[OT] Browsing the internet... It is safer from Linux?

Peter Alcibiades palcibiades-first at yahoo.co.uk
Sun Oct 31 01:49:05 CDT 2010


I don't know if its safer than current versions of Windows 7 intelligently
used.  It certainly is a lot safer than earlier versions of XP, used as they
came out of the box.

One reason is that desktop linux is a small population and so not being
targeted.  

A second is when you do an install, it will obliged you to set up a root
account and a lmited user account, and your limited user account will not be
able to get at the system files.  A typical example of this is with Rev
sorry LiveCode - download the new version, try to install it, cannot.  Its
not executable, and then, it tries to install itself in /opt and you have to
be root to do that.

A third is that all payload will arrive as being unexecutable, and most of
the time marked read-only.  One of the things you always have to explain to
people when putting in Linux for them is how to change permissions, because
if not, one of the standard questions you'll get sooner or later is that
someone sent me a word processing file and I cannot edit it.  Right, its
marked read only.

So you contrast that with a situation in which for decades everyone used the
internet with administrative prilvileges, all downloaded files arrived
market executable.  Then we had the saga of Explorer and all its holes, all
the Office macros....  

But the real question might be this:  if you were to set up your windows
install to always work as limited user, and if you enable privacy between
user accounts, and finally if you use a dedicated account for all financial
transactions and only use that account to go to a very small number of known
financial sites, and if you have up to date anti virus, are you any more at
risk than on Linux?

I don't know.  I hear of compromised windows installations all the time. 
Admittedly they are not Windows 7 mostly, though I heard of one of these the
other day.  They are not set up like that either, they are the standard
default set-up.  My feeling is that you probably can keep a windows
installation safe, if you work at it, and really keep your protection
software up to date.  Its just a question of what you want to spend your
time doing.  For what its worth, my own decision years ago was to do what
you are suggesting.  I do run XP in a VM for the rare occasions when its
necessary, but almost never connect to the net with it.  I decided that I
could probably keep Windows secure if I worked at it, but that life is too
short, and I the big difficulty was how I would know I had succeeded.

As to one of those risks on one of your links, guest users, well, of course
you set up a guest account on any Linux install, and if people want to use
your machine you sign them on as guest.  You don't allow the guest group to
read any of the other user files, even.  You can wipe and recreate the guest
account as often as you feel the need.  You could do this on windows too,
but no-one does.

Slax is a good live CD distribution.  It might also be worth looking at
Vector live and Zenwalk live - they will be faster than most live
distributions.  I would install Debian Stable if doing a proper desktop
installation.

Once you start using Linux routinely, you will be surprised how little you
need Windows.
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