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War on Error

John E. Dunn

Here's a crazy security idea - ditch Windows for Ubuntu 10.10 Linux

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Worried about online banking? Here's one option.

After some days with the latest Ubuntu Linux desktop release, I was planning to devote a few graphs to extolling its many virtues.

This is not a hard exercise because Ubuntu 10.10 is exemplary, about as good as it gets at doing the main things desktop operating systems were originally invented to do.

It’s refined, uncluttered, comes with plenty of apps for most people and, most of all, it’s stable and fast. It runs happily in 1GB of RAM, something no version of Windows has done since the obsolete XP. There’s even a netbook edition with larger icons.

The software model has legs too, giving away the OS itself and making money from add-on apps and services, which is arguably the future of software in the part of the world that is not Microsoft. Digital rights management, what digital rights management?

Then there is the promise of a Windows client, which would make it possible for users to integrate their files with a Microsoft machine using Canonical’s Ubuntu One cloud. For power users, this could be an important development and should arrive within weeks or months.

But forget all of this because there is another reason that people should consider Ubuntu 10.10 and its successors, which turn up every six months in a rolling upgrade. It is pretty secure.

Security might sound like a rather prosaic reason for getting down with Linux but we have now passed the point of no return with Windows whether we like it or not.

Every single day, a wave of sophisticated and automated exploits hit users through websites, browser flaws and spam, and there’s simply no way to stop them any longer, even with antivirus. They are being targeted so well even governments can’t stop them. Just ask Iran.

These overwhemingly affect Windows, which is not to be complacent about other operating systems, simply to note the reality that criminals attack Microsoft users because they outnumber everyone else by at least 20-1. Ridiculously, just to make the 'attack surface' even larger, the OS exists in several distinct versions, 2000, XP, Vista and Windows 7.

I recently wrote a feature on ways consumers can protect themselves against online bank exploits such as the Zeus Trojan but it occurred to me that that the simplest way to reduce the likelihood of attack is simply to abandon Windows altogether for that application.

Load Ubuntu on a spare PC or laptop - it’s not hard to do - and access your bank using the Linux version of Firefox.

There are inconveniences and the odd niggle to running Ubuntu - no Microsoft apps and a smaller choice of software in specialised categories - but most of the time this is really not a big issue unless the user needs a specific app or plug-in.

It is an inconsequential price to pay for running an operating system that reminds us how the world could have and should have been had we not let the Windows monoculture drag us into its universe of expensive mediocrity.

If using Ubuntu protects the user from stealth-keylogging, it might also save users a heap of stress.
People need to hear this message.

Link: Ubuntu 10.10 setup guide.


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