This article is intended for IT professionals who are new to Linux or looking to learn more about using third-party Linux antivirus solutions with the Linux operating system.
Today, many technology professionals and other experts in the technology community consider the Linux operating system to be more inherently secure than virtually any other operating system, including the latest versions of Windows and macOS.
But is this really true, and if so, does it mean you still need antivirus software or other cybersecurity solutions for Linux?
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the Linux operating system, determine if it’s actually more secure than other options, and make a recommendation regarding antivirus software and other cybersecurity options.
But first, what is Linux and the Linux operating system? Linux antivirus is an operating system similar to Windows, macOS, and even iOS. The biggest difference between Linux and other operating systems is that Linux is “open source,” which means that the code — the Linux operating system kernel — used to develop Linux is free and open to the public. Today, Linux is the best-known and most widely used open-source operating system in the world.
Unfortunately, however, this popularity has led to increased attention from cybercriminals. As Linux continues to increase its market share, the industry has seen a corresponding increase in malware and cyber threats targeting Linux antivirus servers and workloads. As these attacks become more frequent, companies must do everything possible to protect their Linux-based systems.
Why is Linux considered the most secure operating system?
Linux has always enjoyed a reputation as a secure operating system, even from its earliest days. In fact, when it comes to security, many tech professionals, IT managers, and developers find it a better option than Windows or macOS. This is true for several different reasons:
⦁ The open source advantage: The fact that Linux is open source means that an army of programmers, made up of hundreds, even thousands of technology professionals, actively review, edit and refine the work of the community to make sure that there are no bugs or other vulnerabilities. While Microsoft and Apple may have large development teams, they can’t compete with even larger Linux-focused teams.
⦁ Permission-based structure: Linux uses a permission-based structure where users can be prevented from performing certain activities, such as administrative tasks that can lead to security vulnerabilities.
⦁ Less attention from cybercriminals: Hackers don’t spend as much time targeting Linux-based systems as they do systems based on other, more popular operating systems, such as Windows. This is true for one simple reason: Linux actually has low usage numbers. For example, Linux currently has around ⦁ two percent of the desktop market share, which pales compared to Windows’ 80%.
It’s like the famous quote from bank robber Willie Sutton, who, when asked why he robbed banks, replied, “It’s where the money is.” In this case, hackers looking to create as much damage as possible would be wise to target non-Linux operating systems.
⦁ Additional steps for common tasks: When using Linux, it can be more difficult to accidentally open and run a dangerous attachment than on other operating systems. Instead of a simple double click, Linux requires additional steps like saving attachments before opening them and possibly even using permission controls to open certain files. These extra steps can often stop what could have been a successful cyberattack.
Thanks to benefits like these, it’s understandable why Linux antivirus is considered by many to be the most secure operating system available today.
Does my company need Linux antivirus software?
However, despite all these benefits, using Linux antivirus solutions with a Linux operating system is still a good idea. The fact is that cybercriminals are highly motivated to stay one step ahead of the good guys and will continue to use new technologies and techniques to avoid detection.
Furthermore, the average cyber threat is much more sophisticated than it was just a few years ago. Cybercriminals now operate in well-organized networks and are often state-funded operations with vast resources at their disposal.
As mentioned above, it is relatively rare for Linux antivirus to be used on desktops and more likely to be used in server settings. Unfortunately, this results in a number of attacks targeting Linux because servers are typically based on Linux, and these servers can be where the most sensitive data resides.
This includes different types of servers, such as file-sharing servers, web servers (which can be prone to ransomware attacks), email servers, and backup servers. Everyone needs as much protection as possible.
Can you get infected with viruses and malware on Linux?
The short answer is yes. While Linux antivirus has a reputation for security, security threats can still occur, just like they would for Windows or any other operating system.
In 2019, cyber defense professionals identified HiddenWasp malware targeting Linux-based systems. Unlike previous examples of Linux malware, HiddenWasp did not focus on DDoS or crypto mining activity but was instead designed for targeted remote control.
Main types of cyberattacks targeting the security of Linux and Linux servers
There are a number of security threats running rampant on Linux antivirus, especially related to malware, which can lead to much bigger problems if not caught fast enough.
In many cases, Linux antivirus can protect you from script-based threats like viruses and worms. However, several other potential issues exist, including Linux Trojan packages offering backdoor access, malware, ransomware, and other cyber threats. Additional threats can include adware, spyware, and keylogging malware.
What if I don’t have a Linux server, but I’m running a Linux-based operating system like Ubuntu? Do I need Ubuntu antivirus software too?
Once again, the answer is yes. In this case, Ubuntu is a variation of the Linux operating system, so it is recommended that you use powerful antivirus software (and other cyber protection software) to detect known and emerging threats, including zero-day attacks.