Guest Post: How to Keep Your Ubuntu Computer Safe


By Dr. Muhammad Saleem, PhD


There are few tips which can make your Ubuntu experience pleasant and safe. Here is a list of recommended precautions and instructions to remain safe.


1.            Avoid automatic login

Security+ Guide to Network Security FundamentalsDo not use the automatic login procedure until you are dead sure that no other person can access your system (probably you are the only guy in town). Here the procedure to disable this option.
·         Click System, Administration and then Login Screen.
·         Press Unlock and provide the password when asked. This will unlock the settings.
·         Now check the Login As and choose the username to login with.
·         Press Close and your system settings will be invoked on next reboot.

2.            Separate accounts for each user


If your system is used by multiple guys, it is safe to create account for every one of them. Use System, Administration and then Users and Groups to create more users. You must have root privileges to do this.

Warning: Do not keep your working screen unlocked. If you want to have chat with your friend for few minutes, lock the screen by pressing (CTRL+ALT+L). Just clicking mouse or a key on return will allow you to enter the system on provision of the required password.

3.            Keep your software updated

Like windows, Ubuntu guys keep fixing the bugs and allow you to update your software through Internet. Update Manager automatically starts as soon as it detects that a security update is available. Otherwise, a message will be displayed on weekly basis to allow you to update the other software.

A pair of blue arrows in the panel shows that the system needs to be restarted for completion of updates installation.

4.            Firewall setup

ZyXEL ZyWALL USG20 Internet Security Firewall with 4 Gigabit LAN/DMZ Ports, 2 IPSec VPN, SSL VPN, and 3G WAN SupportIt is one of the important security measures and should be in place when you are connected to the Internet. Uncomplicated Firewall (UFW) is a program bundled with Ubuntu through which you can configure the firewall. Its graphical version is GUFW.
  • Run GUFW by Applications, Administration and then Firewall Configuration.
  • Check the box adjacent to Enabled under Actual Status, your firewall will be activated.
  • By default, it does not allow any program to access the Internet. You have to add exceptions.
  • To add exceptions, click Add button at the bottom of GUFW window.
  • It will bring Add Rule dialog box with three tabs: Preconfigured, Simple and Advanced. Preconfigured brings up the common option for common programs/services. Otherwise, you can use Simple/Advanced to add port exceptions.

You can also monitor your network traffic using Wireshark(http://www.wireshark.org/) or Snort( http://www.snort.org/).

5.            Avoid Cyber crimes

Every now and then, you shall get a spam(offering the services which most probably you don’t need), scam(someone is at the bottom of a hell and requesting you to pull him up) or Phishing  email(bank or other websites asking for your personal details). Here is a set of recommended actions.

·         Never reply to these emails or visit the links provided in email.
·         Do not disclose your personal details e.g. credit card number to any insecure website. Certain web browsers identify the sites which are safe / security threat e.g. Firefox.
·         Only install and download the software from a trusted website. This is one reason the use of Ubuntu Software Center / Synaptic Package Manager is recommended to install applications. They only get them from the trusted repositories.

6.            Backup your personal documents

Clickfree Automatic Backup 1 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive HD1035 (Metallic Silver)Let us come to the reality which no one likes to face. On one cool morning, while singing your favorite song, you switch on your laptop and your singing swings away immediately. Your laptop has no hard disk or probably it may have crashed for one or the other reason. So be prepared for it and the best security measure is to keep the backup of your personal documents to some external device e.g CD, hard drive etc. Alternatively, you can use Simple Backup Suite provided with Ubuntu.
·         Start it by clicking on System -> Administration and then Simple Backup Config.
·         Enter the root password when prompted. You can select any backup mode under the General tab. The recommended backup setting is an easy way to go.
·         The personal documents of all the users will be backed up on daily and weekly basis to /var/backup.
·         Click Save to save your new settings. Immediate backup can be launched by clicking on Backup Now, choose Close otherwise.
·         To restore backups, choose System -> Administration and then Simple Backup Restore.
·         Choose the files and folders you want to restore, click Restore and confirm your choice. If you want to get files/folders restored to a different location, please choose Restore As. Change the permissions of the restored files/folders because, by default, they are owned by the Linux boss – the root.

Editor's Note: Dr. Muhammad Saleem has done PhD from the Center for Advanced Studies in Engineering, Islamabad, Pakistan. He spends his spare time writing as a freelance writer. He is also the author/co-author of several research publications in the area of Ad Hoc networks

The article above does not reflect the opinions, observations and recommendations of Dannybuntu.com and are the views of the author. Always confirm information before you do something with your computer.