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Old 06-08-2015, 11:30 AM   #1
wishwell
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Which newbie friendly distros have good security?


I need a few distro recommendations, based on what my level of expertise with Gnu/Linux is:

I've been a Windows user for years, first XP, then 7. I am a non tech guy, just an average user that surfs the web a lot, sometimes downloading a picture, a movie, or, rarely, a game. I've used the Windows Firewall together with a free antivirus like Avira and rarely had a problem with viruses.

I've decided to switch to Gnu/Linux recently, due to various reasons. I tried Mint and liked it, after having some problems booting with a "nomodeset" parameter that took me a few hours of web search solutioning!

Apart, from that, I could read the install guides and install it. I can even handle the terminal a bit, but nothing too fancy. I am still a total newbie that prefers a nice software store, although I've had some success with Synaptic too.

I like reading about Gnu/Linux and heard about the recent problems with systemd. I didn't understand the technical details much, but after reading some articles about systemd, I concluded it's best to avoid using such distros for now.

So, here I am. I need advice about a good distro that will let me have at least the same level of security protection I already had in Windows with Avira installed.

What I need from a distro:

1. Stability (as in bug free)

This is my main concern, since I prefer to be able to properly log into desktop and resume my work whenever I boot the system again. That is one reason why I prefer to stay away from rolling releases, or distros that make the users willy-nilly testers of new bugs or software features. Count me out. I'm not an expert and can't afford to fix breakages unless I specifically create them with a plan in my mind

2. Security

I need a distro that provides good security features out of the box, without compromising the stability and ease of use of my system.

(NOTE: I'm aware that the best security measure is the user itself, that's why I've told you already what kind of desktop user I am; and that won't change. I need useful answers that actually have distro names in them, otherwise please let's not waste each other's time. Thanks in advance.)

As I said, I want something at least as secure as my old Windows with Avira. At the same time, I don't want to go into something too techy enhanced, since that again is counterproductive in my case. Dealing with complex system configurations is not what I'm interested right now (could be in the future, but not at the moment).

I know that Tor takes a toll on browsing speed, so that's why I will use it only when needed. Mainly I will use Firefox with NoScript.

Having ClamAV available from the distro repositories is a must, since I consider it is a decent enough replacement for Avira (good for any downloaded files I might exchange with friends), plus it's FOSS, and I prefer FOSS whenever possible.

3. Knowledgeable, friendly, helpful community with good ethical principles

I consider this very important since if I ever needed help with anything, I know I could find it. Also, there will be more chances of me becoming eventually involved in the project if the community is kind.

4. When possible, prefer ease of use over time wasted configuring

At the moment, I want a nice enough distro that I could enjoy using, with none to average initial configuration. In time, I might become more interested in exploring how things work under the hood, but for me the first good impression is paramount.

5. I will need a 64 bit distro, with as light a DE as possible, without going below LXDE. And 90% of my apps would be: ClamAV, Firefox, LibreOffice, Wine, PlayonLinux, SMPlayer or VLC, a good iso mounter, VirtualBox, Subtitle Editor, Ekiga or Jitsy, Kolourpaint. I'm trying to avoid bloated distros.

..........................

Thank you very much for any useful answers. Heavens bless you.
 
Old 06-09-2015, 08:43 PM   #2
frankbell
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Any of the major distros should meet your requirements. Given the high-value you place on stability, I'd be inclined to recommend Debian, Slackware, or Mint 17.x (which is an LTS--long-term support--release).

Slackware comes with six desktops/window managers out-of-the-box, ranging from TWM (the most basic) to KDE. I normally use Fluxbox. However, once you've installed any distro, you can install and use whatever GUI interface you prefer. (These is no need to remove the GUI interface it came with; you can switch back and forth between them whenever you wish.)

(Slackware has an undeserved reputation for being difficult to install, I think because it does not offer automatic partitioning of the target drive; once you partition the drive, the installation is straightforward and highly annotated, but it doesn't have any fancy slideshows to look at while it does its job. Slack does expect you to do your homework.)

A few comments:

Security is baked into how Linux works as Linux, like Unix, was built with networking and the related dangers in mind.

