Back on the home front, I am partial to using OpenSSH for my own coffee shop wi-fi to home network communications. Using OpenSSH allows me to use my home installation of Evolution, Firefox and other Internet using applications that I would rather not use at a coffee shop to transmit communications.
OpenSSH also provides a stellar means of file/folder sharing for PCs on your LAN as well. But should you utilize No-IP along with it, you can take this up a notch by making file/folder sharing a seamless experience regardless of where you happen to be at the moment. Share files with the same dependable access whether at home or half way across the world.
In the end, SSH and VPN are virtual secure bridges from PC to server or PC to PC. And as secure as these options happen to be, this does not mean that browsing the Internet or sending POP email is automatically safe in transit. You still want to implement some SSL into the mix by using HTTPS for browsing websites and SSL security for transmitting email back and forth.
Securing your Ubuntu PC for local use
To date, the single biggest security risk to your PC is generally parked right between the monitor and the chair. Users, especially on a shared PC, provide more opportunity for security issues than any virus or malware happening to sneak onto your PC.
Because we are unable to control what others might happen to do on a PC, I am going to list some tools and techniques that will better prepare you to handle any foolish behavior perpetrated by others.
Keep the updates in check Failing to keep an Ubuntu system up to date is going to provide more problems later on than it will with any bugs in the updates being provided. Security updates are paramount.
Locking down other users Immediate advantages include not discovering a previously working installation of Ubuntu being hosed by a less experienced family member or friend. The best way to accomplish this is to setup a limited, non-super user account for others to work with. From users and groups in the administration menu, just toggle off any options you wish to disallow from the newly created limited user account via your own super-user account.
Securing your home directory More about privacy than security, you could easily avoid the headaches of dealing with encryption and just chmod 0700 /home/$USER from a terminal window. Assuming you are the only one with super user/root privileges on that PC, no one else is going to be able to view the contents of your home directory. If encryption is a must, there are a number of helpful howtos out there, this being among the better ones. Yes, it is quite involved to accomplish.
OpenDNS for basic content filtering One of the best ways to keep users of your Ubuntu box from accessing potential phishing sites or hosts of malware is via OpenDNS. Changing your network's DNS settings can be done either on a PC by PC basis or via the gateway router appliance.
Ubuntu is as safe as you make it
There is no question that by utilizing the tips I have outlined above, you will be on your way to a safer Ubuntu experience. But despite these guidelines, there are always going to be ways for you to land yourself into trouble.
Because desktop Linux is indeed so powerful, anyone with super-user privileges should be aware that there are commands out there that can be run from a terminal or a shell script that can create massive harm. The kind of harm that translates into lost data.
So when you are forum hopping, looking for a fix to a problem that has presented itself, ask a trusted source before ever running code you are not familiar with. This tip alone, will do wonders to ensure your Ubuntu using safety.