In this post, we will show the most secure operating systems. Also, we will help you to decide the most secure OS suitable for your PC’s day-to-day operations.
When it comes to computer security, every user wants to protect their system from malicious threats. This makes choosing the most secure operating system a top priority. There are many options to choose from – each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
An Operating System (OS) in today's world is the gateway through which we perform a series of tasks with our digital devices to access the online virtual world for various purposes.
Several hackers have often exploited security loopholes in vulnerable OS for sinister motives such as stealing valuable personal data, which often translates to impersonation and massive financial loss.
Choosing an Operating System (OS) can be a daunting task. There are plenty of options out there. Take, for instance, you can run thousands of Windows apps on your Mac without rebooting by using Parallels Desktop.
This post, however, is not about popular Operating Systems such as Mac or Windows, but rather about secure ones that are used by most cybersecurity experts, while also providing robust features and user-friendly interfaces.
Each of these secure operating systems offers an array of features that can help protect your data and secure your online activities.
Whether you’re looking for an operating system to use for personal or business purposes, these are the best choices for keeping your computer safe and secure.
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Without further ado, let's show you the most secure Operating Systems in 2024.
Table of Contents
What Are The Most Secure Operating Systems?
- Qubes Operating System – Highly secure open-source OS
- TAILS OS – Secure and portable Operating System
- OpenBSD OS – Free and open source security-focused Operating System
- Whonix OS – Most secure Operating System for USB drives
- Pure OS – User-friendly and secure Operating System
- Debian OS – Stable and dependable OS
- IPredia OS – Secure OS for anonymous torrenting
- Kali Linux – Highly secure OS for ethical hacking, and penetration testing
- BlackArch OS – Best Operating System for cybersecurity
- Linux OS – Open source OS with robust security features
- GrapheneOS – A Secure Mobile Operating System
- macOS – A Secure Operating System with Built-in Security Features
- Windows – Considered the Least Secure Operating System
10 Most Secure Operating Systems 2024
Qubes OS is a highly secure open-source OS that runs on single-user devices.
This Operating System uses the Xen-based virtualization to characterize computer programs into isolated virtual machines known as qubes (think of it as separating a group of similar programs into a distinct unit of cubes).
Interestingly, Qubes OS is a free OS that you can dual-boot on your Microsoft Windows PC or Mac device.
Features of Qubes Operating System
- Strong isolation feature: Cubes isolate installed software, making it look like it is installed on a separate computing entity.
- Template system: Qubes OS share root files with isolated virtual machines (qubes) without compromising system security
- Multiple Operating Systems: Qubes can run simultaneously on multiple OS, including Windows, Fedora, or Debian.
Verdict: Qubes OS is one of the most private Operating Systems because it contains and manages software from distinct units called qubes.
2. TAILS OS
The TAIL OS is a secure and portable Operating System that uses the Tor network to protect users' privacy online and also helps users to bypass internet censorship. Its mobile compatibility makes it one of the reasonably secure operating systems for mobile devices.
The TAIL OS was initially developed for the Project Protect whistleblowers to protect the identity of whistleblowers and provide security for them.
However, regular users who want to protect their privacy and data traffic can download and use the TAIL OS for free.
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Features of the TAIL Operating System
- Installable on temporary storage devices: TAILS installs and runs independently on USB storage devices without requiring a third-party OS
- Amnesia: TAIL OS wipes off all traces of your activities when shutting down the system.
- A security toolbox: TAIL OS has a secure set of programs for communicating securely, and working on sensitive documents.
- It is a minimal Operating System that takes up little space; hence a user can download and run the OS from an SD card, or other temporary storage devices
- Activities on the TAIL OS is secured and protected from hackers and other forms of cyberattacks
- TAIL OS is noted for its robust data and identity protection; hence, it does not leave any trace of users' activities online
- Reliable encryption protocol which encrypts users' incoming and outgoing data traffic
- Access to restricted and censored content online
- Compatibility with all types of systems and OS; hence, the TAIL OS can serve as an alternative to your system's primary Operating System. Therefore, it can be a perfect complement to the most popular Windows OS.
Verdict: TAILS OS protects its users from active surveillance, internet censorship, third-party tracking, malware, and adware.
3. OpenBSD OS
OpenBSD is one of the most secure OS available today. It runs on a multi-platform 4.4 BSD Unix-based OS available today. The Open BSD is an open-source OS created by a team of volunteers at the University of California's Berkeley Software Distribution Center.
It is preferred for its full-disclosure policy. This enables its developers to be completely open with any security vulnerabilities about the Open BSD Operating System they may have discovered.
The open BSD is gradually gaining popularity among skilled-tech users because of its minimal size and security features, which is focused on improving the security of its OS at the expense of user satisfaction.
Hence, it is not an Operating System for low-skilled end users unless you want to learn to code.
