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Linux Malware: The Truth About This Growing Threat [Updated] - The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line

Now you are probably wondering: What is the deeper meaning of the increasing number of attacks on Linux? Is Linux less secure than experts previously thought? What does all this mean for the Linux community?

Despite the growing number of threats targeting Linux systems, there is still solid evidence that Linux is secure by design. The transparency of its open-source code and the constant scrutiny that this code undergoes by a vibrant worldwide community provides a strong argument for the inherent security of the operating system. Because of the “many eyes” that are constantly reviewing the source code that comprises the Linux kernel, vulnerabilities are identified and remedied quicker than flaws that exist in the opaque source code of proprietary operating systems such as Microsoft Windows. Threat actors recognize and exploit this, directing the majority of their attacks at proprietary software, platforms and operating systems. To put things in perspective, according to ESET security researchers, the Operation Windigo botnet, which uses the Cdorked Web server attack kit to compromise Apache and other popular open-source Web servers, has a total of 26,000 infections since May 2013. In comparison, the infamous ZeroAccess Windows-based botnet had infected nearly two million Windows PCs before it was taken down in December 2013.

However, the digital threat landscape is rapidly evolving to become more advanced and dangerous and while the majority of attacks still victimize proprietary operating systems, threat actors are experimenting with newer targets like Linux. Linux users should undoubtedly be aware of the growing risk that their systems face, and recognize that as this new decade unfolds, prioritizing system security and maintenance is more critical than ever. Regardless of the operating system being used, it is critical that users adopt safe habits - especially in the context of the modern digital threat landscape. In many cases, malware attacks can be attributed to administration issues and vulnerabilities in individual accounts, as opposed to the security of the operating system being run. Guardian Digital CEO Dave Wreski states, “Although it may be easy to blame the rise in Linux malware in recent years on security vulnerabilities in the operating system as a whole, this is unfair and largely untrue. The majority of malware exploits on Linux systems can be attributed to misconfigured servers.”

On a broader scale, the rise of Linux malware should serve as a wake up call for the security industry to allocate more resources to detect these threats - as Linux malware will continue to become more complex, and currently, even common threats targeting Linux frequently fly under the radar.