This is a response (as of 10-06-2013) to the following sections on the Community Ubuntu Documentation wiki page “Antivirus” (https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Antivirus): No disrespect is intended with my replies.
1) “Possible reasons Linux is less prone to malware”
2) “Root User vs normal usage”
3) “Market Share Myth”
The Ubuntu documentation is in red and my replies are in black. All quotes from the wiki are direct quotes.
Possible reasons linux is less prone to malware
- Programs are run as normal user, not Root User
- More eyeballs on the code, nowhere for malware to hide
- Vast diversity makes it difficult to reproduce flaws in a system
- All software and drivers are frequently updated by Package Managers
- Software is generally installed from vast Repositories not from unfamiliar websites
- Developers/programmers are recognised as Rock Gods rather than treated with contempt
- Elegant, secure code is admired & aspired to. Hasty kludges are an embarrassment
Response to #1: Both Windows (2000/XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10) and Ubuntu Linux can run software as a normal user.
Response to #2: Myth. If anything, there would be so much code (like in the Linux kernel) that no one could constantly go through all of the code to make sure that no “monkey wrenches” have been thrown into the works. 🙂
Response to #3: I assume you mean many different types of hardware when you said “vast diversity”. That is not always true. If there is a flaw in the Linux kernel, technically it could affect all Linux systems that have not been patched.
Response to #4: This does not guarantee that no viruses can take over your system. This is a poor argument.
Response to #5: You are assuming that the servers hosting the files for the repositories are not infected with a viruses. This does not guarantee that no viruses can make their way into your system. This is a poor argument.
Response to #6: …no comment…
Response to #7: Not all software for Linux is secure. For example, the BIND DNS server has had multiple security issues over a 15+ year span. Not good.
“A computer virus, like a biological virus, must have a reproduction rate that exceeds its death (eradication) rate in order to spread. Each of the above obstacles significantly reduces the reproduction rate of the Linux virus. If the reproduction rate falls below the threshold necessary to replace the existing population, the virus is doomed from the beginning — even before news reports start to raise the awareness level of potential victims.” by Ray of http://librenix.com
A virus, if programmed correctly, could just lay dormant until other computer(s) are detected for possible infection can be found. Most viruses, in my opinion, will only get as far as the computer it infected (whether on Windows or Linux).
Root User vs normal usage
“For a Linux binary virus to infect executables, those executables must be writeable by the user activating the virus. That is not likely to be the case. Chances are, the programs are owned by root and the user is running from a non-privileged account. Further, the less experienced the user, the lower the likelihood that he actually owns any executable programs. Therefore, the users who are the least savvy about such hazards are also the ones with the least fertile home directories for viruses.” by Ray of http://librenix.com
If the virus uses an exploit in the Linux kernel, it may not matter whether or not the current user has permission to access other files. If you have SE-Linux enabled (assuming you are using a distribution that includes it), that may help prevent the virus from functioning (or at best, functioning correctly).
Market Share Myth
Some people say that linux suffers less from malware because it has less than 1% of the desktop market compared to Windows 90% & suggest that if linux ever increases in popularity then it will suffer just as badly. This argument is deeply flawed & not just by the spurious statistics. Linux dominates server markets(NB: this link dead). Why struggle to write a virus that might knock out a few thousand desktops when knocking out a few thousand servers could knock out a continent? Yet it is the desktop machines that are commonly exploited.
If 90% of computer users switched to Linux overnight, you would see a huge difference in the amount of malware you have for Linux.
What I think you do not understand is that hackers will go after targets that are easy and rich in “bounty”. In my opinion, most Windows users do not understand computer security (and the same would go for Mac OS X and several Linux users). They will click on just about anything, download just about anything, open e-mail attachments without observing if anything is out of the ordinary, etc. It is not that Windows is easier to hack than Linux. It is because there are many users that are not knowledgeable about computer security that makes it easier for the hackers to gain access to Windows computers.
Hackers know they have a better chance with Windows users than others. If even 50% of the Windows users suddenly went to Linux, you would have such an increase in malware (albeit not as much of an increase as you would have with 90% of Windows users switching over to Linux), that you may not be ready for it.
I used to use Linux to run a DNS resolver for the house and shop, but that does not mean that the DNS resolver was 100% secure just because I ran it on Linux. I ran it on Linux to save RAM, not for security. If I had let it go (without running any updates), I would have eventually gotten hacked.
“Why struggle to write a virus that might knock out a few thousand desktops when knocking out a few thousand servers could knock out a continent?”
That is speculation. How do you know that all the computers running the power grid, gas systems, etc. are all running Linux? Some could be running UNIX, Mac OS X, or even Windows.
Posted in Computers, Internet and Servers, Operating Systems, Software