Monday, October 12, 2009

Safer Online Banking Using a Live CD

I've been a Linux user for quite awhile now, so using a Linux distro Live CD is second nature for me. For many Windows home users, though, the thought of putting a CD in your tray and using it to do your online banking might seem a bit daunting.

More daunting than trying to recover your identity or money if it's stolen by fraudsters?

The space between convenience and security is rapidly narrowing as cyber-crooks develop potent malware and inventive schemes to steal banking credentials, compromise personal information, and build massive botnets to construct an ever-larger network of exploited Windows machines to advance their nefarious agenda.

Brian Krebs does a great job in his Security Fix blog of detailing the advantages of home users moving to Live CDs for online banking. And it's really not that daunting - put a CD in your tray, reboot your machine, and when it loads, pull up the web browser, do your banking as you normally do, and when you are finished, remove the CD from the tray and reboot, and you're back to your typical Windows installation. No muss, no fuss, no viruses or malware possible.

Brian points out a couple of tips that would benefit newbie Linux Live CD users, like how wireless can sometimes be tricky (plug into your router or broadband modem using a network cable instead) and be prepared for desktops to work better than laptops (funky hardware configurations and drivers are more prevalent on laptops), but if you use one of the newer distros, like the latest versions of Ubuntu, the problems are minimal.

I've recommended this to friends and family, and I'm advising you to consider it too. It's become much too difficult for home users to protect their Windows machines from every possible evil that's lurking. Using a Live CD is one way to get a leg up on the bad guys.

Drop me a note at if you want some tips on which Live CDs work best and where to find them.

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