Linux’s values have been recognized by the whole world. To quote The Linux Foundation:
“Today, Linux powers 98% of the world’s super computers, most of the servers powering the Internet, the majority of financial trades worldwide and tens of millions of Android mobile phones and consumer devices. In short, Linux is everywhere. “
Among it’s many advantages, one of these held in the highest regard is it’s security.
Why is Linux so secure?
• Linux distributions have very rich software repositories and package managers which users can use to download programs and packages. The software in these repositories generally have gone through some sort of approval process before being allowed to sit in there so it’s a much safer alternative to searching the internet and downloading programs from websites which might or might not be reliable.
The package managers also update all the programs, kernel modules (these contain the drivers amongst other things), shared libraries, codecs etc., and as a result make your whole system more secure.
• Users are usually running from a non privileged account and become the root user only when it’s necessary. So even if a virus successfully infects a program, it won’t be able to propagate so easily because of the limited privileges of the user account.
• In the Linux world anyone can see the source code and is also able to fix any eventual flaws in it. And like the “Linus’ Law” (named after Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux) holds: “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.”
“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.” (taken from http://librenix.com/?inode=21)
Is Linux immune to malware?
The answer is no. Linux is not impenetrable, no operating system is. While the level of security of Linux is very high and it’s an extremely harsh environment for any kind of malware to thrive in, the truth is, if a machine is online it is vulnerable to attacks. So like on any other platform, users should treat security very seriously.
The very least a user should do is take some basic precautions like enabling a firewall, running regular updates to keep the system up to date, minimizing the use of root privileges and so on.
Тhere are also situations where there might be a need for installing some kind of antivirus software. For example when running a Linux-based file server or mail server, to scan a Windows-based network attached server or hard drive, to scan files you are going to send to other people,etc. There are many antivirus solutions for Linux out there like the open source ClamAV and other free versions of proprietary software.
Another thing to consider is using some protection against malicious URLs and root kits. For the former, most modern browsers have security addons, and for the later, users can install a root kit scanner like rkhunter.
Share your thoughts with us :
1. About the benefits of Open Source code when it comes to keeping systems secure– what are the biggest advantages?
2. Security disadvantages?
3. What security advice would you give to someone setting up their first Linux web server? How should they get started, and what should they use?