It’s well-known that Linux users aren’t targeted as frequently by digital threats as users of more popular operating systems. After all, malicious hackers don’t bother making specialized viruses for an OS that’s used by an overwhelming minority.
However, that doesn’t mean Linux users can relax and stop worrying about the numerous cybersecurity threats lurking online. Many dangers can affect careless users regardless of what operating system they use. Therefore, taking extra precautions is paramount, even if you already went the extra mile by opting for Linux.
We compiled a recommended suite of tools that should appeal to any Linux enthusiast. These programs are compatible with most distros, are open-source, and are available for free.
Why is online security important for Linux?
Windows and macOS users are frequent victims of viruses, malware, trojans, and other ill-willed software. Malicious actors make viruses specifically for these systems because they’re the most widely used.
Conversely, Linux users aren’t under threat as much because they take up a small portion of the operating system market. The vast array of distributions makes creating a Linux-specific virus even more challenging.
However, all netizens can become victims of data breaches through no fault of their own. Additionally, online surveillance and digital censorship target everyone regardless of their OS use. Therefore, enhancing your digital protection with specialized tools against these nefarious practices is vital.
You can learn more about personal cybersecurity at the Cool Tech Zone website. It’s how I stay updated on the latest news in security and it’s where I find reviews of security tools and software. It targets all OSes and all users.
If you want to get more specific, you can also follow LinuxSecurity, it’s a website dedicated to Linux security, as the name suggests. The “Advisories” section is quite useful, you can set up what advisories you want to follow depending on what distros you’re using.
And finally, we recommend setting up an RSS feed and adding all the security websites you follow, adding each distro’s and app’s “Security” category feed, etc.
It’s important to always stay updated and learn new things when it comes to security, regardless of the OS you’re using. Following websites is one way of doing it. Preferably setting up an RSS feed, push notifications, or subscribing to their newsletters and reading their backlog.
Recommended security tools for Linux users
There are many specialized tools for enhancing every avenue of your online experience. We’ll briefly introduce you to each category and recommend a Linux-friendly service to cover that area. Here’s a sneak peek at the topics we’ll cover.
It’s better to be safe than sorry regarding digital viruses. You’ll be in heaps of trouble if one manages to infiltrate your device. Meanwhile, a reliable antivirus tool doesn’t have many drawbacks and may even improve performance by cleaning up unnecessary files. Linux having fewer viruses doesn’t mean you don’t need an antivirus.
ClamAV is one of the top open-source protection suites for Linux and other systems. The service is available for free and includes many security features that appeal to Linux users. For example, you unlock a command-line scanner, a virus database updated multiple times daily, and built-in support for various file types. Popular antivirus software like BitDefender does have support for Linux, but in this article, we’ll focus on FOSS software and what Linux users actually use.
An all-too-common issue among internet users is the reuse of passwords. It’s an understandable problem because remembering tens, if not hundreds, of unique passwords can be challenging. On the other hand, that’s a weak excuse when technology can quickly solve this problem. A password manager can securely hold your passwords in an encrypted database and remain out of reach without the master key.
We have two alternatives in this category depending on the degree of security you’re after.
First, we present Bitwarden. It’s a well-renowned freemium and open-source online password manager. The free plan offers all the core functionality, but it’s worth upgrading if you want extras like 2FA and security for multiple users. The self-hosted version of Bitwarden is what most Linux users use.
Conversely, an offline password manager like KeePassXC is ideal if you don’t mind sacrificing convenience for improved security. All your passwords will be encrypted on a device and unreachable via the internet. The majority of Linux users prefer this option.
If you’re wondering if you need a VPN on Linux at all, just read this. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) service gives you the most bang for your buck regarding online security and privacy. It encrypts your online activities, masks your actual whereabouts, and blocks intrusions like man-in-the-middle attacks. Additionally, changing your location with a VPN can remove geographical restrictions and unlock exclusive content from abroad. Most people use the latter feature to enjoy foreign movies and TV shows.
As for an actual VPN recommendation, we recommend Mullvad, ProtonVPN, or self-hosting your own VPN with OpenVPN. We’d single out ProtonVPN. For starters, the service is located in Switzerland, boasts open-source software, and passed an independent audit of its zero-logs policy. The dedicated app is suitable for many distros and supports the WireGuard protocol for excellent connectivity. Naturally, you also gain an impressive array of worldwide servers and security features.
Finally, Proton VPN offers both free and premium plans. The free option is a bare-bones introduction with unlimited data but only a few perks and servers. Meanwhile, the paid subscription is worth the investment if you want state-of-the-art security and top performance.
Most people opt for Gmail to conduct their email communication. Unfortunately, the tech giant keeps the service free by scanning your inbox and serving relevant ads. This practice isn’t a security issue per se but a privacy nightmare. And so, it’s vital to opt for more confidential providers to keep your communications strictly for your eyes.
You’re likely familiar with Proton Mail because we previously recommended its VPN product. Once again, it’s a freemium service with some limitations if you’re frugal, while the paid options unlock excellent bonus features. Whether you need them is up to you.
You may want another alternative if you wish to avoid consolidating all your services with one provider. In that case, consider Tutanota as your go-to encrypted email provider.
Another option that’s somewhat popular with Linux users is self-hosting your own mail server. You’d just need a Linux VPS and follow any guide online on how to set up a self-hosted mail server.
Cloud storage service
Storing your precious files on the cloud doesn’t sound like a great idea considering the potential risks. But the dangers are minimal if you opt for a secure and reliable storage provider.
You may have guessed that we’d recommend Proton Drive due to its free availability, Swiss jurisdiction, and end-to-end encryption. Naturally, you may scoff at the idea of keeping all your eggs in one basket, no matter how well-protected it is. In that case, consider pCloud as a potential alternative.
Again, a popular option for Linux users is self-hosting your cloud storage. You can get a VPS and host Nextcloud yourself, that way, you’ll get extra privacy not having your files hosted on a server you have no control over.
Using a reliable and confidential gateway to the internet is just as important as what you do there. The most popular options, like Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, are well-performing but not necessarily privacy-respecting. Some will flock to Mozilla Firefox as an alternative, but there’s an even better option.
Allow me to introduce you to LibreWolf. It’s a Firefox fork focusing on freedom, security, and privacy. The browser is open-source and based on the latest version of its predecessor for up-to-date performance. Moreover, it utilizes various techniques to reduce tracking and other privacy issues by default.
Another alternative is using the Tor browser or any of the other browsers we recommend here.
Most privacy-oriented browsers will set a worthwhile Google search engine alternative straight out of the box. If not, consider DuckDuckGo as your means of de-googling yourself and minimizing web tracking.
There are a lot more tools we didn’t feature here, like firewalls, monitoring tools, or even security-focused Linux distros. You can check this huge list of security tools to find other tools you can use on Linux.
What tools are you using? If you have any recommendations, leave a comment below.
Conclusion on Linux security tools
Usually, people forgo Windows and macOS in favor of Linux because of privacy concerns and the appeal of free, open-source software. And so, we selected a handful of online tools to improve your overall cybersecurity and privacy further while adhering to the central tenets of Linux.