What in the world is this Linux thing?

Many of you who have looked at our Contributors page, specifically the entry for me, you may have noticed a mention of something called “Linux”. Some of you may have even wondered what this “Linux” thing is, and probably didn’t get a good, straight answer. Well guess what I’m here to do?

To understand what Linux is, we need to understand what an operating system is first.

Operating Systems (OSs) are the system your computer uses to provide a graphical interface, install and use apps, manage files and memory, and basically anything else. Some well known OSs are Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. Each of these handles files, memory, and applications in a different way. Think of OSs as a person’s personality: many people may have similar personalities, despite speaking different languages or having different skills. But, those skills may influence them and how they interact with the world, just like how an app can change a computer and how it interacts with you, your hardware, or the internet.

Most OSs fall under one of two families: UNIX-based, and DOS-based. Some examples of DOS-based systems are Windows (especilly pre-Windows NT), FreeDOS (an open-source implementation of the old MS-DOS operating system), and ReactOS (an open-source, reverse-engineered implementation of Windows systems).

UNIX-based systems can be split further into two sub-families: BSD-based and Linux-based. UNIX was an operating system developed by AT&T at Bell Labs back in 1971. It presented a number of revolutionary concepts to computing, such as pipelines and file descriptors. Unfortunately, UNIX was proprietary, meaning you could not obtain the source code, modify it to do as you pleased, and had to pay for a license to use it.

BSD-based operating systems, like MacOS and iOS, are based off an open-sourced fork of UNIX, known as BSD (BSD stands for Berkeley Software Distribution. BSD was developed at UC Berkeley, hence it’s name). True BSD systems strive to adhere to the UNIX philosophy and provide an open-source implementation of the original UNIX operating system. However, you can find BSD-based OSs that diverge from this norm, such as MacOS and iOS. Many in the BSD and Linux communities do not consider these true BSD-based operating systems because of how many changes have been made to the source code. As such, many consider these more of a distant cousin to BSD-based OSs than a close relative.

Linux-based OSs, also referred to as GNU/Linux or GNU+Linux, are operating systems that use the Linux kernel (the kernel is essentially the beating heart of your OS. Going back to the personality analogy, it’s like the basic capabilities all people have when they are born: basically useless on it’s own. But once you build on top of it you can do a lot more and make a full personality). Linux was created in 1991 by a Finnish student named Linus Torvalds. He took what he saw in BSD and similar OSs, and made his own rendition. He posted it online, as open-sourced code at the encouragement of his friends, and from there it exploded. Today, the Linux kernel has had over 10,000 contributors and is one of the leading competitors to Windows.

But why should you care? You run a Windows computer, and an Android phone. You don’t run Linux.

Oh, yes you do.

If you go on your Android phone into the Settings, and go to About Phone > Software Information, you will see a kernel version listed. It may even say “Linux Kernel Version”. This is Linux. Android is a Linux-based OS (these are often refered to as ‘distros’, however due to Android’s lack of several standard utilities found in Linux distros for desktop and server systems, many do not refer to Android as a “distro”). You use Linux on a daily basis, because developers found it a good fit for Android’s needs for security, stability, and performance.

But wait, you actually use MacOS and iOS. Silly me. You don’t have Android anywhere in your house! But what about that Google Smart Speaker, or Alexa-enabled toothbrush? Yep. Those are running Linux too. Linux can run forever and not crash (assuming it’s not tampered with by a hacker or bad update), making it perfect for smart home devices, routers, and servers.

Wait. Servers you say? Aren’t websites stored on servers?

Yes, Jimmy. Yes they are. Most web servers (98% of all of them in fact, including CYGO, Swivro, and Drauger OS servers) run Linux due to not just the advantages listed above, but also because they are easy to manage and difficult to hack.

But it goes beyond even that.

The top 500 super computers in the world, all Raspberry Pi computers, the International Space Station, the Mars rover Curiosity, SpaceX’s rockets and Dragon capsules, Tesla’s cars, most mainframes, some Wi-Fi routers, the particle accelerators at CERN, and Chromebooks all run Linux in some form or another. I can guarantee that you interact with Linux in some form every day, and you may never even realize it.

Okay. So it’s essentially running the world. Why do you care?

Because it’s coming for your computer too.

