So I made the switch to Ubuntu Gnome recently, it's been great albeit a lot of work to come from using windows solely for years to the open source stratosphere. Now I'm trying to re-orient myself and basically re-learn how to computer.

I'm a big gamer and was mulling over dual booting windows for this reason(done Wine, playforlinux), however one of the biggest things to push me to Linux was the plethora of security flaws in Windows (those recent leaks cemented my belief that I made a good choice).

Now my biggest question is does dual booting windows compromise the security and basically undo one of the major reasons to switch to Linux? Will Windows back-doors and exploits (both government based and single actor based) mean my Linux boot and partition is just as unsafe?

Any insight for a fresh convert would be great!


Technically speaking, yes.

Windows can read EXT partitions with a little bit of work. Therefore, it's theoretically possible that a well-crafted exploit can install an EXT driver and read/edit your Linux partition. From there, the threat model is pretty much the same as if an attacker has your hard drive.

If your hard drive is encrypted (or the malware isn't EXT-aware), any Windows-based malware won't be able to read or write to the files themselves on the partition, but that malware can still access the raw disk. In theory, such malware can erase your Linux partition or otherwise render it unusable, though it would not directly compromise your Linux system's security. Of course, this still depends on Windows actually running. A sleeping bear is no risk.

More dangerously, a Windows exploit can flash your BIOS or other low-level components with maliciously-crafted firmware or pull off a BadUSB attack that could theoretically target/exploit Linux. However, these exploits are often extremely specific and are a non-issue unless you've annoyed some very good hackers or three-letter government agencies.

Either way, an attack that "jumps" from Windows over to Linux (or flashes your BIOS or whatever) is going to be pretty rare, all things considered. For all intents and purposes, any regular user will be just fine and won't have to worry about this kind of malware hitting them.

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    It's probably worth noting that simply having a Windows partition kicking around on your hard drive alongside GNU/Linux isn't going to put you in any danger. You actually do have to booted into Windows to encounter such a malware. BadUSB attacks are not OS-dependent, though I think you made that fairly clear. Good write up about filesystem hacks, I always recommend encrypting files for good measure. +1 – Keefer Rourke May 23 '17 at 1:56

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