Does the Shin Bet Aka Israel Security Agency Runs Ubuntu?

Fauda banner

Fauda first debuted on Israeli TV in 2015 and has since become an international hit, being even described by Israeli medias as the guilty pleasure of the Arab world. The show follows an elite Israeli counter-terrorism unit conducting undercover operations targeting Hamas militants. It is a compelling look into the Israel-Palestine conflict from both Israeli and Palestinian perspectives, produced natively in both Hebrew and Arabic.

While Fauda has garnered praise for humanizing characters on both sides, it has also faced criticism for portraying the Palestinian viewpoint through an Israeli lens. Regardless of one’s views on the show’s politics, I personally found Fauda to be an enticing thriller providing insight into the complex human stories behind this decades-long conflict.

Fast forward to season 4 episode 4 - no spoilers here - something caught my eye in the background: the Shin Bet officers were using Ubuntu Linux on their workstation computers!

Shin Bet officers using Ubuntu

The familiar desktop layout with the Ubuntu logo in the top left corner makes it clear they are running a tweaked version of the Gnome desktop environment that only comes standard with Ubuntu.

This got me wondering - does the real Israeli Shin Bet actually use Ubuntu for their operations? The show seems to suggest they do, but of course this could just be fiction…

It nonetheless wouldn’t be unheard of for a police force or security service. As far back as 2008, the French Gendarmerie announced a big transition to Ubuntu and the news was widely reported at the time, with the number of 70,000 workstations floating around. To the Gendarmerie, going open source was both a matter of license cost and digital sovereignty. A more recent article seems to suggest the migration ended mid-2014 after successive waves of 10,000 devices migrated each year and a software maintenance contract awarded to Canonical. The same article reports a workstation fleet TCO reduction of 40% - a considerable saving - and the better suitability of that platform to centralized, remote management.

French Gendarmerie on Ubuntu

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to dig up any definitive proof on whether the real Shin Bet also uses Ubuntu or other Linux distros. But the glimpse in Fauda seems to suggest the show’s producers see them as forward-thinking adopters of open source solutions. And even in the security-conscious world of intelligence agencies, open source software can provide benefits over closed proprietary systems in terms of verifiability.

Either way, it was a fun little detail I wanted to point out to my fellow Linux fans out there! Let me know if any of you find other examples of Linux distributions popping up in TV or movies!