Linux performs better than Windows and MacOS in many settings, has less resource usage, is infinity more customizable than almost anything else out there, is easier to to install and uninstall software on, and is easier to develop software for. And as a cherry on top of that beautiful cake, it also has less tracking and telemetry than Windows does (usually. Looking at you Android.) meaning it respects your privacy. And the good news keeps coming because Linux is also more secure than MacOS, which is in itself more secure than Windows.

So why not try it out? Linux is free to use and you can try it off of a USB drive without ever installing it to your computer. You can follow this guide on how to do it to get you started. And, it should apply to almost any Linux distro.

But which Linux distro should you use? There hundreds, if not thousands, of them!

This comes down to personal choice for the most part. But, here are some of my personal suggestions:

Linux Mint

drawing

Linux Mint is a Linux distro aimed at new Linux users coming from Windows. It makes getting used to Linux easy, has a welcoming community, and works decently well on most hardware.

Linux Mint has 3 versions: Cinnamon, MATE, and Xfce. Use the Xfce version on lower-end hardware. Use Cinnamon on just about anything else. If Cinnamon feels slow on your system, but you don’t think your system is all that low-end, try MATE.

Elementary OS

drawing

Elementary OS is a Linux distro with a design inspired by MacOS. For some Mac users, they may feel right at home. It’s aim is to be easy to use while being clean and elegant.

Elementary OS is not as customizable as some other distros, so if you don’t think you will modify Linux too heavily, then Elementary OS may be a good fit for you.

Zorin OS

drawing

Zorin OS is a distro similar to Linux Mint, in that it strives to be easy to use for new users coming from Windows. However, it differs in 3 important ways:

1. Zorin OS is better designed for 2-in-1 and tablet-convertable laptops due to it's larger and more dynamic interface.
2. Zorin OS looks more like Windows 8 or Windows 10, while Linux Mint looks more like Windows Vista or Windows 7.
3. Zorin OS uses slightly more system resources than Linux Mint.

Overall, if you have a new computer or a 2-in-1, but still want that Windows-like desktop layout, Zorin OS is a good choice.

Ubuntu

drawing

Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distro available. It’s desktop, while more unique, is usable on 2-in-1s, tablet-convertibles, laptops, and desktops. It has a huge, vibrant community, and support for it is easy to find. In fact, most support found for Ubuntu also works for the other distros listed here for the most part, since they are based on Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is also the distro recommended for gaming on Linux by Valve, the company behind Steam, CS:GO, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, and more.

If none of the other distros really makes you feel at home, or you really just want a unique desktop layout to wow your friends, Ubuntu is the way to go. This entire blog post was written on Ubuntu!

As you can might be able to tell, Linux puts an emphasis on choice. It’s YOUR choice what distro you run. It’s YOUR choice how your computer looks and works. It’s YOUR choice if your computer runs Linux at all!

At the end of the day, trying Linux isn’t a bad idea. And, if you don’t like it, that’s fine. But, come back and try it again a couple years later, because Linux development works at a rapid pace. So if you have hardware or software issues, in a couple years time the issues should either be easier to fix or already be fixed for you!

I’ve been running Linux on all my personal machines for the past 6 years, and while I admit there have been hiccups along the way, most of those where my own fault.

Just make sure not to run sudo rm -rf /* if you value your data.

WRITTEN BY THOMAS CASTLEMAN FROM DRAUGER OS

No, CloudFlare doesn’t respect your privacy: CloudFlare issues & truly anonymous DNS

CloudFlare DNS (1.1.1.1) claims to be a public DNS resolver which claims, according to their website;

“We will never log your IP address (the way other companies identify you). And we’re not just saying that. We’ve retained a big 4 accounting firm to audit our assertions about our systems annually to ensure that we’re doing what we say. Frankly, we don’t want to know what you do on the Internet—it’s none of our business—and we’ve taken the technical steps to ensure we can’t.”

https://1.1.1.1/dns/

Interestingly enough, CloudFlare entered into a research agreement with APINC, the organization which owns the 1.1.1.1 IP range. According to APINC, the statements regarding CloudFlare DNS, it’s privacy, and anonymity on its official website are simply false.

“We will be destroying all “raw” DNS data as soon as we have performed statistical analysis on the data flow. We will not be compiling any form of profiles of activity that could be used to identify individuals,”

https://labs.apnic.net/?p=1127

The fact that they have “raw” DNS data, containing personally-identifiable information such as IP addresses (since, after all, IPs are the focus of their research) doesn’t merely imply that they collect it, but it is a direct claim stating that they DO in fact collect said information; otherwise it wouldn’t be in their possession to perform “statistical analysis”.

