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I've heard the saying: "The only secure computer is one that is disconnected from the network". I'm curious in which cases this applies to dual boot setups.

Let's say I've got a laptop with 2 partitions.

  • Partition 1 runs Win 8, is connected to the internet, users install programs, etc.
  • Partition 2 also runs Win 8, but with the networking software disabled or uninstalled. The files on Partition 2 are encrypted.

Users alternate between logging into Partition 1 and 2 (as admins). When a user logs into Partition 2, they temporarily decrypt the files.

Assuming the login for Partition 2 is kept secret, is there any way the data on Partition 2 can be accessed, either by malware or a person who manages to log into Partition 1?

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Are the files encrypted? Is the person logging in an admin? – Karan Jan 24 '13 at 3:32
@Karan updated the question to address those questions. Thanks. – RexE Jan 24 '13 at 3:35

If the partition is not encrypted (ie, with Bitlocker), then it's little more secure than 'Partition 1'. Even if it is encrypted, there has to be some sort of bootstrap partition/files- and that would be less secure. Nothing you can do is 100% secure- if that's a pure number you're going for.

If you're willing to switch to a desktop:

Closer to 100%: multiboot from a second physical drive(not partition) and only have one drive enabled at a time in your BIOS. This is prone to human error, you will likely fail to remember to disable the switched-from drive at some point. This is possibly overcome by having the boot-priority in BIOS to prioritize 'Drive 2' always- if BIOS retains boot-order despite the disabling of drives.

Even closer: install something like this, and only plug 'drive 2' in when you need it. Full SATA interface to motherboard. This was used an example, I'm sure there are cheaper manufacturers out there.

With a laptop, your options are far more limited.

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There is a lot that can be said about this, but Ill keep the answer short.

Since both partitions contain filesystems that either OS can read, they are not secure.

You can encrypt one or both partitions to prevent the OS on the other from reading it.

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Also if you are for example running windows and linux; it is quite likely that your windows install cannot read the linux partition. That being said anything that affects boot loader/bios/hardware would affect both. – Justin Jan 24 '13 at 3:38

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