Security vs. Convenience


Although my intent is not to start the next GNOME/KDE-level war, it seems there must be a happy medium between total desktop insecurity and total desktop unusability. Linux offers so many ways to secure data that it's important to realize it's okay for folks to have different needs and desires. Sure, there are some basic security measures we all should take—things like:

  • Don't write your password on a sticky note fastened to your monitor.
  • Don't leave your e-mail account logged in on a public computer.
  • Keep your system updated.
  • Do have a password.
  • Don't use “password” as your password.

Apart from that, and I'm sure a few other common-sense practices, security is different for different users and different situations. Take the password scenario—it's very good to have a complex password. But, if your screensaver kicks on every three minutes of inactivity and requires you to type that complex password, your security measures have taken you hostage.

Now before I get hate mail (you know who you are, you've likely already started writing a comment here below), let me assure you, I'm not advocating insecure computer practices. What I am advocating is freedom. If I want my laptop to auto-log in, and not lock the screen with the screensaver, as long as it's only my data being exposed, it should be okay. Sadly, when it comes to freedom, we need to let people have the freedom to do dumb things too. And now if you'll excuse me, I need to try to remember my luggage combination, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5...”.

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.

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