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Linux Mint – Securing Linux Mint

Initial Configurations of Windows server 2019

By default, your Linux Mint installation is quite stable, benefiting from the latest security updates and a secure open source kernel. As Linux is inherently secure, the state of its security depends solely on the person using it. If you leave your system open, intruders will be able to dive right in, regardless of how secure your underlying environment is. Practicing safe security, including choosing secure passwords, configuring your firewall, and hardening your system are just some of the many techniques you can utilize to strengthen the security of your system. While an entire course on computer security could be a tutorial on its own, this chapter will get you started on the path to taking security seriously.

In this chapter, we will discuss the following topics:

  • Choosing strong passwords
  • Encrypting your home folder
  • Configuring and testing the iptables firewall
  • Installing and configuring ClamAV
  • Blocking access to specific websites
  • Backing up and restoring important data
  • Creating and restoring snapshots
  • Hardening your system

Choosing secure passwords

Many believe that Linux is inherently more secure than the other platforms. While there is an endless debate on either side of this argument, no inherent security can save you if you use weak passwords on your system. What it all comes down to is that having a simple password based on a simple dictionary word would be broken by a cracker in just a few minutes, regardless of how secure your kernel is. A longer password with special characters and differing capitalization may be more difficult to type, but it would be harder for someone to guess it by launching a brute-force attack.

One useful tool that checks the strength of your password is the Password Haystacks tool found on the Gibson Research Corporation website. While it is not specific to Mint or even Linux, it’s a very useful tool you can use to check the strength of your password. There, you can type in the password you’re considering to see how conceivably strong it is against different attack scenarios such as an attempted online crack or offline crack. As you type characters into the text box on the site, you’ll see how each character affects the probability of the password being crackable. You may be surprised to find that your password might not be quite as secure as you may have initially thought. The following screenshot shows GRC’s Password Haystacks tool in action:

Note

To find the Password Haystacks tool easily, simply look for it on Google. If the site shows up as having grc.com in the URL, you’ve got the right tool. The complete URL is omitted here, in case it changes.

For basic password security, it’s important to not use the same password on more than one service. Having a consistent password across many sites may be convenient (only one password to remember), but it’s also dangerous, as a stolen password would give an attacker access to every site that you use. This may seem like common knowledge, but you would be surprised at how vulnerable you might be if a popular service suffers a compromise of its entire password database. Thankfully, there are tools such as LastPass that can assist you with this burden. These tools will remember passwords for various sites, and even give you an option to randomly generate strong, secure passwords. LastPass is a browser plugin; so naturally, it works in Firefox (which is included with Mint) as well as Google Chrome (which you can download for Linux from the Google website).

Note

One useful tip is choosing a password mostly made up of letters that cannot be easily typed without looking at your keyboard. Since you’ll type your password quite a few times until the next time you change it, you can also become a better typist by practicing weak keys at the same time.

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