesaLock Linux provides many packages with memory safety in mind. All user space applications are written in Rust and Go. Thanks to the open source community, they have crated many useful and high-quality tools. The number of packages will increase as the time goes on.

  • brotli: compression tool written in Rust (dropbox/rust-brotli)
  • busybox: busybox tool set for testing only (busybox)
  • exa: replacement for ls written in Rust (ogham/exa)
  • fd-find: simple, fast and user-friendly alternative to find (sharkdp/fd)
  • filesystem: base filesystem layout (maintained by MesaLock Linux)
  • gcc-libs: GCC library, only is used (gcc)
  • giproute2: ip tool written in Go (maintained by MesaLock Linux)
  • glibc: the GNU C library (glibc)
  • init: init script (maintained by MesaLock Linux)
  • ion-shell: shell written in Rust (redox-os/ion)
  • linux: Linux kernel (linux)
  • mesalock-demo: some demo projects (maintained by MesaLock Linux)
  • mgetty: getty written in Rust (maintained by MesaLock Linux)
  • micro: modern and intuitive terminal-based text editor in written Go (zyedidia/micro)
  • minit: init written in Rust (maintained by MesaLock Linux)
  • ripgrep: ripgrep combines the usability of The Silver Searcher with the raw speed of grep, written in Rust (BurntSushi/ripgrep)
  • syslinux: bootloader (syslinux)
  • tokei: count your code, quickly, in Rust (Aaronepower/tokei)
  • tzdata: timezone data (tzdata)
  • uutils-coreutils: cross-platform Rust rewrite of the GNU coreutils (uutils/coreutils)
  • uutils-findutils: rust implementation of findutils (uutils/findutils)
  • xi-core: a modern editor with a backend written in Rust (google/xi-editor)
  • xi-tui: a tui frontend for Xi (little-dude/xi-tui)
  • more packages in the MesaLock Linux Package project


MesaLock Linux is very young and at an early stage. Some important components are still missing or work-in-progress. Building a safe and secure Linux distro relies on the whole community, and you are very welcome to contribute to the MesaLock Linux project.

You can get involved in various forms:

  • Try to use MesaLock Linux, report issue, enhancement suggestions, etc
  • Contribute to MesaLock Linux: optimize development process, improve documents, closing issues, etc
  • Contribute to core packages of MesaLock Linux: improving minit, mgetty, giproute2, etc
  • Writing applications using memory safe programming languages like Rust/Go, and joining the the MesaLock Linux packages
  • Auditing source code of the MesaLock Linux projects and related packages

You are welcome to send pull requests and report issues on GitHub. Note that the MesaLock Linux project follows the Git flow development model.


If you are interested in the MesaLock Linux project, please find us on the #mesalock-linux or #mesalock-linux-cn (in Chinese) IRC channels at the freenode server and the bridged room on Matrix. If you're not familiar with IRC, we recommend chatting through Matrix via Riot or via the Kiwi web IRC client.

List of our IRC channels:


  • Mingshen Sun <> @mssun


MesaLock Linux is provided under the BSD license.