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  • FIRST POST
    • KingL
    • By KingL 16th Jun 17, 9:12 PM
    • 1,603Posts
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    KingL
    Linux noob: Is a dual boot Linux/ Win XP machine safe to connect to 'tinternet?
    • #1
    • 16th Jun 17, 9:12 PM
    Linux noob: Is a dual boot Linux/ Win XP machine safe to connect to 'tinternet? 16th Jun 17 at 9:12 PM
    After several years of thinking about it, I have finally got around to trying out Linux. I have dug out an old Windows XP machine and set it up as dual boot (Win-XP/Mint 18) (actually, as *triple* boot into XP/Ubuntu/Mint <pats self on head>.

    My question is, if I am running Mint and connected to the internet, am I safe, or is there any danger of nasty people still exploiting the vulnerabilities in the (dormant) XP to get into (1) the computer; or (2) my 'Network'.

    Note:
    1- For now, there is nothing sensitive on the computer. But that might change in the future, provided there is no danger of 'leakage' between OSs.

    2- I don't have a 'network' as such. This dual boot machine is a toy. I am using it to connect to the internet via a (Relish 4G) wifi Router. I also use other (serious (Win10)) machines to connect to the internet via the same router. But there is no LAN and no data sharing (afaik) between the various machines on the router. There is no other LAN. I have no want or need to (routinely*) share data between the machines, so I have no plans to set up a LAN between them.


    * that said, here's a separate, but related question - if I occasionally set up a _Bluetooth_ link between a (serious) W10 machine and the (toy) dual boot Linux machine (booted into Linux) to transfer a file between them; is there any security risk there? i.e. is there any way a hacker could get to the W10 machine via the XP/Linux machine and the Bluetooth connection?

    TIA

Page 1
    • were
    • By were 16th Jun 17, 11:07 PM
    • 448 Posts
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    were
    • #2
    • 16th Jun 17, 11:07 PM
    • #2
    • 16th Jun 17, 11:07 PM
    Although the xp is dormant, the XP partition is still visible and can be modified by linux.

    Generally most things (possibly not all?) over time is hackable.

    Whether you are a high value target, or people have an interested in you, or unlucky, or stupid is another issue

    Personally I would convert the xp to a vm, use the xp PC, put linux on that box, then put virtual box on that linux PC and run the xp PC as a virtual pc. This will allow you to plug in a usb, and also have shared disk space if they are set up (bit unsure about linus and windows shared space though?)

    They reckon that TAILS, bootable from a CD and runs off the CD, can even be compromised at the system level, and every so often they make a newer version.

    "numerous security holes...." https://tails.boum.org/
    Last edited by were; 17-06-2017 at 1:22 PM.
    • emptybox
    • By emptybox 17th Jun 17, 12:18 AM
    • 264 Posts
    • 122 Thanks
    emptybox
    • #3
    • 17th Jun 17, 12:18 AM
    • #3
    • 17th Jun 17, 12:18 AM
    As long as you are only accessing the internet on the Linux installs then you should be reasonably safe. But as were says, nothing is perfectly safe.

    You could install something like ClamAV on Ubuntu and Mint, and do occasional scans to check you haven't downloaded something that could infect the XP install. But that's very unlikely as, although you can access the XP files from Linux, the same is not true the other way round, so when you are on XP it can't interact with the Linux partitions (not without a third party driver for the ext file system).

    You say you don't have a LAN, but if you have various machines connected to the same router, then that is effectively a local network. All you'd have to do is enable file sharing on the various devices to make it work.
    If you got ransomware on one machine, then it could still spread to the other machines through the router.
    • esuhl
    • By esuhl 17th Jun 17, 12:49 AM
    • 7,362 Posts
    • 5,219 Thanks
    esuhl
    • #4
    • 17th Jun 17, 12:49 AM
    • #4
    • 17th Jun 17, 12:49 AM
    You should be fine. Linux can't run Windows executables, so there's no problem with having an XP partition and using Linux. If you're worried, why not just stop Linux from mounting the XP partition?

    The main issue is in using XP itself. Having Linux as well is only going to improve your security. The "dormant" OS isn't something I'd be concerned with.
    • were
    • By were 17th Jun 17, 1:38 PM
    • 448 Posts
    • 272 Thanks
    were
    • #5
    • 17th Jun 17, 1:38 PM
    • #5
    • 17th Jun 17, 1:38 PM
    Agreed, should be fine, but it you put on a driver that can read/write nfs, and if you get a crypto virus, the the linux partition is not 'infected' (nothing will run), but is encrypted and borked. Then there are boot sector viruses, although it will not infect linux, can make life harder, and possibly worm implementations could bypass partition restrictions??? - all from windows.

