Linux-based operating systems have a reputation for being very secure and private. Linux is free and open source, unlike Windows or macOS. This makes its source code more open to review – it becomes more difficult for developers to add any malware.
Many Linux distributions also have built-in features and applications to improve desktop security. But installing Linux OS is not the ultimate solution for protecting your desktop.
Luckily, there are many free and open source software (FOSS) that can add extra layers of protection to your desktop. Here are some of the best Linux apps to keep your computer private and secure.
1. Tor Browser
If you care about online privacy, you might want to stay away from Chrome. Google Chrome is known to collect personal data from users, which also applies to Chrome-based browsers such as Edge or Opera.
Alternatives like Firefox are good for everyday web browsing with privacy in mind. With the right Firefox privacy add-ons, the Mozilla browser can even better protect your online data. But if you need to take your online privacy to the next level, Tor Browser does wonders for you.
We have shown in detail how you can surf the web privately using Tor Browser on Linux. When you open any web page through Tor Browser, your connection goes through a network of private computers called nodes. This network is designed to hide the online traffic of Tor users. The browser and its network encrypt your IP address and block online trackers.
Download: Tor Browser (Free)
Signal is a cross-platform messaging app that encrypts your conversations. It uses end-to-end encryption to protect messages from being intercepted by attackers. Individual messages, group chats, shared files and calls are encrypted.
The messenger is primarily intended for smartphone users. You can register only by phone number through the mobile application. But the powerful desktop app is also available for PC users. Users simply need to link their mobile app accounts in order to use the desktop version of Signal.
The signal is simple, secure and gaining popularity. Possibly the best secure messaging app to date.
Download: Signal (Free)
Many other encrypted messengers are available for users who may not have a smartphone. Element with the Matrix protocol is a powerful alternative and complement to Signal.
Matrix is a free, decentralized and open protocol for online communications. No single server owns all the data of conversations made in the Matrix. The Matrix is not an application in itself. Instead, Matrix allows many messaging client applications to use this protocol.
Matrix can also support end-to-end message encryption. But not all Matrix-based applications are equally capable of encrypting conversations.
Element has the most powerful encryption capabilities of any Matrix client application. The Matrix.org Foundation, with its advanced features, recommends Element to users who want to enter the Matrix.
Element is also available on various platforms, including versions for web browsers and Linux.
Download: Element (Free)
Password managers are essential to keep your online accounts secure. They can come in handy when you have 10 or 20 online passwords to keep track of.
It would be unwise to reuse the same password for every online account. Using easy-to-remember but weak passwords can also make your accounts vulnerable. There are many common password entry mistakes that are hard to avoid on your own.
Why not use a password manager instead to create and store strong passwords? Using a well organized password manager can save you a lot of time and valuable data.
KeePassXC is a powerful open source standalone password manager. The application generates strong passwords and stores them in encrypted databases. KeePassXC started out as a port of KeePass for Linux but now runs across multiple platforms.
Download: KeePassXC (Free)
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a login method that performs user verification in addition to a password. 2FA is quickly becoming the standard for online security.
Today, there are many ways to authenticate users when logging in. By far the most common 2FA login method is by sending a one-time verification code via email or SMS after entering a password.
It is convenient to confirm your logins using one-time online codes. But it is also vulnerable to email/SMS interception techniques such as man-in-the-middle attacks.
If you’re looking for a more secure two-factor authentication method, check out authentication apps. The authenticator app associates with your accounts so that the app can generate verification codes. It will regularly generate codes unique to your accounts.
Authentication apps don’t need to connect to your apps after the first time. A standalone authentication app makes it much harder for attackers to intercept 2FA verification codes.
There are many 2FA apps out there, but one of the best is a no-frills app called Authenticator. It connects to your accounts and generates 2FA codes with no fuss. It is also a free and open source application which makes it more secure for users.
Authenticator is also part of the GNOME Circle, the GNOME Foundation’s directory of approved applications.
Download: Authenticator (Free)
Obfuscate is an image editor with two tools: blur and edit. Although it only has a few features, users should not underestimate Obfuscate. The app was created to quickly censor images. It can protect your personal information from being compromised.
Using Obfuscate only requires an intuitive click-drag-and-drop over the image element you need to hide. This GNOME Circle app is lightweight and works like other blur tools.
Why open up and set up a heavy image editor like GIMP just to hide text in an image? Using the right tool for the right job can save you time – just like Obfuscate can save your personal data when you share your images online.
Download: Obfuscate (Free)
7. File Shredder
Whenever you “permanently delete” a file, the computer only hides the file and marks it for overwriting. This deleted file will remain untouched until the new files are written over the old one.
If you need to erase a file permanently, you will need a tool that overwrites that file right away.
Fortunately, Linux users have the shred command for shredding files. You usually need to open a terminal in order to use the shred. But with File Shredder, you can use Shred through a graphical user interface (GUI).
This application, like Authenticator and Obfuscate, is also part of the GNOME circle.
Download: File Shredder (Free)
Need to protect important files with strong encryption and hide them in a visible place? You can do all this with VeraCrypt, an application for creating and accessing encrypted volumes of files.
With VeraCrypt you can create file volumes inside container files. You can freely choose the size of the file volumes as well as the file type of the container. All file volumes must be encrypted with a strong password and encryption algorithm.
For example, you can create a 4 GB encrypted file volume hidden in a container file called Aladdin_1080p.mkv. Place the file in your Videos folder and you’ll have a VeraCrypt volume hidden in plain sight!
Once created, VeraCrypt file volumes can only be decrypted and mounted through the application. Users can access and write to mounted volumes just like any external drive.
VeraCrypt runs on Linux but is also available on Windows and macOS.
Download: VeraCrypt (Free)
GnuPG is another strong encryption tool for protecting sensitive files and text on Linux. GnuPG is the Linux implementation of the OpenPGP encryption standard. Many Linux distributions have GnuPG installed by default.
GnuPG allows users to create OpenPGP keys. Users can use these keys to encrypt and decrypt files and text. GnuPG is usually used through the command line. But with Kleopatra you will be able to use GnuPG through a GUI.
Kleopatra is one of the default apps in Tails, a privacy-focused Linux distribution. You can learn how to use Kleopatra by checking out the Tails guide to GnuPG.
Download: Cleopatra (Free)
OnionShare is an end-to-end encrypted file sharing app. It uses the Tor network for end-to-end encrypted file transfer.
In order to share files via OnionShare, you need to make sure that you can send end-to-end encrypted messages to the recipient of the file. Once a secure connection is established, you can start adding files to share.
When you’re ready, OnionShare will provide you with an address and a private key to send to the recipient. Once the recipient has access to the address and key, they can securely receive the files you sent.
Download: OnionShare (Free)
Protect your Linux desktop with the right apps
All of these privacy and security apps are not only powerful, but also free and open source. They adhere to the core principle of FOSS – privacy and security is a right that everyone should enjoy.
Considering the benefits they bring, all of these applications are just one of the many ways that Linux protects its users.
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