In Linux, firewall capability is part of the kernel (it's called iptables); it's not a post-install add-on. Some distros come out of the box with a GUI application for configuring the firewall; some do not. This article gives a pretty good introduction: https://www.digitalocean.com/communi...your-linux-vps

Users generally do not receive administrative (root) privileges by default (and there is no right-click to "Run as Administrator"); users must consciously assume root privileges. Many distros will not allow you to log in initially as root, but require you to use su or sudo to assume root privileges or require you to enter a password when you wish to access an administrative function. If you are using your computer as user, that means that a rogue application, such as trojan, cannot take administrative actions because user does not permission to access administrative actions or applications.

As regards anti-viruses, many expert Linux users do not use an antivirus, though AV programs are available for Linux. There are currently no Linux viruses in the wild and have not been for many years. What vulnerabilities that do exist depend on the user doing something, like clicking on a bad link or going to a dodgy website: phishing, occasional browser vulnerabilities, and the like.

Ubuntu has a pretty good introduction to Linux security on their website: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/BasicSecurity

Last edited by frankbell; 06-09-2015 at 08:58 PM.
 
Old 06-09-2015, 10:18 PM   #3
mralk3
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If you are looking for stability, you won't find anything out there like Slackware. Despite what people write and recommend about Slackware, you will find it will run out of the box, without issue. Just follow the documentation and you will have a running system in an hour or less with all required applications to be productive.

I recently switched to Slackware from Debian, and can say that Debian is not as stable, nor is it as secure as it once was when I started using it in 2004. With Slackware, I was surprised how easy it was to get a working system.

As far as customization goes, Slackware is shipped with software that is the same (or as close as possible) to the upstream sources. This means that you get to decide how the system is tweaked/customized (if you decide to customize), instead of your distribution deciding for you.

Many distributions of Linux out there that come with the attractive shiny outer shell, have developers making decisions for the end user. I find this annoying and I usually end up having to undo a lot of those decisions. More importantly, the whole reason to use FOSS software is that you get your freedom to do whatever you want, how you want to do it.

Regarding anti-virus... Unless you are sharing files with Windows machines, serving email via an email service to Windows hosts, or running an FTP server sharing files with Windows, you will not have a need for an anti-virus in any Linux distribution. While Clam AV is excellent, it's mainly meant as a preventative measure to keep Linux hosts from forwarding viruses, worm, malware etc on to Windows hosts. If you are using a patched operating system, you will never have cause for being compromised- just be sure to keep using Firefox with noscript + adblock add ons.

Set up iptables properly, make sure to update your system daily, and read your distributions documentation. Do those three things and you will keep your productivity. You will be a happy Linux user for years to come.
 
Old 06-09-2015, 10:26 PM   #4
jefro
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Not sure any distro is secure by default. You generally have to learn some best practices.

Stable would have a lot to do with your system. Almost no computer is sold tested on linux.
 
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Old 06-10-2015, 04:23 AM   #5
TobiSGD
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I know I will get flak for that again, but I will say it nonetheless: If a person asks for a distro that offers security with a minimal amount of tinkering and a software store than Slackware is not a distribution to recommend. Slackware has in the past ceased to provide security updates for the current stable version without any notice, so that the users had to roll security fixed packages their own. This is not at all what the OP asked for.

@wishwell: With ruling out systemd from the start you also have ruled out the majority of desktop distros out there. Seeing your needs I would have recommended Debian or openSuse, but both nowadays use systemd. You may want to wait until Devuan (a systemd-free Debian) gets its first release, other than that you will have to use either distros that need some amount of tinkering when installing packages/administering the system, like Slackware (with regards to what I said above) or Gentoo. You might also want to try PCLinuxOS, a systemd-free distribution aimed at ease-of-use (they offer a LXDE version), but it is a rolling release distribution.
 
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Old 06-10-2015, 06:09 AM   #6
veerain
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Security and newbie friendly are more of opposite each other.
 
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Old 06-10-2015, 09:08 AM   #7
Ihatewindows522
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wishwell View Post
I need a few distro recommendations, based on what my level of expertise with Gnu/Linux is:

I've been a Windows user for years, first XP, then 7. I am a non tech guy, just an average user that surfs the web a lot, sometimes downloading a picture, a movie, or, rarely, a game. I've used the Windows Firewall together with a free antivirus like Avira and rarely had a problem with viruses.
Congrats.

