In this article I’ll share one of the strategies I use to protect myself from ransomware, malware, viruses, hackers and every other type of hack attack you can imagine.
It’s really quite easy, all it takes is a small shift in the way you think and behave and the use of some free tools that are available to anyone.
Step 1 – Assume you’re going to be hacked
I’ve been hacking stuff since I was a very young kid, the first thing I ever hacked was a walkie talkie when I was 8 or 9 years old – I turned it into a listening device, then I started hacking CB radios and made them transmit and receive on custom “private” frequencies.
When I was 12 I taught myself assembly language and high level languages on computers, again coding listening devices and key loggers and all kinds of spy stuff. I blame James Bond movies for this, what boy doesn’t want to be a spy with cool gadgets to play with?
Strangely enough my youth was not totally misspent, and I’ve probably had “the” longest hacking career that anyone has had – doing it for the military, government, banks and corporations in all kinds of ways.
I can tell you one thing with great certainty – everyone and everything can be hacked – and there will probably never be a time when THAT’S NOT TRUE
Once you accept the fact it’s not possible to stop a smart, determined attacker then the rest is easy, you just have to shift the way you think.
Anyone that thinks their antivirus, antimalware or antiwhatever is keeping them safe is delusional, and it’s really not their fault – it’s the fault of marketing departments and the need for the companies that make those products to generate sales.
Step 2 – Move your digital life into isolated virtual machines
Assuming a breach is inevitable leads us to the question:
“How do we minimize damage and how do we set ourselves up for a speedy recovery?”
Simple, we split our day to day activities across isolated virtual machines.
Look at the diagram below, for the purpose of this article it represents:
Dark Grey = Your physical desktop or laptop computer
Blue = VMware or VirtualBox
Light Grey = Isolated virtual machine (VM)
Yellow = VM hardware (32-bit or 64-bit)
Orange = VM operating system (Windows or Linux)
Green = VM application (Browser / Word / Excel etc.)
Start with a fresh desktop or laptop computer that has absolutely nothing installed on it other than your preferred Windows 10, Linux or Mac operating system.
Treat yourself to a new computer with as much memory as you can afford or simply back everything up and wipe your existing one.
Here’s what to do next:
- Download and install VMWare Player or VirtualBox or both
- Create and configure multiple VMs
- Backup your VMs onto an external device, and hide it
Why hide the backup drive? Cos, assume you can’t stop thieves! Getting your laptop AND backup device stolen would really suck – wouldn’t it?
I personally use VMWare because for me it seems to outperform VirtualBox when I’m using a Windows 10 base computer running Windows 10 VM’s and Linux VM’s.
“But Arador – multiple Windows 10 licenses are expensive!” I hear you say.
And my response is this “Download, use and fall in love with KDE Neon my friend!”
There are many ways to handle the expensive license issue, you can either install Linux as your base operating system and then create one or more Windows 10 VMs on top of it or you can use Windows 10 as your base operating system and run Linux VMs.
I run Windows 10 with a bitlocker encrypted system drive as my base OS and then have multiple Windows 10 and KDE Neon and other Linux distributions also running encrypted system drives. I also run other hardware with a Linux base and Linux only virtual machines, either way none of my data at rest is unencrypted – always fully encrypt your machines.
Step 3 – Manage your new virtual machine life
Create a VM for every aspect of your digital life.
Have a VM dedicated to nothing but browsing those naughty sites you might browse and download from. Have another VM dedicated to browsing all the news and blog sites you love. Have another VM dedicated to only ever logging in to your online banking, and another for work or business related stuff.
You get the idea! It’s really a lot simpler than it sounds and you don’t have to go through the pain of re-installing the VMs from scratch, you can create a template VM and simply copy it as many times as you need, especially if you learn to love KDE Neon – like I advise.
The benefits of doing this:
- Easily backup entire VMs – makes backups painless
- Easily move your VMs to one or more physical computers
- Easily create new VMs from a template VM
- Massively reduce risk by isolating your daily activities
- Run multiple SVPN’s at once, as many as you want in fact
- It’s actually fun, if you’re a geek like me
One of the biggest benefits of running your digital life in this way is that you’ll be creating “full system backups” without even realizing it, sure you have to copy your VM folder to a backup drive but that’s all you ever have to do, you don’t have to worry about whether or not the backup will work, or worry about reinstalling the operating system because every VM is a complete machine, it’s kinda like copy and pasting an entire physical comuter!
I assure you the time spent learning about VMs and doing this is well worth it.
Step 4 – Learn to love KDE Neon
So I’ve mentioned KDE Neon multiple times. Why is that and what is it?
KDE Neon is the most beautiful, secure, customizable and FREE operating system you will ever use
…and you can create and use as many VMs your heart desires, and it WILL desire.
KDE Neon is based on the Ubuntu Linux distribution, but it looks and feels absolutely nothing like the Ubuntu desktop – which quite frankly, in my personal humble opinion – is ugly, clunky and slow as molasses.
Ubuntu desktop will never be as good as KDE Neon, BUT the underlying Ubuntu operating system is awesome, stable and well supported and has the largest community of developers behind it and for that reason I love the Ubuntu operating system.
The main reason I’m recommending KDE Neon in this post is because it’s the perfect Linux desktop OS for Windows / Mac users to use.
In fact, I love KDE Neon so much I created a video just for you that demonstrates one of my VMs in action so have a look and let me know what you think. The VM in the video is configured with 2GB RAM, 20GB disk and runs 2 SVPN’s which allows me to switch my Internet connection between Canada, the UK and US.