    I too would not really be worried, just be cautious as normal.
    Last edited by were; 17-06-2017 at 1:48 PM.
    • psychic teabag
    • By psychic teabag 19th Jun 17, 10:51 AM
    • 2,581 Posts
    • 1,525 Thanks
    psychic teabag
    • #6
    • 19th Jun 17, 10:51 AM
    • #6
    • 19th Jun 17, 10:51 AM
    Agreed, should be fine, but it you put on a driver that can read/write nfs, and if you get a crypto virus, the the linux partition is not 'infected' (nothing will run), but is encrypted and borked.
    Originally posted by were
    Huh ?

    At first I assumed you meant ntfs, so that the active linux bit could mount the xp partition. But the problem you describe would be if you run windows and access the linux bit. Buts nfs is a network filesystem : you'd need the other end to be active at the same time.

    Perhaps you meant an extfs driver running on windows ?

    Of course, in principle a crypto virus could just encrypt the entire linux partition, without even knowing what fs it was using.

    However, my reading of the original post was that the machine was an old one that happened to have XP on it. And the question was whether the dormant XP bit could affect the active linux session. So dual-boot is perhaps not the best descritpion since it wouldn't ever in practise be booted into windows. (Well, not until OP gets so annoyed with linux that they boot into XP in order to trash it ;-)

    As emptybox points out, if you were to boot into XP, then even though you are not actively using your local network to share, anything nasty getting onto XP would be able to use it to look for other nearby windows machines.
    • were
    • By were 19th Jun 17, 5:47 PM
    • 448 Posts
    • 272 Thanks
    were
    • #7
    • 19th Jun 17, 5:47 PM
    • #7
    • 19th Jun 17, 5:47 PM
    psychic teabag. You are correct, got my ext3/ex4 and nfs mixed up. Sorry!

    Not sure if ext4 can be written to via windows transparently via 3rd party software yet?, as I have not had to do this.

    Boot virus that I have seen seen in the beginning of the disk before you got to the O/S loading, there was no Grub then, so could not say if it would have been pre or post grub. Only one i half remember was Stoned (only remembered half of the name and to google the rest). Stoned apparently works on floppies (only?), but there were some hard disk ones.

    I read the original post that the op has 3 o/s version, and uses all three, but if one were to get a virus could it effect the other two? Dormant - Well if it is not used, why worry it a virus can be transmitted to it
    • Frozen_up_north
    • By Frozen_up_north 19th Jun 17, 6:48 PM
    • 1,020 Posts
    • 443 Thanks
    Frozen_up_north
    • #8
    • 19th Jun 17, 6:48 PM
    • #8
    • 19th Jun 17, 6:48 PM
    I've run XP under Oracle's Virtual Box for a lot of years, it's very robust and allows you to isolate the XP installation from the web, no need for updates, anti-virus, etc. On my machine I run two monitors and can have 32 bit XP on one screen and 64 bit Win 10 on the other.

    The Virtual machine runs up XP in 20 to 30 seconds and has lightning fast performance. My PC is about 6 years old with 4GB of RAM, it's nothing special. You switch between the two operating systems by moving the mouse pointer to the appropriate screen, seamless and best of all it's free software! It is available for Linux too, see the link below. You do need a proper copy of the guest o/s.

    https://www.virtualbox.org
    • KingL
    • By KingL 19th Jun 17, 6:54 PM
    • 1,603 Posts
    • 740 Thanks
    KingL
    • #9
    • 19th Jun 17, 6:54 PM
    • #9
    • 19th Jun 17, 6:54 PM
    XP might occasionally be used while offline, but computer is never connected to the internet while XP is running. Wifi only ever turned on when booted into Linux.

    • were
    • By were 19th Jun 17, 8:01 PM
    • 448 Posts
    • 272 Thanks
    were
    Even mighty Linux has it viruses, but no were near as many as windows. People have enough trouble getting normal programs to run under Linux

    The bit gotcha with all the OS seems to be cross platform apps, the big thorn being Flash.

    I can't disagree with Frozen_up_north, but he did forget to mention thin disk provisioning . KingL, the paritions offer limited use of disk. Yes you can in most cases grow and shrink partitions, but they are not as efficient as VirtualBox using thin disk provisioning. There there is the disk snapshot and rollback feature too.

    Lastly, many small companies, and most if not all medium to large businesses use some form of virtual box type software, usually Hyper-v or vmWare, so it is worth while learning that technology.
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