Linux Mint has since responded to the comments by Oliver Grawert. You can read them here.

Users of the popular Ubuntu-based operating system Linux Mint should not use it for online banking, a Canonical engineer has advised.

Mint’s decision to prevent packages with known security issues from updating – from the kernel and browser to the boot-loader and Xorg display server – leaves its users with a “vulnerable system”, says Oliver Grawert.

“Instead of just integrating changes properly with the packages in the ubuntu archive they instead suppress doing (security) updates at all for them. i would say forcefully keeping a vulnerable kernel browser or xorg in place instead of allowing the provided security updates to be installer makes it a vulnerable system, (sic)”. 

“I personally wouldn’t do online banking with it.”

Grawert certainly isn’t alone in considering Mint a sub-par choice for the security conscious. Mozilla contributor and former Ubuntu member Benjamin Kerensa* feels the same:

“It is unclear why Linux Mint disables all of their security updates. I can say that it took them many months to get a fixed version of Firefox packaged while Ubuntu and Debian had already had security fixes in their package.

This puts Linux Mint users at risk and is one of the key reasons I never suggest Linux Mint to anyone as an alternative to Ubuntu.”

Oliver Grawert is no fly-by-night contributor. As one of Canonical’s Ubuntu Engineering bods he’s better placed than most to know what he’s talking about.

‘But are Mint users in actual risk? Yes and no…’

But are Mint users in actual risk?

Yes and no. The majority of security “holes” (for want of a better word) of the kind present in the packages that Mint’s developers steadfastly refuse to update are both documented and known, but rarely exploited by those of a nefarious breed. As such the “actual threat” posed to users remains, at least for now, largely a theoretical one.

That’s to say that there are no known incidents of identify theft or worse resulting from use of Mint (or any other Ubuntu-based distribution with unpatched packages) through any of the exploits referenced by Grawert on the Ubuntu Dev Mailing List.

But just because no-one has entered through the window left ajar thus far, isn’t to say someone won’t ever do it.

After seeing Ubuntu given a long and sustained kicking about its own (largely theoretical) privacy issues, it will be interesting to see if, now the boot is placed firmly on the other foot, the vehement concern for users’ wellbeing will extend to other distributions. 

Notice: We reached out to Linux Mint for comment & clarification but received no reply.

*Disclaimer: Benjamin Kerensa is a part-time contributor to this site. 
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