What I want to achieve is:

  • Minimize damage done if laptop is stolen
  • Minimize damage done if laptop is tampered with while away from it
  • Minimize chance of being compromised while system is running
  • Maximize chance of detection if system is compromised
  • Maximize anonymity on the internet

Security is a tradeoff between usability and risk. This document is for those willing to sacrifice some usability to lower risk. I suspect the contents of this text will become increasingly more valuable as time goes on.

SSH server

Specifically only allow your own user to login. Disable password authentication and force public key authentication.

In /etc/ssh/sshd_config you should add

AllowUsers <username> (remove <>)
PasswordAuthentication no
PermitRootLogin no

Full disk encryption

Disk encryption ensures that files are always stored on disk in an encrypted form. The files only become available to the operating system and applications in readable form while the system is running and unlocked by a trusted user. An unauthorized person looking at the disk contents directly, will only find garbled random-looking data instead of the actual files.

For example, this can prevent unauthorized viewing of the data when the computer or hard-disk is:

  • located in a place to which non-trusted people might gain access while you’re away
  • lost or stolen, as with laptops, netbooks or external storage devices
  • in the repair shop
  • discarded after its end-of-life

In addition, disk encryption can also be used to add some security against unauthorized attempts to tamper with your operating system - for example, the installation of keyloggers or Trojan horses by attackers who can gain physical access to the system while you’re away.


Fill drive with random data to prevent recovery of previously stored data. It also prevents detection of usage patterns on drive.

dd if=/dev/random of=/dev/sda bs=1M

Full disk encryption using dmcrypt + LUKS

cryptsetup --cipher aes-xts-plain64 --key-size 512 --hash sha512 --iter-time 5000 --use-random --verify-passphrase luksFormat /dev/sda2
cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sda2 root
mkfs.ext4 /dev/mapper/root
mount /dev/mapper/root /mnt
mkdir /mnt/boot
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/boot

Edit /etc/mkinitcpio.conf and add encrypt and shutdown hook to HOOKS. Place the encrypt hook directly before filesystem hook. And dm_mod and ext4 to MODULES.

Edit /etc/default/grub and add GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX=”cryptdevice=/dev/sda2:root”

Swap space

No. Instead buy enough RAM.


Set a BIOS password. This prevents cold boot attacks where RAM is immediately dumped after a reboot. It has been shown that data in RAM persists for a few seconds after downpowering.

USB attacks

When a USB device is inserted, the USB driver in kernel is invoked. If a bug is discovered here it may lead to code running:

system("killall gnome-screensaver")

Or it may slurp up all the memory and cause the linux out-of-memory-killer to kill the screensaver process.

USB driver load can be disabled in BIOS. Or you can:

echo 'install usb-storage : ' >> /etc/modprobe.conf 

USB automounting attacks

You lesser beings willing to allow the USB driver to load should atleast disable automounting. Allowing filesystems to automount causes even more potentially vulnerable code to run. E.g. Ubuntu once opened the file explorer and showed thumbnails of images. One researcher was able to find a bug in one image library used to produce thumbnail. He just inserted USB drive and the exploit killed the screensaver.


Set a screensaver with password lock to kick in after one minute. Create keyboard shortcut to lock screen and manually lock when temporarily leaving system. Power down for longer absences.

File integrity

To detect compromised files, file integrity tools can store hashsums of them and let you know if they suddenly change. Obviously, malware can also modify the hashsums. But it helps in cases where malware do not. For the extra cautious, you could store the file integrity hashsums offline or print them out.

AIDE (Advanced intrusion detection environment)

aide -i
mv /var/lib/aide/aide.db.new.gz /var/lib/aide/aide.db.gz 
aide -C


Rootkit Hunter additionally scans system for rootkits.

On a clean system update the system properties

rkhunter --propupd
rkhunter --check --rwo -sk

There probably are a few false positives. Edit the /etc/rkhunter.conf.local and add exceptions for them.

