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[Software] Best Linux distros for privacy and security in 2021


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Website screenshot for Qubes OS(Image credit: Qubes OS)

2. Qubes OS

An extremely secure distro, with an innovative user experience

TODAY'S BEST DEALS

VISIT SITE

REASONS TO BUY

+Security by isolation

+Radically different yet usable

+Well documented

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Qubes has established itself as arguably the most popular security-centric distro. It works on the principle of Security by Isolation and makes intelligent use of virtualization to ensure that malicious software doesn’t infect other parts of the installation. 

 

Qubes uniquely isolates several essential elements of the operating system inside different virtual machines, called qubes. An individual instance of an app is restricted within its own qube. Thanks to this arrangement you can run Firefox in one qube to visit untrusted websites and another instance of the browser in a different qube to transact online. A malware ridden website in the untrusted qube will not affect the banking session.

 

Thanks to its radically different approach, Qubes does have a learning curve. However it isn’t abrupt enough to prevent you from using the distro like a normal Linux installation. Qubes is based on Fedora and uses the Xfce desktop environment. But instead of a list of apps, its application menu lists several qubes such as work, personal, untrusted, each of which rolls the individual apps inside them.

 

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Website screenshot for Septor

 

(Image credit: Septor)

3. Septor

Routes all traffic over Tor

TODAY'S BEST DEALS

VISIT SITE

REASONS TO BUY

+Routes all traffic through Tor

+Several privacy tools

REASONS TO AVOID

-Relatively new support infrastructure

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Septor is produced by the Serbian Linux project, which also produces a general purpose Linux distro for Serbian language speakers. Based on Debian’s Testing branch, Septor uses the KDE desktop environment and is one of the newest distros in this guide that’s only had a handful of releases.

 

To earn its privacy credentials the distro routes all Internet-bound traffic through the Tor anonymous network. Earlier, the distro used a launcher script to fetch the latest Tor release from the Internet, but now bundles it by default.

 

In addition to the Tor browser, the distro also includes a couple of tools that are designed for use over the Tor network. There’s the anonymous file-sharing program called OnionShare and the Ricochet instant messaging client. 

 

Besides the Tor tools, the distro also has a few other privacy and security enhancing programs such as the Sweeper utility to clear the cache and temporary files, VeraCrypt encryption software and the Metadata Anonymisation Toolkit (MAT).

 

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Website screenshot for Tails

 

(Image credit: Tails)

4. Tails

The official distro of the Tor project

TODAY'S BEST DEALS

VISIT SITE

REASONS TO BUY

+Anonymizes connections using Tor

+Can be used from an encrypted USB

+Firefox equipped with privacy plugins

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Tails (which stands for ‘The Amnesiac Incognito Live System’) is probably the most well-known privacy-focused distro. It can be run from a DVD in Live mode whereby it loads entirely into your system RAM and will leave no trace of its activity. The OS can also be used in ‘persistent’ mode where your settings can be stored on an encrypted USB stick.

 

All connections are routed through the anonymity network Tor, which conceals your location. The applications in Tails have also been carefully selected to enhance your privacy – for example, there’s the KeePassX password manager and Paperkey, a command line tool used to export OpenPGP secret keys to print on paper. There are also a small number of productivity apps such as Mozilla Thunderbird and the powerful LibreOffice suite.

 

The distro ships with a number of desktop applications such as LibreOffice, GIMP, Pidgin, Inkscape, Audacity and Thunderbird. You can also utilize the Synaptic Package Manager to flesh out the Gnome-powered distro. Any packages you choose to install aren’t made available at subsequent reboots, unless you configure persistent storage.

 

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Website screenshot for Whonix

 

(Image credit: Whonix)

5. Whonix

Harness the power of virtual machines to stay safe online

TODAY'S BEST DEALS

VISIT SITE

REASONS TO BUY

+Connections routed via the anonymous Tor network

+Many privacy-specific apps preinstalled

REASONS TO AVOID

-VM performance isn’t as fast as local installation

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Booting a Live operating system is a nuisance as you have to restart your machine, while installing it to a hard drive means there’s a risk of it being compromised. Whonix offers an elegant compromise by being designed to work as a virtual machine inside the free program Virtualbox. 

 

Whonix is split into two parts. The first ‘Gateway’ routes all connections to the Tor network for the second ‘Workstation’ part. This hugely reduces the chance of DNS leaks which can be used to monitor what websites you visit. 

 

The OS has a number of privacy-conscious features. These include bundled apps such as the Tor Browser and Tox instant messenger.

 

As it runs in a virtual machine, Whonix is compatible with all operating systems that can run Virtualbox. Virtual machines can only use a portion of your real system's resources, so Whonix will not necessarily perform as fast as an OS that has been installed to a local hard drive.

 

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