Secure build for a newbie

Hi folks (and happy new year),

I’m a total newbie, both on here and to Linux, but I’m keen to buy or build a (relatively) cheap Linux machine to act as a secure machine for financial stuff (banking, shares, crypto etc). At the same time I’d like to set up a new email address with a very secure service provider (I was recently pwn’d…).

I’m considering a barebones build using an older nuc (probably an 8th gen i3), or possibly trying to resurrect an old Asus UX32 laptop with a new ssd (I’m much less keen on starting out with this option).

Alternatively, I might be interested in buying a machine with linux pre-installed (although I’m sceptical about this for security reasons, particularly the cheaper machines). I did see that Simplynuc will supply machines with Linux preinstalled, although they seem relatively expensive compared to buying the components.

Edit: I saw that some suppliers will flash Lenovo X series laptops to coreboot/libreboot, which might be an option if I can source a refurbed machine.

I’d be really grateful for any guidance.


Hello Nilo - and welcome to the Forum.

Is the Asus UX32 so old? I found the spec of the Asus UX32A which looks very good. Or are you looking for a desktop?

There are Linux-preinstalled machines available but you are right - they can be rather expensive.
If you want to build a desktop, this can be done considerably cheaper then buying ready-built and you might like to look at

As for security:

  1. No computer is intrinsically secure unless you encrypt sensitive directories - which is a good idea.
  2. Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) will prevent Google/Facebook et al tracking you. Not all VPNs (even paid-for ones) are wholly trustworth so I use which is free and ultra secure.

Secure mail:
There are very few free and guaranteed secure email services, and it depends on whether you want to use client email software such as Thunderbird (which is very configurable) or are happy with webmail.
For webmail, I thoroughly recommend which offers several paid-for versions and a free version of reduced functionality. The service is totally encrypted end-to-end and if you lose your password not even Protonmail can retrieve your data. Aliases are not available for the free account. also has a free, reduced-service offering that is just as secure and easy to use as Protonmail.

For use with Thunderbird email client, I use This a paid-for service only but the cheapest (Micro) offering costs about £1/month. Again, the servers are encrypted but your data can be retrieved with a lot of hassle if you lose your password - and you will need already to have listed a second email address to your account so they can communicate with you. The Runbox Micro account allows up to 100 aliases which you should use in preference to your base address.

The service I receive from Protonmail and Runbox is excellent.

I hope that helps a bit - feel free to ask more questions.

Most security breaches happen between the chair and the keyboard! Simply avoiding getting caught by phishing would have saved most people who’ve have a security breach. And don’t forget that serious hackers would not be interested you, but in companies with a lot of money changing hands.

That said, Linux does offer a higher lever of security out of the box. Put the /home directory on a separate partition and encrypt it and you will be pretty safe.

I bought a new computer a year ago from these people — they assemble to your specification and can do anything from a office machine (mine cost under £250) to a top-class gaming one — and I’ve been very satisfied.

I chose an AMD processor and no separate video card, since I’m not a gamer.

Thanks very much for the warm welcome and so much info!


The UX32 is relatively modern but my one needs a lot of tlc (mobo battery is dead and I’d want to upgrade RAM and put in a clean ssd) and was temperamental enough with windows (driver issues mostly), let alone Linux. My main concern would be the laptop specific stuff like trackpads etc.

I’d be happy to take on the refurbishment project after getting some experience on a “clean” build on a virgin machine (possibly being too optimistic there?).

As far as security goes I’d already been looking at protonmail & thunderbird, so thanks for the recommendation.

I normally use Nordvpn for Windows and Android devices.

There are a few low spec nucs that can be had for under 200 quid and I’m currently leaning towards a self build (in spite of the “not recommended” from simplynuc…) or finding a supplier who can set up libreboot or similar on a refurb Lenovo.


Unfortunately I’ve been pwn’d twice in the last 15 years and both were data breaches at companies I’d entrusted with my data…

As far as the build goes, I have dealt with CCL in the past and they were very good so that might be an option.


Take a look here too -

I bought from these recently to do my first ever desktop build. Good prices and service and advice if you need it. (I have no connection to Scan other than as a satisfied customer)