Furthermore, other features of the Open BSD OS include proactive security, integrated cryptography, portability, standardization, correctness, and its compatibility, and relatively small size on systems.
Features of OpenBSD OS
- Default ‘secure’ mode: OpenBSD disables all non-essential apps and daemons by default, minimizing users' chances of running into security issues
- Integrates cryptography: OpenBSD OS comes integrated with OpenSSH, which is a cryptographic software for encrypting users' data.
- Runs on multi-platform 4.4BSD, which is a Unix-based platform known for its robust security features.
Verdict: OpenBSD is one of the most secure operating systems based on the Unix OS due to its frequent source code audit to ensure it is not compromised.
4. Whonix OS
Whonix is a secure OS designed to secure and anonymize users' activities online. It uses the Tor network to anonymize and protect users' IP address and location.
Features of Whonix OS
- LeakProof: Whonix channels its data traffic through the Tor network, making it impossible to leak users' IP addresses and locations. The OS is DNS, ICP, ISN, and CPU leakproof.
- Keystroke anonymization: Whonix OS prevents keystroke logging by malware resident on the users' PC.
- Vanguard: Whonix consists of a vanguard functionality that protects users against third-party tracking and data traffic analysis by third-parties.
Verdict: Whonix is the most secure operating system for USB drives. It is a robust anonymization OS that ensures that users’ identities remain protected by preventing IP and location leaks.
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5. Pure OS
Pure OS is one of the most secure operating systems based on the open-source GNU/Linux and Debian Operating systems designed to optimize users' privacy while ensuring strict data protection.
Features of Pure OS
- Pureboot: Pure OS provides multi-layer security for users’ resident data and data traffic when online.
- PureBrowser: Pure OS comes with an inbuilt web browser built with Mozilla technology to ensure users enjoy maximum data privacy and security.
- Frequent Pure OS update: Pure OS rolls out regular updates of its OS and software with improved features, tighter security control, and bug fixes.
Verdict: Pure OS is one of the most secure Operating System worth considering since it is based on the Linux Kernel and Linux OS. This makes it highly resistant to malware attacks.
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6. Debian OS
Debian OS is a variant of Linux. It comes with more than 59000 precompiled software packages and utilities, including a Package Manager (APT), to help a wide diversity of users get their work done.
Features of Debian OS
- Compatibility: Debian is compatible with a wide range of devices including the iPhone and Microsoft’s Xbox 360.
- Java-compatible: It integrates with Sun Java’s OpenJDK, Java compiler and interpreter, and other Java app collections. Therefore, users can run java based programs on this Operating System.
- Integrates X.org 7.3: X.org 7.3 takes charge of setting up users' GUI and other display settings.
Verdict: Debian OS is a stable and dependable OS with one of the most extensive integrated packages. The OS is suitable for individuals and corporate organizations
7. IPredia OS
IPredia OS is a secure, powerful, and fast Fedora-based Linux OS that anonymizes users' data and activities online. Apps integrated on the IPredia are designed to operate in stealth mode without revealing users' identities.
Features of IPredia OS
- I2P router: to protect users’ IP address and location
- Anonymous BitTorrent Client: IPredia has an inbuilt bit torrent client for safe and anonymous torrenting
- Anonymous IRC client: the anonymous IRC client encrypts users chat securely
Verdict: if you’re searching for the most secure OS for safe and anonymous torrenting, Ipredia would be it. Aside from safe torrenting, IPredia keeps users' data secure by routing users' data through the I2P anonymous network.
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8. Kali Linux
Kali Linux is an open-source OS developed by Offensive Security for testing Linux distribution, penetration testing, network security assessments, and ethical hacking. This makes it one of the most secure OS available today.
Features of Kali Linux
- Full live-build integration: Kali Linux integrates a live-build that allows users to customize and create unique Kali Linux ISO images.
- LUKS encryption: Kali Linux supports full disk encryption, which gives users the ability to encrypt penetration-testing USB drives.
- Kali Linux Metapackages: Kali Linux is integrated with a metapackage: a collection of toolsets for easy customization, and a minimized virtual environment setup.
Verdict: Kali Linux is a useful OS for security testers, ethical hacking, and penetration testing distribution.
9. BlackArch OS
BlackArch OS is one of the most secure operating systems for Linux based on Arch Linux OS for security and penetration testing. It contains over 2800 different tools.
Features of BlackArch OS
- Window Manager: The Window Manager is an application that manages multiple windows to help users get more work done in less time. Blackarch OS has a variety of desktop environments, including dwm, Fluxbox, Openbox, Spectrum, Awesome, Wmii, and i3.
- Collection of 2,800+ tools: the OS boasts of an impressive array of tools for various purposes, including countering forensic activities, steganography, encryption, etc.
- Modular package: BlackArch OS permits users to install other tools outside of its repository of tools. Users can do so individually or as a group.