Here is my crontab for these two programs:

30 06 * * 1 /usr/bin/rkhunter --cronjob --rwo
35 06 * * 1 /usr/bin/aide -C



Use a trusted VPN to make ISP unable to see your traffic.


To prevent traffic from accidentially flowing via real physical network interface, you should only allow outgoing traffic to be UDP on port 1194. Also for DNS and DHCP, port 53, 67, and 68 outgoing must be allowed.

Simple stateful firewall

Drop everything in INPUT. Then allow already existing connections. Also allow all to loopback interface.

iptables -P INPUT DROP
iptables -P FORWARD DROP

iptables -A INPUT -i lo -j ACCEPT
iptables -A INPUT -m conntrack --ctstate RELATED,ESTABLISHED -j ACCEPT
iptables -A OUTPUT -o enp2s0 -p udp -m udp --dport 53 -j ACCEPT
iptables -A OUTPUT -o enp2s0 -p udp -m udp --dport 1194 -j ACCEPT
iptables -A OUTPUT -o tun0 -j ACCEPT
iptables -A OUTPUT -o enp2s0 -p udp -m udp --dport 67:68 -j ACCEPT

Save rules into file and have it loaded on boot;

iptables-save > /etc/iptables/iptables.rules
systemctl enable iptables

If your VPN does not support ipv6, then drop all outgoing traffic on ipv6:

ip6tables -P OUTPUT DROP

And add ipv6.disable=1 to kernel line to prevent loading of ipv6 module.


Do not use ISPs DNS server. Unless you want them to see the domains you are visiting.


Put this in /etc/resolv.conf


Preserve DNS settings by adding the following to /etc/dhcpcd.conf

nohook resolv.conf

MAC address

To randomize MAC address and keep vendor prefix:

macchanger -e interface

After boot, set a random MAC address.

Here is an example systemd service which you put in /etc/systemd/system/macchanger@.service.

Description=Macchanger service for %I

ExecStart=/usr/bin/macchanger -e %I


Then to enable it:

systemctl enable macchanger@enp2s0



Sandfox runs programs within sandboxes which limit the programs access to only the files you specify. Why run Firefox and other programs in a sandbox? In the Firefox example, there are many components running: java, javascript, flash, and third-party plugins. All of these can open vulnerabilities due to bugs and malicious code; under certain circumstances these components can run anything on your computer and can access, modify, and delete your files. It’s nice to know that when such vulnerabilities are exploited, these components can only see and access a limited subset of your files.

Create a sandbox with sandfox:

sudo sandfox firefox

Do not install flash or java. Disable webrtc to prevent local IP discovery

For registration forms use a pseudorandom identity and throwaway email address.

Make firefox prefer cipher suites providing forward secrecy.



https everywhere


Many SMTP and IMAP servers use TLS. Not all do. Email is decrypted at each node. End-to-end encryption makes email secure. The most widely used standard for encrypting files is the OpenPGP standard. GnuPG is a free implementation of it.

A short usage summary is:

gpg --gen-key # generate keypair
gpg --detach-sign --armour file.txt # signature
gpg -r 7A2B13CD --armour  --sign --encrypt file.txt # signature and encryption

TLS gotchas

If not all HTTP content is served over TLS, an attacker could inject javascript code which extracts your password. Or simply sniff the session cookie before or after.

The bridge between plaintext and TLS in HTTP is a weak point. The HTTP HSTS header mitigates this particular threat.

If not a ciphersuite with perfect forward security is used, then an attacker can at later point use the server’s private key to decrypt historically captured traffic.

Other stuff

Do not allow other users to read your files

chmod 700 $HOME

Some people tend to use the recursive option (-R) indiscriminately which modifies all child folders and files, but this is not necessary, and may yield other undesirable results. The parent directory alone is sufficient for preventing unauthorized access to anything below the parent.

Put tape over webcam.

Other decent resources

Surveillance Self-Defense