Quote:
I've decided to switch to Gnu/Linux recently, due to various reasons. I tried Mint and liked it, after having some problems booting with a "nomodeset" parameter that took me a few hours of web search solutioning!

Apart, from that, I could read the install guides and install it. I can even handle the terminal a bit, but nothing too fancy. I am still a total newbie that prefers a nice software store, although I've had some success with Synaptic too.
So far, Ubuntu or Mint sounds like it's right up your alley.

Quote:
I like reading about Gnu/Linux and heard about the recent problems with systemd. I didn't understand the technical details much, but after reading some articles about systemd, I concluded it's best to avoid using such distros for now.
Quite honestly it doesn't matter much unless you're trying to run things that rely on it, such as Unity 8.

Quote:
So, here I am. I need advice about a good distro that will let me have at least the same level of security protection I already had in Windows with Avira installed.

What I need from a distro:

1. Stability (as in bug free)

This is my main concern, since I prefer to be able to properly log into desktop and resume my work whenever I boot the system again. That is one reason why I prefer to stay away from rolling releases, or distros that make the users willy-nilly testers of new bugs or software features. Count me out. I'm not an expert and can't afford to fix breakages unless I specifically create them with a plan in my mind
Ubuntu 15.04 is one of the most stable release I think I've ever used. 12.04 was pretty solid, but did have some major bugs that were few and far between. Fedora is alright, but be prepared to be fixing little things along the way if you decide for Fedora.

You're not going to get a perfectly stable OS. It's simply not going to happen. Yesterday I unplugged a flash drive from a Windows 8 machine, and it blue screened. So considering that I haven't had a kernel panic on Linux in a couple years, I think you'll be really happy with Linux.
There are occasional crashes of applications, but overall it's more stable than Windows.

Quote:
2. Security

I need a distro that provides good security features out of the box, without compromising the stability and ease of use of my system.

(NOTE: I'm aware that the best security measure is the user itself, that's why I've told you already what kind of desktop user I am; and that won't change. I need useful answers that actually have distro names in them, otherwise please let's not waste each other's time. Thanks in advance.)

As I said, I want something at least as secure as my old Windows with Avira. At the same time, I don't want to go into something too techy enhanced, since that again is counterproductive in my case. Dealing with complex system configurations is not what I'm interested right now (could be in the future, but not at the moment).
Well, that's not too hard. You can delete the hashes out of the Windows SAM file and log right on in. You can't fix that.
On the other hand, Linux has it's little glitches and flaws, but those can be patched. Prime example:
http://www.tecmint.com/how-to-hack-y...-linux-system/
As far as threats from the net, you're going to be just fine with any distro as long as you keep it updated.

Quote:
I know that Tor takes a toll on browsing speed, so that's why I will use it only when needed. Mainly I will use Firefox with NoScript.
I highly recommend AdBlock Plus and Ghostery.

Quote:
Having ClamAV available from the distro repositories is a must, since I consider it is a decent enough replacement for Avira (good for any downloaded files I might exchange with friends), plus it's FOSS, and I prefer FOSS whenever possible.
Just checked and Ubuntu has it. Most mainstream distros should. Not like you need an AV for Linux yet, no point in slowing your system down.

Quote:
3. Knowledgeable, friendly, helpful community with good ethical principles

I consider this very important since if I ever needed help with anything, I know I could find it. Also, there will be more chances of me becoming eventually involved in the project if the community is kind.
I think you found one.

If you need more technical help, unix.com is the place to go. Those guys are hardcore, so just make it clear you're a n00b.

Quote:
4. When possible, prefer ease of use over time wasted configuring

At the moment, I want a nice enough distro that I could enjoy using, with none to average initial configuration. In time, I might become more interested in exploring how things work under the hood, but for me the first good impression is paramount.
This is an all to common misconception about Linux. You don't need to configure anything before you can start using it. (Unless you're using Gentoo) What you do need to do is install software, and you're going to need to do that no matter what OS you use! Ubuntu has the software center, Fedora has an app called Software, and openSuSE has YaST. All three provide very simple, easy application management.

