Linux Guru Speaks Out on
Server Virus Attacks
This from Adam Haeder, author of the
best-selling Conducting the Oracle Job Interview, on Windows vs.
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