I'm a part time activist. (nothing I do is illegal in any democratic country) I receive files that could potentially include zero day exploits. The machine is a laptop.
I keep very regular backups so I'm not concerned as much with damage to the data so much as stopping the data on my machine from falling into the wrong hands.
There is 4 GB Ram so I would be happy to run a Virtual Machine.
I'm also happy to read books on security, so long as I'm confident that the effort will pay off.
I'd also like to create separation between the work I do for the day job and the activism work.
For work I require windows for Visual Studio 2010, SQL Server 2008 Developer Edition, Cisco VPN Client
In the Activism I use IRC, Thunderbird, Enigmail, Firefox, Jabber + Off-The-Record Messaging, openvpn
One of the ideas I had was to use a prohibitively secure yet light weight OS to act as a host OS for 2 guest VMs, Windows and some flavour of unix.
Then encrypt the whole lot and be allowed access based on the password used.
I would harden the Linux as much as is possible and then write over it using a backup once a month to prevent long term keyloggers/rootkits etc.
I'm very open to suggestions. Thanks in advance.