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Secure Your Linux Workstation Now!

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Security writer John "Tränk" Traenkenschuh, CISSP-ISSAP, explores several easy-to-use security improvements you can make to your Linux workstation, using two very popular distributions as models: Ubuntu 11.10 and Fedora 15.

Overall, securing computers is very similar to coding in C: You're never done, because there's always something more you can try. But if you're looking for a secure baseline you can assemble in an hour, you've come to the right place. We're going to look at how to configure your system with a more secure baseline, using Ubuntu 11.10 and Fedora 15 as models. Is there an easy way to try them out, maybe run them side by side? That's another article.

This article discusses a workstation Linux system. What does that mean? A workstation system acts more like a client in that it offers few services, daemons, or business applications running on it. If you're running a website on your laptop, that isn't workstation-grade computing; your security needs are greater, and that's another article. You might have a hybrid model that shares files among the workstations on an isolated network. Securing that system still requires a separate firewall. That, too, is another article.

Introduction

Many people are giving Linux a second look as a laptop-grade operating system. The exciting releases of Ubuntu 11.10 and Fedora 15 make running Linux as easy as running most other operating systems. But as the number of Linux users grow, we must all increase our knowledge of Linux security in order to prevent our Linux systems from spreading a Linux virus or worm that attacks the new Linux-lovin' community.

This article is dedicated to those people who want a lightweight, yet secure client system that surfs the Internet—to check email or websites, for example. You want some basic tips, not advice on system umask settings. The examples in this article are from two Linux systems running Ubuntu 11.10 and Fedora 15. Both are surprisingly easy to install and use. However, both have some security weaknesses you must repair.

Let's get cracking on simple security tweaks you should make.

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