Quote:
5. I will need a 64 bit distro, with as light a DE as possible, without going below LXDE. And 90 of my apps would be: ClamAV, Firefox, LibreOffice, Wine, PlayonLinux, SMPlayer or VLC, a good iso mounter, VirtualBox, Subtitle Editor, Ekiga or Jitsy, Kolourpaint. I'm trying to avoid bloated distros.
Unfortunately most of these "light" distros (like TinyCore or Puppy) is that they are meant for the hardcore build-it-from-scratch people. Most any machine (Raspberry Pi included) can run Ubuntu without a hitch. You can get a feel for Ubuntu here, and this will be pretty similar to most any distro (except, like Gentoo or Slack).

Quote:
Thank you very much for any useful answers. Heavens bless you.
You're welcome. Welcome to the Linux community!

Last edited by Ihatewindows522; 06-10-2015 at 09:12 AM.
 
Old 06-11-2015, 10:32 PM   #8
frankbell
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TobiSGD View Post
Slackware has in the past ceased to provide security updates for the current stable version without any notice,
I don't want to seem querulous, but could you please some examples of Slackware's ceasing to provide security updates?

It is contrary to my experience, which is that Slackware has very occasionally been a little slower than some other distros in pushing out updates, but I cannot recall a time at which it stopped doing so.

Inquiring minds want to know.
 
Old 06-12-2015, 12:09 AM   #9
mralk3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TobiSGD View Post
I know I will get flak for that again, but I will say it nonetheless:
Why do you say it if you know you will get flak? You wouldn't get flak if it was true.

Quote:
If a person asks for a distro that offers security with a minimal amount of tinkering and a software store than Slackware is not a distribution to recommend.
Actually, out of the box, Slackware provides security as well as minimal configuration. It doesn't require any more configuration than say, Ubuntu or even Windows. As far as tinkering goes, you will not find an operating system out there that doesn't require some form of it. You will always have to tinker to achieve the look, feel, security, or software zen you require. What really matters is if the operating system agrees with you and your daily use.

Quote:
Slackware has in the past ceased to provide security updates for the current stable version without any notice, so that the users had to roll security fixed packages their own. This is not at all what the OP asked for.
Even if this this was true, it is trivial to download a build script from any of the Slackware mirrors and build your own package from upstream sources. Building a package for any of the distributions of Linux is time consuming, painful, and requires the builder to know quite a bit about the package build system for said distribution. The advice you should be sharing is: Every distribution will require a package to be rebuilt or a kernel to be compiled from time to time. If you haven't had to build from source, you are doing it wrong.

I've been using Linux since 2002. While I realize that this is not that long of a time in Linux years, I have used countless distributions. This list of distributions includes each of the major, with each type of packaging, as well as many of the derivatives. I feel that my experience as a Linux user provides me with enough expertise to say that Slackware does track security vulnerabilities as accurately and timely as any other distribution.

I know that I have no authority or sway in what goes on in these forums (unlike TobiSGD, who is a moderator). However, it would be nice to see people on these forums providing unbiased information regarding any of the Linux distributions. Doing anything else besides providing objective feedback is a disservice to these forums and to Linux as a whole. If for some reason you had a bad experience with a particular distribution, please share your experience, and explain why you did not like the experience. I believe this is what the original post was requesting anyway!
 
Old 06-12-2015, 03:41 AM   #10
TobiSGD
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frankbell View Post
I don't want to seem querulous, but could you please some examples of Slackware's ceasing to provide security updates?
For example, during the time Mr. Volkerding worked on the last massive update for -current (from February to May) there were no security updates for the stable branch, despite there being CVEs for several packages, including vulnerable software that faces the net, like Firefox. During this time Slackware users had to rely on the work from fellow member mancha to be warned the users about security problems and had to roll their own fixed packages. This was also pointed out by member cwizardone and I think it was long-time Slackware user hitest who mentioned that this was not the first time something like that happened.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mralk3
Why do you say it if you know you will get flak? You wouldn't get flak if it was true.
I don't get flak for is because it isn't true (it is true), but because some Slackware users react oddly to criticism of Slackware, even if it is true.
Quote:
Even if this this was true, it is trivial to download a build script from any of the Slackware mirrors and build your own package from upstream sources. Building a package for any of the distributions of Linux is time consuming, painful, and requires the builder to know quite a bit about the package build system for said distribution. The advice you should be sharing is: Every distribution will require a package to be rebuilt or a kernel to be compiled from time to time. If you haven't had to build from source, you are doing it wrong.
Distributions like Debian don't require the user to compile packages due to security problems, they have an entire team that work on that for the user, so that the user does not have to concern himself with that.
Quote:
However, it would be nice to see people on these forums providing unbiased information regarding any of the Linux distributions.
You can't get any more unbiased than telling the facts.

