Privacy and security are great concerns for internet users these days – due to hack attacks which steal user data, and the increased storing and monitoring by governments and corporations of user data. Windows and Mac operating systems have some protection in place in the form of antivirus software, but many internet users are choosing to use additional options like a VPN (virtual private network) or the Tor browser (which allows anonymous browsing). Linux distros are also available, and these prioritise privacy and safety for net users. Some utilise several tools to protect privacy, whilst others include security software as standard. Each distro has a different focus on privacy and/or security, so we’ve put together a list for you to consider the best options and what suits you!
- Qubes OS
“Qubes OS is for advanced users – not for beginners! It’s one of the top of the range privacy-conscious distros, and requires an encrypted graphic installer to install the OS to your hard drive,” says Eve Solomon, a tech writer at Academized and Revieweal.
Some key features include high-risk apps being confined to separate virtual machines, sandboxing used to protect system components, and using a number of virtual machines to organise your computer around ‘work’, ‘personal’ and ‘internet’ and so on. That means if you download malware to your work machine, your personal files won’t be affected! Colour coded windows are used to tell the machines apart.
Tails offers a different way to stay safe online – by using the Tor network. All connections run through this network, concealing your location, and the OS can be in ‘live’ mode which allows a DVD to run the program and run in your system without leaving any trace of its activity. You can also store your settings on an encrypted USB stick.
Tails is the most well-known privacy focused distro, and a popular choice.
- BlackArch Linux
This penetration testing distro hails from Arch Linux, which may be good or bad news depending on how well you know the Linux OS! This package contains over 2,000 different hacking tools, allowing you to use whatever you need without having to download new tools each time. It’s always being updated, can be run from a USB stick or CD, or installed in your computer.
Kali is an industry standard penetration testing distro. It’s one of the most popular in the world and contains hundreds of tools!
“Named after a Hindu goddess, Kali has been around for a long time – but it’s still updated weekly, can be run in live mode or installed to a drive, and can also be used on ARM devices like Raspberry Pi,” says Franklin Bate a Linux blogger at UKWritings and Best UK Essay Services.
There’s also a training suite called Kali Linux Dojo, where you can learn how to customise your own Kali ISO and learn the basics of pen-testing. All of these resources are available on Kali’s website, free of charge. They also boast a paid-for pen-testing course which you can take online, with a 24-hour certification exam. Once you pass, you’re a qualified penetration tester!
IprediaOS are based on Fedora Linux and, like most OS’s, can be run in Live mode or installed to your HD. Ipredia, like Tails, routes all your connections through an anonymous network – rather than Tor, they use an 12P network. This is a concept known as ‘garlic routing’, where 12P establishes one directional encrypted tunnel to protect your data. Theoretically, this is even safer than Tor’s ‘onion routing’ which transmits data over established routes which can be targeted.
12P doesn’t, however, give access to regular sites. Its features include anonymous mail, BitTorrent, and the ability to browse special domains with an extension .i2p. By only accessing these eepsites, your connection will always be untraceable
Sometimes you don’t want to have to use a Live OS – you’ll have to restart your machine, and that’s a pain every time you want to use it! Installing it on your HD, however, leads to the risk of the OS being compromised. Whonix offers a compromise – it’s a virtual machine that works inside the free program Virtualbox.
Whonix is split in two – the first ‘gateway’ routes all connections to the Tor network. The second ‘workstation’ part follows. This reduces the chance of DNS leaks which reveal which websites you visit!