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How to Write a Linux Virus in 5 Easy Steps

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 2 comments

It's easy for people to pick at Windows for being prone to virus and malware attacks. It's almost a given belief that if you're running a PC with a Windows operating system, you're much more susceptible to attacks than users with other operating systems.

But let's quickly look at the reasons for this. First, it isn't really Microsoft's fault. It isn't that Windows is technically inferior, it's that the majority of the world runs on Windows. This fact alone is very attractive for any virus coder or exploiter. As a vrius writer, you'd want to attack the majority, not the minority.

Secondly, because the vast majority of the world's computers runs on Windows, everyone from very tech savvy users to the greenest of novices is included in this pool. There are many who are just not as educated--for various reasons--about software and Internet safety. So here we have a huge pool of people, many of which aren't informed. These are two main reasons why a Windows desktop is the prime target for attacks.

In recent years however, the popularity of the Linux operating system has shot up tremendously. Ubuntu for example, is a favorite among enthusiasts. Linux is revered for many industrial strengths, but it too has security issues. A Linux computer that's improperly configured, can also take a beating from malware, hackers, and the like. Thankfully, popular builds like those from Ubuntu, are distributed pre-locked down. At the local environment however, Linux is by nature, significantly stronger than Windows in terms of user and multi-user security.

Despite its strong underpinnings, Linux has become too popular to ignore. Now, a blogger by the name of "foobar" has written a guide on how to efficiently infect a Linux user's system, stating even not to "underestimate the ignorance of a Linux user." A snippet from foobar's guide:

There is this rumor going around that Linux is virus free. It is said that the old-fashioned multi-user heritage of Linux (and other *nix OSs) prevents malware, since users are not normally running their programs in admin mode (as root user). We are reminded that execute bits are needed to run anything – contrary to Windows – and that execute bits aren't set on any attachments or files saved from emails or from a web-browser.

Therefore, we are told, the very architecture of Linux is so much more superior to Windows that it's just not possible to successfully spread malware. Of course – it is acknowledged – a low-level bug, a buffer overflow or other issue is exploitable. But nevertheless, users can't just catch a virus by email or downloading malware from the Internet, contrary to “those Windows users”. Linux will protect them from their own stupidity.

foobar is setting out to prove that Linux is no more secure to malware than Windows is. Despite writing up the how-to guide on writing a virus for Linux, foobar doesn't actually point out the actual malware coding part, and instead instructs a would-be malware coder on how to infect a Linux system.

In a related playing field, Apple is famous for claiming that its computers are bullet proof from malware and viruses too, often indicating so in advertisements that show how "sick" a PC can get versus a Mac. Because of its relatively low usage rate compared to Windows computers, Macs have traditionally been more secure only because no one really wanted to spend time to attack a small minority group. The landscape however, is changing too for Macs. With popularity increasing, viruses and attacks are becoming more popular, with the most recent infection spreading through a torrent of Apple's iWork '09 office suite.

Do you believe that the security of a system lies on the technical aspects of the operating system in use? Or do you firmly believe that the security lies soley on the sholders of the user? Do you think foobar's claims are correct?

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  • -1 Hide
    LePhuronn , 19 February 2009 08:02
    If the OS developers did a better job then there'd be less responsibility on the user's shoulders to protect themselves - that's predominently a comment at Microsoft and their short-sighted approaches to technology (such as ActiveX). However, with products as complex as an OS you simply cannot catch everything and still ship on-time, hence rolling updates.

    In a perfect world, the user shouldn't have to do anything, but they do have a responsibility to look after their systems.
  • 1 Hide
    psycho_driver , 19 February 2009 09:47
    People using linux on their desktop are generally far more tech-savvy than the PC-user-at-large. A lot of windows malware and viruses are spread by warez, which aren't all that big of a deal on linux since virtually everything anyone needs can be provided adequetely by open source software these days.

    As the article says, linux by default can handle malicious software better than windows. However, a dense user can still easily find ways to destroy their systems, no matter what OS they're using. There will be viruses and what-not pop up for linux in larger frequencies than in the past, but they'll never really amount to much of anything, unlike their windows-crippling brethren.