Verdict: BlackArch OS is one of the most secure Linux OS because of its usefulness as a tool for security and penetration testers.
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10. Linux OS
The Linux Operating system is an open-source OS that has been making the news as one of the best Operating Systems since the ‘90s.
As an open source software, it allows developers to develop patch updates for any vulnerability detected before hackers can take advantage of such vulnerability.
In fact, there are several Linux distributions (distro) available for use such as Ubuntu, Fedora Linux, Mageia, Parrot OS, Elementary OS, etc.
Users prefer the Linux OS because it is a stable OS free from malware and virus infections, which takes away the fear of having to reinstall the OS due to regular malware invasion.
Besides, Linux is an open source OS; hence, users are free to modify its features based on preference. Not to mention, it has robust security features and one of the most used OS.
Features of the Linux OS
- A user account is the only root account that can carry out all administrative tasks. All other types of accounts do not have rights outside of files for which they have permission to access.
- Application isolation for restricting a program from affecting other running programs or host systems
- The System Firewall uses the Netfilter framework in the Linux kernel to restrict incoming and outgoing network traffic.
- The Syslog and Klogd monitoring and audit facilities which keep a record of the activities of the different components of the system
- Resource allocation control which limits the number of resources an application or an account can use up in its operations.
- System recovery for restoring program files of all software in the software management tools in the event of an accident
- Host integrity testing for verifying the integrity of a running system in the event of an attack
- Software management which is a repository of software files for providing the correct version of all system software.
- Secure Remote access with OpenSSH which is a version of the SSH standard which uses a secure encryption mechanism and also grants the user the following categories of remote access
- Remote access by using command-line
- A remote command execution
- Remote access to graphical software
- File transfers
- Encrypted storage for encrypting storage volumes with sensitive files. Users need to provide the decryption password to access an encrypted volume, which can be a temporary storage device or a system's entire storage space.
- File permission feature which determines how users access files and directories on a Linux OS. Depending on the types of permission granted for file access; users may or not be able to either read, write or execute program files.
Verdict: Linux is one of the most popular OS in the world. Not to mention, it is quite easy to easy. Also, there are several Linux distributions that are available for computer users.
11. GrapheneOS – A Secure Mobile Operating System
GrapheneOS is a secure mobile operating system based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP).
It aims to provide a Google-free Android experience without compromising usability and compatibility. GrapheneOS removes Google services and telemetry to protect user data and privacy.
The operating system incorporates advanced security features such as a hardened memory allocator, verified boot, and sandboxed applications. It also ensures timely security updates and patches to keep users safe from emerging vulnerabilities.
GrapheneOS is compatible with most Android apps, allowing users to enjoy a secure mobile experience while still having access to essential applications and services.
It is an excellent choice for privacy-conscious individuals and professionals who prioritize the security of their mobile devices.
12. macOS – A Secure Operating System with Built-in Security Features
Contrary to popular belief, Apple's macOS is not impervious to malware attacks. However, it does offer a secure operating system with excellent built-in security features.
The tight integration of Apple's hardware and software allows for better control over security updates and support, providing a more secure environment.
macOS includes top-quality security features such as Gatekeeper, which verifies the authenticity of apps downloaded from the App Store, and XProtect, which scans documents for malicious code.
These features, along with many others, contribute to maintaining a secure system and protecting user data.
While macOS has seen a surge in the amount of malware distributed in recent years, the number of viruses created for Windows computers still outweighs those targeting macOS. Mac users should remain cautious and take necessary precautions to ensure their security.
13. Windows – Considered the Least Secure Operating System
Windows, being the most widely used operating system, faces a higher risk of malware attacks compared to other operating systems. The large user base incentivizes hackers to create malware specifically for Windows, making it appear more vulnerable.
Historically, Windows users would log in as administrators, granting instant access to system-level privileges to potential attackers.
Unlike macOS and Linux, Windows code is not open-source, meaning that Microsoft relies on its engineering team to identify and patch vulnerabilities.
Although Windows has introduced multi-user systems in recent years, the legacy of administrator-level access has made it more susceptible to security breaches.
It is important for Windows users to adopt best security practices, such as regular updates, strong passwords, utilize only the best browsers for Windows 11, and the use of security tools, to mitigate the risks associated with using this operating system.
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Why You Should Use A Secure OS?
It is essential to use a secure OS to ensure your data stays protected, prevent malware infestation, and enhance the smooth operations of programs.
The key to online security is using one of the reasonably secure Operating Systems with robust security features. However, opinions differ as per the most secure OS for daily use.
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When it comes to choosing the most secure OS, you need to consider how fast the vendor releases a patch when a vulnerability is detected along with the purpose of use.
