Complacency: The Real Cross-Platform Security Threat

Is Linux less vulnerable to malware than Windows? Absolutely. Will that fact get a lot of Linux users in serious trouble? Oh, yeah.
Is Linux less vulnerable to malware than Windows? Absolutely. Will that fact get a lot of Linux users in serious trouble? Oh, yeah.IT expert Matt Hartley makes this case very succinctly in one of his recent blog posts. Beginning with the (absolutely accurate) assertion that "there is no such thing as a malware-proof PC," Hartley continues,

"To this day, there are simple one-line commands I can convince most people to click on, in a script form, that will hose their installation of Ubuntu. If thats not considered malware, then I dont know what is. Clearly, being aware of what you are installing, executing or clicking on from the Web remains as important as it does in Windows."
In fact, a little research will turn up some truly dangerous Linux commands, some of which will make you wish that you had merely "hosed" your system.

You can protect yourself against most (but not all) of these horrors by sticking with basic Linux system-security practices, the most important of which is never using a root account for day-to-day activities. But this fact, too, serves to illustrate the bigger point here: Anyone who gets complacent about computer security -- no matter what operating system they run -- is playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun.

Also keep in mind that simplicity can be a deceptive concept when applied to PC security. This guide to desktop Linux security practices, for example, is likely to intimidate many users, even though it is actually pretty clear when you look at it closely. Take the same users, however, and expose them to what they should know about Windows desktop security, and they might have a harder time deciding which set of guidelines is actually harder to grok.

Besides learning and practicing sound security practices, and understanding that Linux systems are not totally immune to malware, Hartley brings up another point that I can't endorse strongly enough: Follow a data backup plan, or plan to run your small business without all of the data stored on your PC when something goes wrong.

In addition, I strongly suggest that you test your backups regularly by actually applying them to "dry run" test folders or disk partitions. I have simply seen too many cases where people assume that their expensive, brand-name backup software is working perfectly, only to discover that just the opposite was true.

Certainly, there are many situations where Linux can help to keep Murphy's Law from reaching out and touching you and your business. Assume that you're beyond the grasp of Murphy's long arm, however, and I guarantee that you'll get burned -- probably when you can least afford to learn such a hard lesson.

Editor's Choice
Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer