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Linux Viruses

By Charles Hopkins Published 06/2/2006 | Internet

 Are you afraid of ghosts? If yes, then chances are that you'll be afraid of Linux viruses too, because there is an inherent similarity between them. Neither of them exists. In that sense, this article is rather similar to a ghost story it is about something that sounds sinister enough to make you afraid, yet does not really exist.

Well, that isn't completely and absolutely true. There is a famous Linux virus called Bliss, which was discovered in 1997. you want to know why it is so famous? Is it because it's a particularly damaging, destructive, hairy sort of virus? Not really. In fact, it was rather lame, and couldn't survive in the wild unless someone took special care of it and kindly provided it with what it needed to live. So what was the reason behind Bliss's seemingly undeserved glory?

The reason is that Bliss is the only one of its kind it is the only virus ever created for Linux. In fact, the programmer who created it posted it on a well known mailing list for programmers, admitting that it was only released as a proof of the concept that a virus could be written for any platform, but it wasn't expected to survive in the actual environment of real computers running Linux for serious purposes.

And that was all, since that day in 1997, not a single virus has been seen for Linux. The anti-virus company McAfee tried to make much of Bliss, and released an anti-virus product for Linux, claiming that they were the ones who had found out all about it, and how it was one of the deadliest viruses known to civilization.

Which was totally untrue, because a programmer from that mailing list posted the virus to McAfee for inspection. What the company was trying to do was basically tap into the Linux computing sector with their AV business. Linux has traditionally been a sector of the market where AV companies have never made any progress, except in a special situation. McAfee were trying to remedy that by highlighting Bliss. It didn't work, however. The Linux AV didn't sell at all, and till date no computer in the world has been destroyed by this 'deadliest of infections'.

What makes Linux so good? Apart from its inherent security model that is built into its kernel (which is the heart of the operating system), Linux is created as a multi-user system from the ground up. There is one administrator called root, who has the permission to do anything with the system. All normal users have write permission only in their respective 'home directories', which do not contain any system files. So any Linux virus, even if it existed, would only be able to work within the user's home directory. Linux users are trained from the very beginning not to log in as root unless there's some serious system-level work to be done. So the virus never has a chance of infecting the system.

The same could work for Windows if users could be trained enough to create unprivileged accounts for themselves and work with those when doing normal work. But Windows does not encourage this, because there are several everyday tasks like installing new programs or running defrag, which need administrative rights.

So if you have been made miserable by viruses, you can either burn a pocketful of bucks on the latest AV solution, or you could switch over to Linux and forget the whole sorry business for the rest of your life.