Although using a secure OS protects you from malware and virus attacks, it will not, however, give you a 100% protection guarantee unless you're armed with the following:
- User education
- Secure firewalls to keep out intruding traffic
- High sense of vigilance
- Regular patch update
- Reliable antivirus to protect you from downloading corrupted downloads, file extensions, plugins, etc.
You should note that the OS you use does not guarantee to keep you safe from hackers who hack using social engineering and other means for probing users. Interestingly, 84% of hackers gain access to victims' systems using social engineering and other means.
How To Secure Your Computer System
Apart from using any of the most secure operating systems we mentioned above, it is best that you secure your system as well by applying these security measures:
- Promptly update any released software patch. Use the latest version of your Operating System that can prevent malicious code or zero-day threats.
- Don’t root your system, whether you are using a Macbook Pro or HP Laptop.
- Don’t give guest access to older servers on the same network as you.
- Use secure passwords or use a password manager to manage your passwords.
- Download files and documents only from a trusted source.
- Use updated antivirus software on your system to add another security layer against virus and malware infections. Recommended antivirus software to prevent security threats includes Surfshark Antivirus, Norton Antivirus, McAfee Antivirus, Heimdal Security, Trend Micro Security, etc.
- Use a VPN to secure and protect your data traffic and privacy. For secure data transfer, you can use top VPNs like CyberGhost VPN, Surfshark, ExpressVPN, and ProtonVPN.
- Back up your digital files on cloud storage.
- Use other software programs such as system optimization tools, data recovery tools, Tor messenger, and secure boot tools.
- Use an encrypted email service like Em Client, ProtonMail, TorGuard Mail, GetResponse, etc.
What Is The Most Secure Operating System?
Qubes OS is the most secure Operating System because it isolates users' app programs into distinct Qube entities, thereby giving it a semblance of operating from a separate virtual machine.
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Most Secure Operating Systems: Frequently Asked Questions
Here are frequently asked questions about the most secure operating systems:
What makes an operating system secure?
There are several factors that contribute to an operating system's security, including:
- Open source nature: Open source operating systems, where the code is available for public scrutiny, tend to be more secure as vulnerabilities are identified and patched quickly.
- Smaller attack surface: Operating systems with a smaller code base and fewer features generally have a smaller attack surface, making them less vulnerable to exploits.
- User privilege management: Systems that implement strong user privilege management restrict users' access to resources and capabilities, limiting the potential damage caused by malware or malicious users.
- Security features: Built-in security features like sandboxing, encryption, and firewalls can help protect against various threats.
- Community and updates: A strong and active community can contribute to security by identifying and reporting vulnerabilities, while timely updates ensure essential patches and fixes are applied.
Which operating systems are considered the most secure?
Several operating systems are considered very secure, each with its own strengths and weaknesses:
- Linux: Notably, Debian, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Arch Linux are known for their open source nature, strong community support, and frequent updates.
- BSD: Operating systems like OpenBSD and FreeBSD are known for their focus on security and their rigorous code audits.
- Qubes OS: This security-focused operating system uses a unique “qubes” architecture to isolate applications and data, making it very resistant to malware and attacks.
- macOS: While not open source, macOS benefits from Apple's strong security focus and tight integration between hardware and software.
- ChromeOS: This lightweight operating system designed for Chromebooks is known for its sandboxing technology, which helps to isolate applications and prevent malware from spreading.
What are the trade-offs of using a secure operating system?
While using a secure operating system can significantly improve your security posture, it also comes with some trade-offs, such as:
- Limited software compatibility: Some secure operating systems may not support as many software applications as more popular options.
- Steeper learning curve: Learning to use a new operating system, especially one known for its security focus, can be more challenging for non-technical users.
- Hardware requirements: Some secure operating systems may have higher hardware requirements than others, which may not run well on older machines.
How can I improve the security of my operating system?
Regardless of the operating system you choose, there are several things you can do to improve its security:
- Keep your system up-to-date: Install all available software updates regularly, including the operating system, applications, and firmware.
- Use strong passwords: Create complex and unique passwords for all your accounts and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.
- Use a good antivirus software: Install a reputable antivirus software and keep it updated.
- Be mindful of what you click on: Be cautious about opening attachments or clicking on links from unknown sources.
- Back up your data regularly: Regularly back up your important data to a secure location in case of data loss or theft.
Should I switch to a more secure operating system?
I will advise that you should switch to a more secure operating system. If you are concerned about security and privacy, and you are comfortable learning a new system, then switching to a more secure option might be a good choice.
However, if you are not very technical or you rely heavily on specific software that is not compatible with a more secure operating system, then it may not be the best option for you.
Listed above are the 13 most secure Operating Systems in 2024 that you can consider. These Operating Systems have been carefully selected by our team of cybersecurity experts and are highly recommended for computer users.
Do you know of any other OS which did not make our list? Feel free to let us know by commenting below in your spare time.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in February 2020, but has been updated for freshness and accuracy.