But that’s not even the worst of what CloudFlare has done;

According to a source which I’ve had the good fortune to stumble upon; CloudFlare has protected websites owned by ISIS, the Taliban, and likely other terrorist groups as well. CloudFlare has not only proxied terrorist content, but according from an excerpt pulled from the New York Times, they have even provided their services to websites containing child pornography.

I’ll end this section with this peachy little quote from the CEO of CloudFlare:

“Back in 2003, Lee Holloway and I started Project Honey Pot as an open-source project to track online fraud and abuse. The Project allowed anyone with a website to install a piece of code and track hackers and spammers. We ran it as a hobby and didn’t think much about it until, in 2008, the Department of Homeland Security called and said, ‘Do you have any idea how valuable the data you have is?’ That started us thinking about how we could effectively deploy the data from Project Honey Pot, as well as other sources, in order to protect websites online. That turned into the initial impetus for CloudFlare.” – Matthew Prince

https://web.archive.org/web/20170217121944/http://www.law.uchicago.edu/alumni/accoladesandachievements/matthew-prince-00-discusses-cloudflare-cloud-computing-journal

More fun little things regarding CloudFlare’s shady operations and past can be found here, this website was put together rather well and includes citations.

You can’t trust most public DNS servers.

DNS servers collect identifiable information with each query, so it’s difficult to find a public DNS server which truly doesn’t collect or retain this data. For our purposes here, I’m going to simply say that it isn’t truly possible to have the perfect solution with any 3rd party DNS provider. The only person who you can really trust with your own privacy is yourself; which brings me to the solution.

Unbound: A DNS server that runs on your local machine.

That’s right; a separate machine for a DNS server isn’t even necessary! You can run unbound directly on your workstation or laptop! According to Unbound’s website, it is compatible with both Microsoft Windows and Linux-based operating systems, among others including macOS and BSD derivatives.

The documentation made available here under the Manual Pages section will help you install Unbound and get started with it. It’s extremely simple to install on Windows using the executable installer or through your Linux distribution’s package manager.

It’s very easily installed on Windows

Once you have ran the executable to install the package, on Windows, only one change needs to be made regarding network settings in order for Unbound to essentially work out of the box!

Just go to Network and Internet Settings>Adapter Options, then right-click on your network interface, select properties, then double-click on “IPv4”.

Set your preferred DNS server to 127.0.0.1 (Your machine/localhost, where Unbound is running). Personally, I set my Alternate DNS to NixNet DNS, as I know the owner of the service and trust that he dumps his logs to /dev/null or purges them as needed to ensure user privacy as he shares much the same, if not stricter privacy standards than CYGO. Technically, the alternate DNS probably won’t even be used as long as Unbound is functional.

I hope this post was helpful! Be on the lookout for more posts like this, and check out previous posts in the CYGO contributor blog series.

OFFICIAL STATEMENT REGARDING RECENT DDOS ATTACKS

An overview

Recently, beginning on June 6, our main web server has been facing Denial of Service attacks lasting on average less than 10 minutes. We believe attackers are using network stress-testing tools which are used in the industry to test for vulnerabilities in order to attack and undermine our network.

Why are we being attacked?

All of the attacks which we have caught real-time have been based in the United States. We think we are either being attacked by disgruntled former team members of one of our partner organizations, or we are being targeted by politically left-leaning individuals who do not support our mission, the U.S. government, or the values established in the United States Constitution.

What are we doing to mitigate the issue?

Currently, we are now monitoring the server and our equipment very closely in order to identify any attacks as they start. We will then be immediately blacklisting any IP or network which is suspected of attacking or attempting to attack our network. Attacks identified and reported by our Denial of Service protection software will be reported to the attackers’ ISPs at the earliest convenience, and any attacks which shut down or degrade the network will be reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation through their Internet Crime Complaint Center located at ic3.gov.

How does this all affect me?

I use CYGO’s free online services

Until we are able to fully contain and prevent these attacks in total, short downtime, up to approximately 6 minutes at times could be experienced. We are currently seeking the appropriate actions to take to fully prevent this.

I read the CYGO blog

You likely won’t be affected, and if you are, just check back in a few minutes.

I use Drauger OS

We provide the Drauger OS website, email, and support system. You may receive short downtime, up to approximately 6 minutes at times, as well as slightly delayed response via support and email. We are currently seeking the appropriate actions to take to fully prevent this.

That’s all for now. More updates will be posted as needed.