Linux-based operating systems have a reputation for being very secure and private. Linux is free and open source, unlike Windows or macOS. This makes your source code more open to scrutiny, making it harder for developers to add any malicious software.
Many Linux distributions also have built-in features and applications to enhance desktop security. But installing a Linux operating system is not the complete solution to protect your desktop.
Fortunately, there are also many free and open source (FOSS) programs that can add more layers of protection to your desktop. These are some of the best Linux apps to keep your computer private and secure.
1. Tor Browser
If you’re worried about online privacy, you might want to stay away from Chrome. Google Chrome is known to collect private data from users, which also applies to Chrome-based browsers like Edge or Opera.
Alternatives like Firefox are good for everyday web browsing with privacy in mind. With the right Firefox privacy add-ons, Mozilla’s browser can be even better at protecting your data online. But if you need to take online privacy to the next level, Tor Browser will do wonders for you.
In great detail, we have shown how you can browse the web privately with Tor Browser on Linux. When you open any web page through Tor Browser, your connection passes through a network of private computers called nodes. This website is designed to hide online traffic from Tor users. The browser and its network encrypt your IP address and block online trackers.
With Tor Browser, you will be anonymous and safer on the web.
Discharge: Tor Browser (Free)
Signal is a cross-platform messaging app that encrypts your conversations. It uses end-to-end encryption to prevent messages from being intercepted by malicious actors. One-to-one messages, group chats, shared files, and calls are all encrypted.
The messenger is mainly made for smartphone users. You can only register with a phone number through the mobile application. But there is also a powerful desktop app available for PC users. Users only need to link their accounts on the mobile app to use the desktop version of Signal.
Signal is simple, secure, and growing in popularity. It is quite possibly the best secure messaging app today.
Discharge: Signal (Free)
Many other encrypted messengers are available for users who may not have a smartphone. Element, with its Matrix protocol, is a powerful alternative and complement to Signal.
Matrix is a free, open source, decentralized online communication protocol. No server has all the data of the conversations carried out in Matrix. Matrix is not an application in itself. Instead, Matrix allows many client messaging applications to use the protocol.
Matrix can also support end-to-end message encryption. But not all Matrix-based apps are equally capable of encrypting conversations.
Element has the strongest encryption capabilities among all Matrix client applications. With its advanced features, the Matrix.org Foundation recommends Element for users who want to get into the Matrix.
Element is also available on all platforms, including versions for web browsers and Linux.
Discharge: Element (Free)
Password managers are essential to truly secure your online accounts. They can be useful when you have 10 or 20 online passwords to keep track of.
It would be unwise to reuse the same password for every online account. Using weak but easy to memorize passwords can also make your accounts vulnerable. There are many common password mistakes that can be difficult to avoid on your own.
Why not have a password manager create and keep your passwords safe for you? Using a well-organized password manager can save you a lot of time and valuable data.
KeePassXC is a powerful offline and open source password manager. The app generates strong passwords and keeps them in encrypted databases. KeePassXC started out as a port of KeePass to Linux, but now works on all platforms.
Discharge: KeePassXC (Free)
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a login method to provide user verification in addition to their password. 2FA is quickly becoming a standard for online security.
Today, there are many ways to authenticate user logins. The most common 2FA login method today is to receive a unique verification code that is sent via email or SMS after entering a password.
It’s convenient to verify your logins with one-time online codes. But it is also vulnerable to email/SMS interception methods such as man-in-the-middle attacks.
If you need a more secure 2FA method, you’ll want to look into authenticator apps. An authenticator app is linked to your accounts so that the app can generate verification codes. It will generate codes that are unique to your accounts at regular intervals.
Authenticator apps do not need to connect with your apps after the first time. An offline authenticator app makes it much more difficult for malicious actors to intercept 2FA verification codes.
There are many 2FA apps out there, but one of the best is a simple app called Authenticator. It connects to your accounts and generates 2FA codes without any problem. It is also free and open source which makes the app more secure for its users.
Authenticator is also listed in GNOME Circle, the GNOME Foundation’s catalog of supported applications.
Discharge: Authenticator (Free)
Obfuscate is an image editor with only two tools: blur and redact. Although it only has a few features, users should not underestimate Obuscate. The app was created to censor images in a jiffy. It has the potential to prevent your private information from being compromised.
Using Obfuscate only requires an intuitive click, drag and drop on an image element that you need to hide. This GNOME Circle app is lightweight and works like other image blurring tools.
Why bother opening and configuring a heavy image editor like GIMP just to hide text on an image? Using the right tool for the right job can save you time, just like Obuscate can save your private data when you share your images on the web.
Discharge: Obfuscate (Free)
7. File Shredder
Every time you “permanently delete” a file, the computer just hides the file and marks it for overwriting. That deleted file will remain intact until new files are written over the old one.
If you need to delete a file forever, you’ll need a tool that will overwrite that file immediately.
Fortunately, Linux users have the shred command to delete files. Normally, you would have to open a terminal to use shred. But with File Shredder, you can use shredding through a graphical user interface (GUI).
This app, like Authenticator and Ofuscate, is also in GNOME Circle.
Discharge: File Shredder (Free)
Need to protect important files with strong encryption and hide them in plain sight? You can do all that with VeraCrypt, an application for creating and accessing encrypted file volumes.
With VeraCrypt, you can create file volumes within container files. You can freely choose the size of the archive volumes as well as the file type of the container file. All file volumes must be encrypted with a strong password and encryption algorithm.
For example, you can create a hidden 4GB encrypted file volume under a container file named Aladdin_1080p.mkv. Put the file in your Videos folder and you have a volume of VeraCrypt hidden in plain sight!
Once created, VeraCrypt file volumes can only be decrypted and mounted through the application. Users can access and write to mounted volumes like any external drive.
VeraCrypt works on Linux but is also available on Windows and macOS.
Discharge: TrueCrypt (Free)
GnuPG is another reliable encryption tool to protect sensitive files and text on Linux. GnuPG is the Linux implementation of the OpenPGP encryption standard. Many Linux distributions have GnuPG installed by default.
GnuPG allows users to create OpenPGP keys. Users can use those keys to encrypt and decrypt files and text. GnuPG is normally used through a command line. But with Kleopatra, you will be able to use GnuPG through a GUI.
Kleopatra is one of the default applications in Tails, a privacy-oriented Linux distribution. You can learn how to use Kleopatra by following the Tails GnuPG tutorial.
Discharge: Cleopatra (Free)
OnionShare is an end-to-end encrypted file sharing app. It uses the Tor network for end-to-end encrypted file transfer.
In order to share files through OnionShare, you need to make sure that you can send end-to-end encrypted messages to the recipient of your file. Once secure communications are established, you can start adding files to share.
When you’re ready, OnionShare will provide you with an address and private key to send to the recipient. Once the recipient has access to the address and password, they can securely receive the files you sent.
Discharge: Onion Share (Free)
Protect your Linux desktop with the right applications
All of these privacy and security apps are not only powerful, but also free and open source. They uphold a key FOSS principle: that privacy and security are a right that everyone should enjoy.
For the benefits they provide, all of these applications are just one of the many ways that Linux protects its users.