I recently had to install Linux on my parents’ computer. They’ve been running Ubuntu with LXDE and were NOT happy with it. The desktop configuration kept breaking and sometimes, it wasn’t usable at all. I laid down some basic criteria for the operating system I was going to install:
It must be intuitive and easy to use even for non-technical folks.
No terminal. If I have to use the terminal to set things up, the distribution loses points.
The distro must work out of the box without a problem. Basic applications included should be useful.
Good hardware support.
No trying to optimize performance for hardware. I decided to buy more hardware for better performance.
The fight was between Manjaro, Elementary OS, and Debian(For some Reason). Ubuntu desktop broke far too often for me to even consider it. I eventually settled on ElementaryOS because I’ve been hearing really rave reviews about it and I was unsure about Manjaro because I wasn’t confident enough that my parents could troubleshoot any problems that might crop up.
One thing many people want to achieve with a Raspberry Pi is a functioning simple web kiosk. Combined with a touchscreen, it could potentially replace ATM machines. Yes, it’s high time we switched to low cost, secure ATM kiosks based on easily available commodity hardware. ATM machines and Kiosks mostly run a Windows XP (!?) on a machine that’s configured to launch only one application and in the event the application crashes, the system shuts down and sends an alert to the bank staff. This can easily be done with a Raspberry Pi. The system should have no problem delivering the complete set of functionality, should be fairly easy to deploy, maintain and secure on a large scale and hey, Raspberry Pi is so tiny, we’ll be spoilt for space inside the ATM machine. (More cash, Yay!). I’m not even going to elaborate on the savings on electricity (go figure!).
The idea of this exercise is simple. You start the system and you get dumped onto a web browser with a specific site loaded. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. If the web browser crashes, the system attempts to restart the browser or dies trying
We also need this kiosk thing to be gentle on system resources. So we’ll use lightweight (albeit effective and powerful) applications. The ingredient list is as follows:
Auto Log-in: nodm
Auto X start: we use a simple .xsession file
Window Manager: We’ll be using the full awesomeness of matchbox
Browser: uzbl. Haven’t heard of it? You should totally check it out.
I use ClamAV on my workstations. So what is ClamAV and why is it a big deal? ClamAV [site] is a powerful Free/Open source software cross platform anti-virus framework that is licensed under GNU GPL. It is based on the libclamav library and hence it’s more a framework than a product.
Do I need an anti-virus?
Now some of you *nix users may be asking yourself the obvious question
I’m running Do I need an anti-virus at all?
The short answer is “YES”. The long answer? It depends. While there are not many Linux viruses (virii?) in the wild, that’s only because the authors of malware are only interested in targeting systems with a large user base. Windows desktop user base is larger than Linux currently. That could change if the user-base of Linux increases in size significantly.
There is no silver bullet to security. Security is a mindset. It’s a practice. Having a system that detects and quarantines viruses is a single part of the set of good security practices. Although Linux isn’t prone to virus infections much, it’s a good idea to have a strong anti-virus running for these reasons:
Your system might inadvertently play host to viruses from flash drives
You might have a file server or a NAS server that Windows users connect to
Amazon VPC CIDR (the /16 one) – 172.31.0.0/16 is our example
Ubuntu 14.04 instance launched in a public subnet with EIP attached
EIP of the above machine – 126.96.36.199 is our example
SSH connection to the Ubuntu instance
Setting up the server
We are going to use a distribution of OpenVPN called OpenVPN-NL (http://openvpn.fox-it.com/) because it has more secure defaults than the standard OpenVPN installation that is distributed with Ubuntu. Also, OpenVPN-NL makes use of mbed-TLS (previously PolarSSL) instead of OpenSSL because of its compactness and ease of auditability (is that even a word?). Run all following commands as the root user:Continue reading “Accessing AWS VPC instances using OpenVPN-NL”→
Disk encryption is used to encrypt the entire hard disk or a thumb drive in order to secure and protect the information contained within from prying eyes. For this exercise, we shall be using the program called cryptsetup to encrypt a thumb drive.
In addition to public key encryption, GPG can also be used to password encrypt files. This doesn’t use public/private key encryption but uses symmetric key ciphers like AES or CAST. This can be useful when you simply need to use a shared secret to encrypt or decrypt a file or if you are encrypting a file to yourself for safekeeping.
OpenSSL is cool and all but don’t use it to encrypt information in-situ. It’s a bad idea. OpenSSL is good for generating TLS certificates. It wasn’t intended for file encryption.
Electronic mails need to be encrypted if you need true privacy when communicating. Encryption is the most practical and effective way of fighting surveillance and privacy violations by the state or any malicious actors like intelligence agencies (unwarranted eavesdropping) and black-hat crackers.
Electronic Mail Encryption can be done using the open implementation of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP, written by Phil Zimmermann) called GNU Privacy Guard (GPG) authored by Werner Koch and others.
Creating a public key pair:
A public key pair is a pair of keys: A public key and a private key. As the name makes it obvious, you keep the private key to yourself and give out the public key. You can create a key pair like so: Continue reading “Electronic Mail Encryption”→
Passwords have always been one of the weakest links in information security. Good passwords are hard to generate and remember. Added to that it’s not good practice to use the same password for multiple sites. So one has to use completely random, reasonably long, password that contains upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters (phew). As if all this is not enough, several sites – like those of financial institutions – require you to change your password regularly.
All this can make it very difficult to generate, remember and maintain passwords and store passwords in a secure fashion. In this article, let’s tackle the problems with passwords one after the other.
Hopefully, I’ll cover everything that needs to be covered. If I’ve left off something, kindly point it out and I’ll edit the article to fix it as quickly as possible