Linux and Viruses
You are sure to hear much fuss about the threat of viruses these days. Computer viruses come in many different forms, from infections that are programmed to attack programs and files to those designed to the corrupt the critical sectors of your hard drive. What you seldom hear is what platforms these infections target. Microsoft Windows, the most popular operating system, is the number one target for most virus writers.
Linux is perhaps the biggest rival of the Windows operating system. While it isn't as widely used, Linux has established a reputation for being much more reliable and secure. This is true for several reasons, most of which experienced Linux users are already familiar with. For those of you new to the system, this article detail how Linux stacks the deck against a typical computer virus.
How Viruses Attack Linux Systems
In order for a virus to infect binary executables on a Linux system, those files must be written by the user attempting to execute the infection. This situation in itself is very unlikely. In most cases, these programs are controlled by the root user and being run from a non-privileged account. In a Linux environment, a user with the least experience is less likely to control an executable program. Because of this, the users with little knowledge about viruses are less likely to have home directories susceptible to infection.
Most Linux networking programs are specifically designed without the high-level macros which have allowed many Windows-based viruses to spread at such a rapid rate. This is not an inherent feature, but simply a reflection of the major differences between the two system,s as well as differences in the products aimed at those platforms.
Although Linux has been known for its high level of security, there have been a few notable outbreaks. One such threat was Bliss, the second virus written for the Linux platform. Like most viruses, Bliss attempted to attach itself to executables, files regular users typically do not have access. It has been speculated that this infection was scripted simply to prove that Linux could be compromised. However, the Bliss virus doesn't have the ability to propagate with efficiency due to the complex structure of the user privilege system. Though it is one of the only Linux viruses to be seen in the wild, Bliss never reached widespread popularity.
Upon being released, many anti-virus companies distributed a number of reports stating that Linux users should implement anti-virus software due to the Bliss outbreak. This practice never caught on, as Bliss never caused any major damage.
Experts believe that the reason we haven't witnessed a true Linux virus outbreak is because an infection cannot reach its full potential in the system's hostile environment. At the same time, there is always the possibility that the virus coders will get it right one day. It does, however, speak highly of the system's well-crafted design, indicating that a virus must be rather sophisticated to thrive on the Linux platform.