Linux Distributions

The Top 10 GNU/Linux Distros for Privacy & Security

Linux Distros for Privacy and Security
Written by Martins D. Okoi

GNU/Linux is awesome! Most of its distros are free and open-source and the fun thing about it is the plethora of versions out there – especially if you are someone particular about security and privacy.

Today, we have decided to bring you a comprehensive list of Open-Source distributions with a focus on user security and privacy from which you can choose from.

1. Discreet Linux

Discreet Linuxhides” your data by keeping files offline. Discreete does not offer support for network hardware or even the internal hard drives. Thus, every data is kept offline in RAM or even on a USB stick and it can run in Live mode.

Discreet Linux

Discreet Linux

2. Kali Linux

Kali Linux pen-testing distro is arguably the most popular on the planet! It possesses hundreds of built-in tools. The download page proposes ISOs that are updated as regularly as every week.

Kali Linux can also run in live mode or installed to a drive and also runs on ARM devices such as the Raspberry Pi.

Kali Linux

Kali Linux

3. Whonix

Whonix uses virtual machines in order to remain safe online. Whonix also uses the Tor network for privacy reasons like Ipredia OS and Tails OS.

There is also a selection of already installed applications for you to choose from. Whonix puts your mind at ease with its features whose only purpose is to secure your privacy such as the Tor Browser.

Whonix is well-suited with all operating systems that are able run Virtualbox. Virtual machines can only utilize a part of your real system’s resources. This simply means that the operating system may not be as efficient compared to an OS that has been installed to a local hard drive.

Whonix Linux

Whonix Linux

4. Subgraph OS

Subgraph OS is based on Debian Linux and was designed to be hack-tight as its kernel has been hardened with numerous security improvements.

Subgraph also makes virtual ‘sandboxes’ in which risky apps like web browser run. A particular firewall also routes all outgoing connections via the anonymous Tor network. Every app has to be manually approved of by the user in order to connect to the network and to gain entry in other applications’ sandboxes.

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Subgraph OS has to be installed on a hard drive after which encryption of your file system is a must, and so there’s no worry in writing unencrypted data anywhere!

Subgraph OS

Subgraph OS

5. TENS

TENS stands for Trusted End Node Security and it is an OS approved by the NSA seeing as it was designed by the experts over at the US Air Force.

The generic version of it is designed specially to be run in Live mode with a minimal set of apps so that any malware it picks up during runtime is detached upon shutdown.

It has a ‘Public Deluxe’ version which comes along with the Adobe Reader and the LibreOffice. All versions include a customizable firewall, and it’s also worth noting that this TENS supports logging in via Smart Card.

Tens Linux

Tens Linux

6. TAILS

TAILS stands for The Amnesiac Incognito Live System. After Kali Linux, it is probably the next most popular privacy-focused distros around! Using this distro, you can protect your location (anonymous) while on the Tor network as all your connections are routed through it. Another pro feature of Tails is its ability to run in ‘Live’ mode.

The applications in Tails have been specifically chosen to further protect your privacy. You can download more apps from  Debian repositories via the Command Line but mind you, your Internet bandwidth will play an important role as all downloaded applications will be channeled through the Tor network.

Tails Linux

Tails Linux

7. Qubes OS

Qubes OS is a security-centered desktop operating system that is here to offer security via isolation and it is an excellent distro.

It utilizes the Xen Hypervisor to run numerous virtual machine, making categories such as ‘Internet’, ‘Work’ and ‘Personal’ to better guard your privacy. This means that if you were to download malware onto your PC by any means, your files wouldn’t be at risk.

Aesthetically, Qubes OS uses colors to different virtual machines so that users can easily make selections. Even though it uses a graphical OS installer (which encrypts the hard drive during installation), it is best used by an experienced and avid Linux user.

Qubes OS

Qubes OS

8. BlackArch Linux

BlackArch Linux is an Arch Linux-based penetrating testing distro that possesses many a hacking tools – around 2,000. This means that you won’t have to be downloading every time you need something.

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It is 64-bit Live ISO is larger than 7GB and is updated a few times a year along with brand new ISO images released on a 3 times a year.

You can run BlackArch from a USB stick or CD, install it on a computer or virtual machine, or even onto a Raspberry Pi in order to give you a handy pen-testing computer.

BlackArch Linux

BlackArch Linux

9. Ipredia OS

Ipredia OS is based on Fedora Linux and can be either run in the Live mode or be installed onto your hard drive.

Similar to Tails OS, IprediaOS routes all the connections through the Tor network via an anonymous I2P network to protect your identity and location.

Ipredia OS

Ipredia OS

10. Parrot Security OS

Parrot Security OS, just like aforementioned OS, possesses tons of built-in pen-testing tools from which to choose. Parrot OS is courtesy of the Frozenbox, and just like BlackArch and Kali, its tools are compartmentalized for simplicity.

At least 4GB of RAM is needed for installation and if for some reason you do not have enough space on your laptop, you can use its ‘Lite’ version. You also have the option of running the OS only when you want to use it.

Parrot Cloud is a particular version of the distribution that’s explicitly made to run on a server. It possesses zero UI graphics but yet houses a variety of forensic and networking tools that permits you to run tests remotely. This one, too, is for the Linux savvy gurus.

Parrot Security OS

Parrot Security OS

At the end of the day, any one of these privacy-centered applications will provide you will all the security you need to be confident enough to go online to browse, work, etc.

Have you used some distros we didn’t mention in our list? Or maybe you would like us to check out a couple mention-worthy OSes? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

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About the author

Martins D. Okoi

Martins Divine Okoi is a graduate of Computer Science with a passion for Linux and the Open Source community. He works as a Graphic Designer, Web Developer, and programmer.