Anyways, the OP specifically asked for a distribution that does not fit with what Slackware delivers, so I don't get why people recommend it anyways.

Last edited by TobiSGD; 06-12-2015 at 03:51 AM.
 
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Old 06-12-2015, 03:15 PM   #11
metaschima
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The truth is no distro is secure by default, Slackware included. You need to work for your security, there is no way around that.
 
Old 06-13-2015, 12:50 AM   #12
trevoratxtal
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http://www.pclinuxos.com/
Is a running distro updates all the time, Auto if you require, stable, large repository no systemd.
Download burn and try without committing yourself
trev

Last edited by trevoratxtal; 06-13-2015 at 01:06 AM.
 
Old 06-13-2015, 03:49 AM   #13
Captain Pinkeye
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Xubuntu
Ubuntu MATE
are both good choices for a simple yet efficient desktop
choose the LTS version, they are more stable and even less hassle (and i think the current non-LTS 15.04 already uses systemd)
 
Old 06-13-2015, 05:50 AM   #14
ondoho
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wishwell,

apart from your systemd restriction, ubuntu promises everything you stated - but do they keep it? i tend to think otherwise.

fwiw, i've been using systemd for years now and have no reason to complain.
but i'm not using ubuntu.

i take slight offense at this:
Quote:
prefer ease of use over time wasted configuring
it's the age-old story of user-friendly vs. user-centric. and: more convenience always means less security.
 
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Old 06-15-2015, 05:37 AM   #15
wishwell
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Hi again.

Thank you for answering. I'm not sure about systemd and how exactly will it affect me as a normal user, but, based on some articles I've read, it seems to negatively affect the freedom of Gnu/Linux in general. But again, I don't know much about it and maybe, in the end, I must accept an easy distro, regardless of systemd or not.

So far I've tried a few distros in a Virtual Box. Here's my impressions about them:

1. Mint

I like the out of the box approach of Mint, but I haven't found their forums very friendly. When I needed help with a problem, generally all answers told me to just "put this into terminal", without explaining what those commands do. Only one person really helped me and it was a totally different command than what the others used.

That is partly the reason why I prefer less post install configuring, a good knowledgeable community (where members agree with each other on system commands!), and/or a good simplified install and use guide.

2. Debian

I was impressed by the speed of the Debian LXDE compared to other LXDE distros. I've also read good things about Debian's legendary stability, bug-free-ness and security...

But asking for help in their forums was a waste of time on both mine and the answerers' part. They simply posted links to the official documentation, when I clearly said I've had already been through the documentation and couldn't understand exactly what to do and in what order for my specific case. Even finding where was the iso md5 number was a pain!

3. Salix (mostly also goes for Porteus)

Very nice distro and a great starting guide, but I was disappointed in how they have answered to some of my questions on the forum. When I have asked about the lack of a suspend button in the shutdown menu, they told me how to do it via terminal, while I needed to know how to activate that button in the menu. When asking about how to install ClamAV, somebody told me that I don't need that since Linux security is very great etc. I already heard that line before countless times. They didn't bother to explain me some basic security settings in Linux, even when I've shown them articles referring to the need of such.

Someone even tried to convince me that I don't need a 64 bit install at all!

4. Some other minor, unnamed distros

Somewhat similar experiences as with 3. Salix.

....

I'll give Slackware a try someday when I have more time. But I'm still not sure how reliable it is compared with Debian, which has a larger community of developers.

Even if I manage to install it, I'm not that advanced as to know how to tune Slackware on a daily basis. I don't want to start courses in Computer Science just for normal using an operating system, I'm not that passionate to that degree about it. For the kind of user like I am, a more automatic configure and update process works better.

I would also like to know what experience any one might have had with Mageia. Is it stable and reliable?

Thanks again and best of luck!

Last edited by wishwell; 06-15-2015 at 05:39 AM.
 
  


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