Five tips for keeping your Ubuntu desktop safe

Jack Wallen
Dec 20, 2010
Updated • Dec 5, 2012

So you finally made the plunge and have a brand spanking new Ubuntu Linux desktop. You feel far more superior and safer than you did prior to using Linux. So much more safer you feel like there's nothing more you need to do to keep your machine and your data safe. And relatively speaking you are correct, but I want to make sure you know that there are things you can do to make sure that machine is as safe as it can be without having to unplug the machine from the network.

To that end, I offer up five tips that will ensure that Ubuntu Linux desktop is safe and secure. These tips are all such that any level of end user can undertake them without having to take classes in PCs or Linux administration.

Use solid passwords

As of 2010, the most common passwords used are:

  1. 123456
  2. 12345
  3. 123456789
  4. Password
  5. iloveyou
  6. princess
  7. rockyou
  8. 1234567
  9. 12345678
  10. abc123

It should be obvious that anyone and everyone must avoid using the above passwords. What is not so obvious is how most users ignore the pleas of software manufacturers, administrators, and everyone in between to use secure, unique passwords. Even though the Linux operating system is a solid environment, you are not exempt from this. Because Linux is a multi-user OS every user should have a very unique password. These passwords should follow the standard requirements:

  • Upper and lowercase letters.
  • Include a number.
  • Include special characters such as #,!,$.

Use more than one username

Linux is a mult-user OS. If you have more than one user on your system, make sure that each and every user has a log in. Unless dictated by need, do not have a general user account that everyone uses. If you use a single account, everyone will have access to each users' data. To set up new user accounts click on System > Adminster > Users And Groups to take advantage of the user-friendly GUI tool.

Update your software

There is a reason updates occur. In many instances, those updates are often security driven. Because of this, you will not want to make a habit of ignoring updates. You will know, right away, when an update is available as it will appear in your notification area. When this happens, click on the icon, enter your sudo password, and allow the updates to complete.

Install a firewall

Just because you are using the Linux operating system, doesn't mean you are immune to hacks and attacks. It's always better to err on the side of safety by adding a firewall on top of your system. To do this, open the Ubuntu Software Center, search for "firewall" (no quotes), and install the firewall tool that best suits your needs (GUFW is a good choice).

Lock your screen/no auto login

This is something I always set. When your screensaver starts up, by default the behavior is to lock the screen. Do not disable this behavior as it opens up your desktop to nefarious behavior when you are away from your desktop. In the same vein, you should also not enable the auto login feature. Yes, it is quicker when starting up your machine and less of a hassle than having to enter a password - but auto-login is nothing more than inviting users other than you to get into your files and view files they shouldn't view.

Add 'em up

If you follow those simple tips your Ubuntu (or any Linux desktop) will be much safer than it would be if you ignored them. These tips can also, for the most part, apply to just about any operating system. The key is to use your computer intelligently to help avoid attacks of various types.


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  1. Gordintoronto said on December 21, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Tip 1: back up your data! Hard drives eventually fail.

    Gufw is actually a graphical front-end for the iptables firewall, which is included with Ubuntu.

  2. llewton said on December 21, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    What, no purchasing of anti-malware software worth hundreds of euros that eats up your resources while running? And that’s just to try and often fail to keep your computing safe? Tsk, tsk, this Linux must not be a serious operating system…

  3. Ariszlo said on December 21, 2010 at 12:26 am

    And either do not download .deb packages from, or if you do then check it with Archive Manager before installing:

  4. NOYB said on December 20, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Anyone who uses “password” as a password isn’t thinking.

  5. asdf said on December 20, 2010 at 9:41 pm


    rockyou, really?!?

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