13 best privacy-focused alternatives to common Linux software

Ruheni Mathenge Last updated: September 17, 2022 Read time: 10 minutes Disclosure

Linux distros help improve the security of any digital environment. This article tells you about 13 privacy-focused Linux distros that you can try right away.

Sneak peek at privacy-focused Linux alternatives

Linux is probably the only operating system featuring a niche devoted to privacy and security. The Linux distros in this category are not the most popular, but they are instrumental. Most of them are rich in dedicated security apps and tools. In most cases, you will find it very easy to browse via Tor – an anonymous browsing facility. Hence, every privacy-aware user should try at least one of them once in their life to experience online privacy.

Amidst the rising cybersecurity incidents, Linux has become the top choice for privacy-freaks. Today, numerous Linux distributions exist as alternatives to the popular desktop, mobile, and other devices’ operating systems, facilitating privacy-focused online activities.

But, while Linux is the best operating system, if you need to combine security and functionality, one has to ask: are all Linux distros equally good for privacy and security?

If you compare them to macOS and Windows, the answer is a resounding “yes.” But is there a better answer?

This article lists thirteen Linux distributions and tools primarily focused on privacy. Could one of these systems become the next Ubuntu, Android, or Fedora? Time will tell, but if privacy is a priority for you and you’re not afraid to dump Microsoft and Apple systems, here are the best privacy-focused Linux alternatives to change your life.

Top Linux distros for security online – Quick list

If you’re in a rush, here’s our quick list of the 13 best Linux distros for privacy-focused users.

  1. Live Kodachi. A Debian-based live distro that comes with several VPNs included and other traffic tools.
  2. Qubes OS. It’s based on Fedora, and it’s a Xen virtual machine.
  3. Tails. Among the most popular entries in our list, it’s also a live distro that makes sure that nothing of your activities stays recorded once you’re finished with every session.
  4. Kali Linux. The distro, formerly known as BackTrack, is probably the world’s most used penetration testing-oriented operating system.
  5. BlackArch. Another penetration testing suite is similar to Kali but based on Arch Linux.
  6. Parrot OS. Don’t let the funny name prevent you from taking this one seriously. It’s a robust collection of forensic tools.
  7. Septor. A good distro for the KDE fans features a wholly free software environment for security.
  8. Whonix. Its emphasis on virtual computing allows you to work in very well delimited environments so nothing can get out of control.
  9. Alpine Linux. It’s meant to be a general-use distro but includes many exciting privacy features.
  10. Discreete Linux. Discreet features an innovative data management strategy to keep your encryption keys safe.
  11. Heads OS. A lightweight and efficient mini distro that keeps itself to free software alone.
  12. Subgraph OS. It’s Gnome and Debian-based, so it’s a friendly distro for newbies, focused on counterattacking intruders.
  13. Iperdia OS. Almost a general-purpose distro that routes everything you do through I2P software,

A look back at how Linux evolved

Security and stability enthusiasts have always preferred one operating system over others for decades — BSD. However, the OS remains an arcane toy for the highest-level geeks only because it remains a complex tool to master. Though, many hoped that a good desktop BSD version would popularize the system and reach a broader audience (like Linux did). But while many desktop BSD distros have been released throughout the last couple of decades, the lack of drivers and other types of standard software has been its bane. So BSD remains a server operating system. Unrivaled, but otherwise useless.

Since even the most paranoid privacy and security enthusiasts need a computer with desktop functionality, the next step is using the Linux distros.

Red Hat was probably the first distro that turned Linux into a commercial force. But it wasn’t until Ubuntu popped up that Linux became accessible to a broader audience of people who don’t want to compile the kernel whenever they need a new driver.

Then Google turned Linux into Android, making the Linux kernel the most widely used operating system in the world.

Best privacy-focused Linux alternatives – The detailed list

1. Linux Kodachi

Kodachi is a Debian-based Linux distribution with an XFCE environment (a lightweight window manager of Xubuntu fame).

You can run Kodachi from a LiveDVD or liveUSB. The default bundle includes several VPNs and Tor browsing so that you can feel safe from the first moment.

DNSCrypt comes with the distro so that you can mask your TCP/IP protocol. These masks allow you to filter all your online activities through privacy.

Kodachi allows you to encrypt your folders, emails, and instant messages without additional software because all the necessary cryptographic software is already included.

A Kodachi live session leaves no traces in a host system. The system itself cleans out any remaining signs of activity, so even a deep forensic analysis won’t be able to know that it ran on a host system. Yes, we know, this specific feature looks more like a hacker advantage, but Linux is like that almost always.