Operating Systems: Desktop

Did somebody say Linux? Yeah, you guessed it. All the best operating systems are based on it. I’m listing all the best ones with enough documentation backing it to get you smooth sailing. I’ll be going in order from least difficult to operate to the most difficult as a beginner.

Tails

This OS was designed to combat surveillance. It is used by activists, journalists, domestic abuse survivors, and anyone else who wants the extra privacy and security. This is yet another Debian-based operating system that has been recommended by Edward Snowden, but also Tor and the EFF. Here’s just a snippet of what it offers for encryption alone:

  • Support for both LUKS and VeraCrypt encrypted volumes (like USB sticks)
  • GnuPG, the GNU implementation of OpenPGP for email and data encyption and signing
  • Kleopatra provides a graphical interface to manage and use GnuPG on text and files
  • Thunderbird has an intergrated OpenPGP feature for encrypted emails
  • GNOME screen keyboard for accessibility, and as a countermeasure against hardware keyloggers
  • MAT to anonymize metadata in files
  • KeePassXC password manager
  • GtkHash to calculate checksums
  • PDF Redact Tools to redact and strip metadata from text documents before publishing
  • Tesseract OCR to convert images containing text into a text document
  • FFmpeg to record and convert audio and video

PureOS

The desktop version of PureOS is a user-friendly option for security fanatics. It is fully auditable and independently verified by experts. Its convergence allows for it to be on both your mobile device and a computer. Here are just a few of the offerings for desktop users:

  • Tilix terminal, which offers advanced features and split panes
  • Security updates, privacy improvements, bug fixes, and new features without compromising overall performance
  • Addition of freedom-respecting patches. This includes removing offending add-ons from various packages and recommendations
  • PureOS has its own browser, PureBrowser. It is a fork of Firefox with additional extensions to improve its security and privacy. It also has additional changes that make it FSF-FSDG compliant
  • It’s based on the Debian Linux distribution, a remarkable OS for developers and ethical hackers (GNU/GNOME)
  • Native support for *.py files

Whonix

As the name implies, Whonix is intended to put a watertight seal on your privacy. It ranks second in our list, and has been critically acclaimed for how it borders on being the most anonymous operating system while still being user-friendly.

  • Best possible protocol leak and fingerprinting protection
  • No IP address or DNS leaks are possible
  • Installation of any software package is possible
  • All applications are automatically routed via Tor, including those which do not support proxy settings
  • Disposable Whonix-Workstation ™ in Qubes-Whonix ™
  • A second, extra firewall protects you by default
  • Hide installed software from network observers
  • Kernel Hardening Settings as recommended by the Kernel Self Protection Project (KSPP)

Qubes OS

This is likely the most popular security-based Linux distro and ranks number one on this list. The purpose of this OS is to be as isolated as possible through compartmentalized virtual machines. An individual instance of an app is restricted within its own qube. You can run multiple elements of an operating system in each. Its nature requires a learning curve, but for those brave enough, it can be rewarding to use Qubes OS.

  • You are not limited to an OS, and can have multiple operating systems running at one time
  • The security of Xen hypervisor when isolating your application instances
  • Can integrate with Whonix for extra security
  • Utilize Split GPG to keep your private keys safe
  • Operate Qubes U2F proxy to use your two-factor authentication devices without exposing your web browser to the full USB stack

I hope this was a useful list for those seeking to explore Linux or their most secure digital life. Always read the documentation and system requirements before installing. Your computer will thank you for it later.

Something missing from this list? Submit your recommendations to ai_alchemist@tuta.io!

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