Don't dismiss possibility of malicious code on Linux

Friday, 28 March 2003, 12:07 PM EST

Many in the Linux community scoff at the possibility of a major virus or worm slithering about their platform. With source code open to inspection, surely someone in the community will find and remediate dangerous vulnerabilities that could be exploited by pieces of malicious code similar to those that plague Windows.

But Central Command Inc., a Medina, Ohio-based antivirus vendor, warns that companies utilizing Linux in server or desktop environments cannot afford to be so dismissive in their thinking.

CEO Keith Peer said that, as Linux rises in popularity in distributed enterprises, administrators and security officers should not succumb to a false sense of security.

"If the operating system is damaged, it can be replaced in minutes, and it's free," Peer said. "The data that is lost is irreplaceable and valuable."

More virus writers are turning their attention to Linux and writing code specific to the platform. Peer estimates there have been fewer than 100 viruses written for Linux, including Ramen, Lion, Slapper and Lindose, which is a cross-platform worm that hits Windows and Linux ELF executables.

"We've seen a lot of Linux advocates who don't think viruses exist for Linux. That's wrong," Peer said. "Gurus argue that Linux is virus-free, and that's a false sense of security. The problem is driven down from Linux advocates who don't fully understand security."

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