Portable operating system can protect computer data

In response to your article Thursday on cyber counterattack defense, thank you again for publishing articles on this subject.

Over a year ago (March 5, 2010) I responded to a similar article you published regarding issues with online banking. A solution I mentioned then was to use “Puppy Linux” on a “Live USB” memory stick as the best defense to malware-based crime.

Many of your readers responded with interest and initial offers of help with that project, but the follow up was slight, likely because Puppy was difficult to use. It was different from the Windows experience, and it did not run on Mac computers. Back then, Macs were almost completely free of malware problems, but this is no longer true today.

At that time I predicted banks would soon change their security practices to help deter online fraud. I could not have been more mistaken. Instead, banks took to the courts to make it more difficult for customers to sue them for not providing better online security. U.S. banking regulators just updated their recommendations to banks for electronic banking security practices, but the new guidelines fall short of what many had hoped for.

Recently I’ve been working on a better solution. Ubuntu Linux is a popular, complete, and professional operating system that will seem familiar to both Windows and Mac users, and it also runs on Macs. In fact, the same tiny “Live USB” memory stick can be used to run Ubuntu on both a PC and a Mac, and you can carry your “portable computer” around on the ring with your car keys.

This version can be started in either English or Spanish, and works with either a U.S. or Spanish keyboard. Starting it from a USB memory stick makes it possible to run Ubuntu without in any way altering your computer for “normal” use. Once running, you will find a “Getting Started” document on the desktop to help explain the basics.

By now some readers are likely asking, “Hmmmm, why would he do this?” and “Has he added his own malware?” Those are very good questions and the answers are, “It’s a good project for a retired software engineer” and “No, I did not.” However, for those readers who won’t take my word for it, I provide a step-by-step explanation of how you can do this yourself, starting with a good, clean copy of Ubuntu.

I am confident that using this makes it safe for banking from any computer, and really would use this in an Internet café or hotel lobby, for example. If you are interested in more information, would like to try a copy of this version of Ubuntu, or would like to create your own custom version, visit this link.

Your questions and feedback are appreciated. If anyone can assist me in translating some help pages into Spanish, I would enjoy your help with that.

Christopher Cobb
Hills of Portalón

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