How to set up my Linux OS to protect my privacy
Across the web, companies often offer ways to make your personal computer more private, which link to apps or settings for your Windows or MacOS system. Rarely, however, do I find guides to making a Linux based system more private.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, Linux is mostly private out of the box. You don’t find a lot of Linux Operating Systems functioning with spyware or surveillance capitalist tools in them. Another is that Linux does not have a major market share, so you’re certainly writing to a smaller audience, and one that is likely already more tech savvy. Lastly, there are so many different Operating Systems that you might think you need to write several guides to do it properly.
Even with privacy out of the box, there are some things you can do to make your Linux system more private. This guide will not focus on Tails, Qubes, Arch Linux, or other more advanced systems. Rather, it’s a user guide for those using Ubuntu or its various flavors, Fedora, Elementary, and otherOSes marketed towards larger audiences.
1. Choose Full Disk Encryption when Installing your Linux OS
When you’re first installing your Linux OS, you will be asked to set up the disk and then prompted to install full disk encryption. You will need to pick a strong password you can remember. When you first turn on your system, before it will even load the OS, you will be prompted to enter this password. I strongly recommend it being different to your user password.
This ensures only you, or someone with the password can access the data on your drive. If your computer is lost or stolen, nothing on the drive will be accessible without this password.
2. Install and Enable a Firewall
Install Gufw, a graphical user interface for your firewall. This makes using the firewall and controlling it much easier, especially if you’re not as comfortable with the command line.
This will allow you to block incoming connections on certain ports, allow outgoing on others, and vice versa. While the default settings will be perfect for most users, the advanced settings will allow you to make adjustments for certain connections.
3. Keep Your Linux Operating System Up to Date
This is universal for all OSes, but you need to run your updates. This is important to update the applications, the OS, the Linux Kernel, and it patches any security vulnerabilities.
Most OSes come with a graphical updater, but in case it doesn’t you can easily update via the command line.
On Ubuntu, simply run “sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade” and this will display all the upgrades about to take place. You can then approve or deny them. If you want to simply install updates, no questions asked, simple run “sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y”
On Fedora, you can just run “sudo dnf update” and it will run your updates. Just like Ubuntu, you can add “-y” and it will not ask your permission.
For those of you using Flatpak apps, be sure to run “flatpak update” to update those apps as well.
4. Install Startpage Privacy Protection Extension on your preferred browser
Once installed and running, the most important thing you can do is to install Startpage Privacy Protection to ensure invasive trackers are blocked on every site you visit thereby offering you the most private browsing experience.
These are the basic settings you can use to ensure you have a private experience using Linux. While some advanced users may offer more tips, the average users threat model does not call for extremes to protect your privacy.
Dan Arel is a privacy and digital rights activist, founder and curator of ThinkPrivacy.ch, as well as an award-winning journalist, and best-selling author. His work has appeared in the Huff Post, OpenSource, Hacker Noon, Time Magazine, and more. You can follow him on Twitter @danarel.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Startpage.