Taking Stock of Linux Security and Antivirus Needs

Demand for antivirus and other security software for Linux is on the rise in an era of cross-platform computing and OS-agnostic threats.

Christopher Tozzi, Contributing Editor

March 18, 2013

3 Min Read
Taking Stock of Linux Security and Antivirus Needs

Open source fans like to brag that Linux needs no antivirus software. Yet as executives at security vendor ESET were keen to remind me in a recent interview, that truism holds true only to a certain extent. In an age where Linux commands greater market share, and where a growing number of threats are platform-agnostic, demand for security enhancements may well be on the rise. Is the channel ready?

That is, of course, what one would expect ESET representatives to say. As a major developer of security software for all operating systems, with a strong presence in the MSP world and about 2,500 VARs in North America alone, the company stands to grow along with demand for antivirus and other security products for Linux.

But when I spoke with Jeff Chen, director of product marketing at ESET, he made some good points. While the majority of threats today target Windows, he said, "no operating system is safe, and Linux is no exception." As one obvious example of vulnerabilities on Linux, he pointed to a flaw his company's engineers recently discovered in Linux SSH daemons.

Worse, native, Linux-centric vulnerabilities such as that one are only the tip of the iceberg in an age where computing is more cross-platform than ever. A more serious problem, perhaps, is malware such as this backdoor intrusion tool that was ported from Linux to OS X, highlighting the opportunities that the common genealogy of these two operating systems presents for developing malware with a wide reach. The same risks hold true for Linux and Android, since "it wouldn't take much effort for someone to port an Android-based attack to Linux, and vice versa," as Chen pointed out.

At the same time, Web and social-media based attacks, a phenomenon that has emerged in only the last few years yet is becoming increasingly common, provide a totally platform-agnostic approach to stealing data and denying services.

Software for combating such threats on Linux has been available for a long time. Some of it, such as ClamAV, is free and open source. Commercial packages include ESET's NOD32 antivirus products, which support Linux as well as all other major platforms. Yet many Linux security products "are not as strong as your Windows product line," as Chen acknowledged, meaning that opportunities exist for vendors and VARs to develop more robust solutions to meet the security needs of Linux today.

To be sure, most users of desktop Linux need worry much less than their counterparts on Windows–and even those on OS X–about malware threats. (They may also find reassurance in knowing that the kernel developers responsible for designing Linux to be secure are not also selling antivirus software to plug the security holes they overlook. Microsoft does both for Windows, which has always seemed like a nasty conflict of interest to me, something like the military-industrial complex of IT world.) But that is changing, and the channel should prepare to meet new demands in this area.

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Contributing Editor

Christopher Tozzi started covering the channel for The VAR Guy on a freelance basis in 2008, with an emphasis on open source, Linux, virtualization, SDN, containers, data storage and related topics. He also teaches history at a major university in Washington, D.C. He occasionally combines these interests by writing about the history of software. His book on this topic, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” is forthcoming with MIT Press.

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like