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Top 10 Linux distributions for privacy and security

If you are serious about protecting your private data from hackers or other snooping eyes, you should start using a security-focused operating system. More tech-savvy users will quickly discover that many Linux distributions (or distros for short) keep your data secure with strong encryption and other advanced security features. However, if you are just starting to take care of your Linux security or are unsure which distro to choose, check out our favorites list below.

Top 10 Linux distributions for privacy and security

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

How to know if the Linux distro is secure

To find out if your preferred Linux distribution is secure, you may need to do some of your own research. If you’re not sure what you should focus on when looking for a secure Linux distro, here are the main things that we recommend checking:

  • Source and development process. When choosing a distro, pay attention to its source. A good choice would be a reputable organization or community that manages the distro and has logs of a transparent development process (for example, regular security updates and timely responses to vulnerabilities).
  • Security features. While Linux’s monolithic structure already provides some extra safety for its users, you can find distros that include additional security tools by default. When looking for a secure Linux distro, consider evaluating features such as kernel hardening, access controls, file system encryption, and secure boot mechanisms.
  • Package management. A secure distro should have a robust package management system with signed packages and repositories. This means that software packages are authentic and have not been tampered with by malicious actors.
  • Security policies. Make sure to read and evaluate the distro’s security policies and practices, including the handling of security vulnerabilities, update distribution, and any security guidelines or recommendations provided to users.
  • Third-party audits and reviews. Independent security audits, reviews, or certifications of the distros’ security features and practices are a green flag when looking for secure Linux distributions.
  • Community and feedback. Finally, when choosing a distro, consider the size and activity of its community. An active and knowledgeable community is among the most credible measuring sticks when picking a secure distro.

Which version of Linux is considered most secure

While it’s hard to pinpoint one Linux version as being the most secure, these are the ones that experts consider to be the best in terms of cybersecurity:


Tails is a Debian-based free and secure operating system that aims to preserve your privacy and anonymity. It uses strong cryptographic tools and routes all the internet traffic through the anonymous Tor network, meaning that nobody can spy on your activities online. Furthermore, Tails stores your data in RAM instead of using a computer’s hard drive and erases all session information when you shut down. You can run Tails on your computer using a DVD, USB stick, or SD card.


One of the top security-focused Linux distros, recommended by various privacy experts. Based on the “security by compartmentalization” principle, Qubes allows its users to classify their online activities into securely isolated “qubes” (virtual machines). If you accidentally download malware to your personal (or other) qube, your work-related data won’t get affected. The qubes are marked with different colors so you can easily switch between them.


This Xubuntu and Debian-based distro has an automatically established VPN connection, Tor browser, and DNScrypt service, providing maximum safety and privacy. Like Tails, Kodachi stores your data in RAM and provides easy setup using a USB stick, DVD, or SD card. While similar to other distros, Kodachi puts extra emphasis on security offering pre-installed tools such as firewall utilities, intrusion detection systems, malware scanners, and encryption tools.


This Tor and Debian-based distribution ensures the user’s online security through isolation. The operating system runs on two virtual machines: Whonix-Workstation is completely isolated and can only talk to the Whonix-Gateway, which routes all your connections to the anonymous Tor network. Such isolation creates additional protection from unexpected DNS leaks and malware attacks. Whonix is designed to work on top of the host OS and gets along with all sorts of programs.

Kali Linux

Kali Linux focuses on various information security tasks, such as penetration testing, security research, and computer forensics. While it’s one of the top choices in terms of security, it’s primarily focused on safety testing rather than general-purpose computing. Kali Linux may not be favorable to mainstream users but it’s still a perfect choice for cybersecurity professionals, researchers, and those willing to spend countless hours trying to understand the ins and outs of network elements and computer science.

Parrot OS

While it boldly presents itself as “the operating system for hackers,” (along with security specialists, Sys admins, or Network engineers) Parrot OS offers a wide range of tools and features for security testing and privacy protection. This distro also comes with built-in support for Tor networking and anonymous browsing, along with rapid security updates, and access to even the oldest hardware.

Subgraph OS

Subgraph OSSubgraph OS is based on Debian and aims to provide high-level security while remaining easy to use even for Linux newbies. Like all distros, it may not implement exokernel or nano kernel features. However, Subgraph OS uses an enhanced Linux kernel and runs key applications in strongly encrypted sandbox environments to reduce the impact of possible attacks. The distro also anonymizes your internet traffic by sending it through the Tor network and has an application firewall to block suspicious outgoing connections. Additional features include an encrypted mailbox and instant messenger for secure communications.

Discreete Linux

Another Debian-based distro, Discreete Linux, primarily focuses on preventing surveillance attacks with trojan software. As a read-only live system, Discreete Linux loses all system changes after the computer is turned off by the user and implements distro developer-signed kernel modules only. While for some Discreete Linux might seem like an online safety overkill, its thorough approach to cybersecurity and user-friendly handling make it more than worthy of being on this list.

BlackArch Linux

Like Parrot OS, BlackArch Linux distribution focuses on penetration testing and security research distribution. A great choice for security professionals and researchers, this distro offers over 2,900 tools for safety and security testing. However, despite BlackArch being well suited for cyber security experts, fresh Linux or ArchLinux users should consider the alternatives (at least, at first) because of the steep BlackArch learning curve.

Alpine Linux

Efficient and simple to use, the Alpine Linux distribution combines its minimalistic design with robust security tools. It provides users with features like grsecurity/PaX patching, hardened kernels, and a minimal attack surface, emphasizing online safety. While you may find options that offer more privacy and security features, Alpine is a great combination for those looking for a user-friendly, secure, and efficient distro.

How can I secure my current distro?

If you are running Ubuntu or another Linux distribution not included in this list, you can also enhance its security by implementing other cybersecurity tools like intrusion detection systems (IDS) or antivirus software. In addition, securing network services with proper authentication mechanisms and monitoring system logs for suspicious activities would also add to your Linux cybersecurity.

To increase privacy and security on your Linux distribution, you should also consider using a VPN to encrypt all your internet traffic. Along with Ubuntu, you can now set up NordVPN on your Linux while using Debian-based and RHEL-based distros. To establish a VPN connection manually, check out the tutorial on how to set up NordVPN on Linux.

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