Every now and then you will come across someone who doesn’t run a Linux distrobution and is interested in it.
What are the first things you tell them to convince them about the awesomeness of Linux?

Here is one of the most usual examples:

‘We don’t have viruses, so you don’t have to worry about that’

This is the most used one in my opinion, when it comes to security.

The problem is that this are very false.

I wish to explain the exact status of Linux security against that of Windows and explain exactly what made this myth come to life.

‘We don’t have viruses, so you don’t have to worry about that’

The problem is that we do actually have viruses and a lot of those are not Windows viruses but Linux specific.
Some good examples of these are:

Alaeda – Virus.Linux.Alaeda
Binom – Linux/Binom
Kagob a – Virus.Linux.Kagob.a

But what creates the idea that Linux is virus free?

Due to Linux’s opensource roots.
With open source software, the source code is available and it means that anyone who looks through the code would spot some malicious code in there.

Another reason why our system would be seen as invulnerable is the fact that we mostly use public repositories to get our software. These repositories are monitored and maintained and viruses kept out.

But what about if you were to download a .bin file for instance which is not open source and not found in repositories but on some website somewhere, what then?

That’s where the problems may come. In essence, there is nothing stopping that program from running some malicious code. However, before you begin removing all your installed applications which you installed through binary files, let me explain one more line of defense which we have.

Most of the people who use Linux and don’t know much about it, will probably be getting annoyed at having to enter your password every time you do something.

This is another line of defense. As you know, there are two accounts with which you generally work on Linux. The first would be the user account in which you open applications etc.
The second would be the super-user account, also knows as su, or in Ubuntu sudo account.
This basically protects you from having total control at all times. And is very useful for the stopping of viruses.
Because a virus can delete files from your home folder, or perhaps other horrible things, it can not  do severe damage to render your system unusable, because for that it would need super user controls, and that is something it cannot get access to.

But now that I have been saying that Linux is not as secure as we thought, how secure is it in comparison to Windows?

Before Windows Vista, there was no idea of an extra super user type of account on a Windows system.
What this meant is that a virus could easily gain access to the System32 folder and wreak havoc.

As of Windows Vista onwards a new system came into place which means the user has to click on proceed in order to do things with the system.

The problem is, in my opinion this is a fake, and doesn’t protect you at all.

Let’s look at the main difference between Linux and Windows.

Linux gives you full access to the home folder, where pretty much everything personal is stored, and gives you some read access to folders outside of the home folder but the rest is pretty much out of bounds for you unless you have super user access.
What does that mean? Well in effect it puts a divide between you and your files and the important, not to mess with files that keep your computer running well.

In Windows, even with this new warning system, there is no divide.

Anyone logged onto the computer, can just wander off to the Windows folder, delete and mess at will, and head over to the System32 folder and kill the OS.
The lack of such a divide means that if your average user can wander into there, why should a virus not be able to?

Which leads me to an all important question. And one a lot of people should actually question.

Viruses have been around for Windows since the Windows 95/98 era and still today they are there.
Microsoft vowed to stop all these and introduced a new system which you will agree does absolutely nothing to stop it.

My question is, is Microsoft really interested in exterminating viruses?

Think about the money that is made on viruses, Norton and Symantec have built a whole business on it.
And as for Norton’s case, there are an aweful lot of computers that come with it pre-installed.

To eliminate viruses all you have to do is cut the access to system files and you will have significantly cut the numbers.
It will far from eliminate them but it will keep the system running at least.

If you look at the amount of things Microsoft have already borrowed from Linux and Mac OS, it would be foolish to think they would not have looked at the Linux super user approach.

The truth is, Microsoft doesn’t really want to eliminate viruses, because it makes money.

And that is the main difference.

To sum it all up:

Viruses exist on all OS’s, but only a small percentage of the total number of viruses exist for Linux.

Linux is not invulnerable, but is as well organised to fight viruses as possible.

But even if you are worried, there are lots of anti-virus software on Linux.
I do have one word of warning to new comers to Linux. The market for anti-virus for Linux is totally different than the one for Windows.
Where Symantec rules the Windows market, it is not really looked at in Linux.

My personal choice would be ClamAV. I did a virus scan there and it found a virus, and ironically enough, in the Wine folder.