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Oracle News Headlines


Linux Guru Speaks Out on Server Virus Attacks

November 18, 2004

This from Adam Haeder, author of the best-selling Conducting the Oracle Job Interview, on Windows vs. Linux Viruses
There is no such thing as 'immune to viruses'. What is a virus? A piece of malicious code that propagates itself. Linux and Mac haven't seen many because:

- - they are a much smaller installed user base
- - their operating systems don't lend themselves to easy propagation of malicious code

Why are windows viruses so prevalent? For the inverse of the 2 reasons stated above. To infect a computer, I have to somehow get code running on it. I can either a) trick a user into running my malicious code, or b) trick the OS into running it for me. The latest vulnerabilities have focused on b). Windows is particularly vulnerable to this because, by it's very nature, everything works together. It's not good from a security standpoint to enable your browser to call your email or word processing program, but you can do that in windows. Think of it like the classic 'hard outer shell, soft chewy center' security model: once you're in, you're in, and can do pretty much anything.

Why is this not true for Linux and Mac? As a long-time Linux user, I can attest that most Linux apps do not work together. Also, viruses need to work from a common base to be able to propagate. All the windows email viruses propagate through Outlook or Outlook Express. You never hear of a virus using Lotus Notes or anything else, because Outlook and Outlook Express
are on so many systems. What mail program would a Linux virus pick? There's only about 50 to choose from.

The other issue is basic OS security. Despite Microsoft's efforts to the contrary, most Windows users run their computers in 'Administrator' mode, meaning any program they run has full access to everything. You can change this, but outside of corporate environments, few people do. Linux on the other hand (not sure about the default on Mac, not much of a Mac guy) defaults you to a non-privileged user account. So even if you run malicious code, you're only screwing up your own files, not the rest of the OS.

So although we will see more malicious, propagating code spreading around the net for non-Windows operating systems as they continue to grow in popularity, I can still feel self-righteous in saying that it's never going to be as bad as Windows.

A penguin fan


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