Linux is not as safe as you think


There is a notion by many people that Linux-based operating systems are impervious to malware and are 100 percent safe. While operating systems that use that kernel are rather secure, they are certainly not impenetrable. In fact, users are arguably less safe when they believe that stereotype, since they could be less vigilant.

Many of these same people view Windows as being Swiss cheese-like. With that said, would you be surprised if I told you that threat methods for Linux increased an astonishing 300 percent in 2016, while Microsoft's operating systems saw a decrease? Well, according to a new report, that is true.

Does this mean Linux is unsafe? No way, José! There are some important takeaways here. Microsoft's Windows operating systems are still the most targeted platforms despite the year over year decline -- far beyond Linux. Also, just because there is an increase in malware attack methods doesn't necessarily mean that more systems will be infected. Let us not forget that it is easier to find a vulnerability with open source too; Microsoft largely uses closed source code.

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"At the end of November, criminals with other variants of the same Linux malware unleashed devastating attacks against DSL routers of Telekom customers. 900,000 devices were taken down. In October, the Mirai code appeared freely available on the Internet. Since then, the AV-TEST systems have been investigating an increasing number of samples with spikes at the end of October,November and beginning of December," says AV Test of the Mirai malware.


The company also says, "Other Linux malware, such as the Tsunami backdoor, has been causing trouble for several years now and can be easily modified for attacks against IoT devices. The detection systems of AV-TEST first detected the Tsunami malicious code in the year 2003. Although, at that time, practically no IoT devices existed, the Linux backdoor already offered attack functions which even today would be suitable for virtually unprotected attacks on routers: In this manner, Tsunami can download additional malicious code onto infected devices and thus make devices remote controllable for criminals. But the old malware can also be used for DDoS attacks. The Darlloz worm, known since 2013, as well as many other Linux and Unix malware programs, have similar attack patterns which AV-TEST has been detecting and analyzing for years."

As you can see, many of the increases in Linux attacks aren't aimed at workstations. Actually, it can largely be attributed to IoT and other devices, such as routers, which some manufacturers abandon from an update perspective. Linux is used for this type of hardware as it scales so well -- it shouldn't be blamed for the failures of companies that don't focus on security.

Still, this does highlight that Linux systems are not invincible. Regardless of operating system -- Linux-based, Windows, or something else -- you are never 100 percent protected. No code is perfect. You should always be sure your computers are up to date with the latest patches to minimize risks.

Photo Credit: Elena Yakusheva / Shutterstock

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