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Linux/Unix Viri

© June 2004 Tony Lawrence

Tue Jun 8 10:15:20 GMT 2004 Linux/Unix Viri

Link: Sophos chief concedes Unix virus frustration

Some very interesting comments here. The main point is that Sophos is having trouble building Linux anti-virus tools, but that the reasons for their difficulties (lack of standardization) also make it difficult to write viri, so it's kind of a wash for any users who may be worried about such things.

That's interesting, but I was more interested in his comment about "non-Microsoft desktop software" use in Japan:

"It's one of those things that will hit us like a Tsunami where
nothing seemingly happens for a long time and suddenly the whole
thing gains momentum -- before you know quite a few people will be
doing it. If I was Microsoft, I would certainly be worried about
that particular aspect of it".

That Sophos is writing anti-virus software is also very interesting. There aren't many Unix/Linux viruses to worry about, and the exposed user base, while certainly growing, isn't much right now either. Unless the base grows tremendously, it wouldn't make sense for Sophos to waste much effort at all, never mind tackling something that is apparently so difficult.

So the big wave must be coming?

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I think where this guy (Jan Hruska of Sophos) is missing the boat is in assuming that variations in Linux are what's preventing him from coming up with an anti-virus package, and in assuming that a virus on Linux or UNIX will behave as it would in the Windows environment. We all know (or should know) that unless something runs with root privileges, the likelihood of it causing serious or fatal operating system problems is very small. Therefore, the best virus preventative in Linux or UNIX is to not routinely run as root.

Also, I don't think the usage numbers are that much of a factor. Windows is a prime target for virii because it is easily attacked, not because of its dominance. If the Windows kernel had been properly hardened to begin with, we wouldn't be seeing all this stuff. Also, if the Windows model did not allow applications to add or replace DLLs into the system, another avenue for exploitation would not be available.


I think it can end up being a big issue if people who setup Linux isn't carefull. The temptation to make things easy for home users by breaking down some of the barriers between root and regular users is very tempting.

But the bigger issue that I see is when it comes to the actual users. Time after time big problems with worms on the internet plague Windows users constantly, but most of the vunerabilities that these worms exploit have been patched and fixes are aviable for some time. But if nobody installs them then they are worthlesss, but if you installed them and/or had a good firewall setup then it's a non-issue.

Linux vendors could end up in a similar place.

Although I seriously doubt that there will EVER be as big as a problem with Unix variants as there is with Windows. People have been preaching that it is only a matter of time for these virusses become issues with Unix. They've been saying it for 10+ years. "Just another year" they say.

It still hasn't happened yet.


Drag's point is well taken: this Slashdot article says 80% of spam comes from zombie Windows boxes: https://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/06/08/0155218


"They've been saying it for 10+ years. 'Just another year'"

'Twas about 9-10 years ago that Bill Gates predicted the demise of UNIX. He even put a timetable to it: Windows NT would take over and both UNIX and Netware would be dead by 1996.

So much for predictions!


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