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Viruses and Market Dominance - Myth or Fact?

simoniker posted about 11 years ago | from the wash-your-hands-first dept.

Security 736

rocketjam writes "An article at The Register, authored by Scott Granneman of SecurityFocus, examines the conventional wisdom that if Linux or Mac OS X were as popular as Windows, there would be just as many viruses written for those platforms. Mr. Granneman bluntly says this is wrong, then proceeds to detail the fundamental differences between those OS's and Windows which make Windows an easy and inviting target for virus-writers, as opposed to the Unix-based platforms."

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florist (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148069)


first post!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148072)

this is a first post!

Re:first post!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148097)

sorry, but my floral post has defeated your measly attempt. YHL, HAND.

Re:first post!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148106)

actually, YOU FAIL IT! to florist porridge.

Have you considered suicide?

myth (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148078)

propz to GNAA

Unix-based ... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148079)

If at least ./ authors could turn on their brain before writing an article. Linux is not Unix-based. That's what SCO is trying to tell people. It is a Unix-like system. Stop spreading SCO's FUD, please!

Re:Unix-based ... (5, Insightful)

bladernr (683269) | about 11 years ago | (#7148154)

Linux is not Unix-based.

I'm not sure if this is a troll or not, but Linux is indeed UNIX-based. It is "inspired by" UNIX (as opposed to having code in common).

Linux uses all of the old UNIX concepts of fork(), inodes, etc. For non-UNIX inspired systems, see OS/400, VMS, etc. These do not have UNIX primatives.

As a Linux user, I am proud that Linux is a UNIX derived (at least in spirit) system. It has a base of history, knowledge and experience from which to build. Would starting purely from scratch be better? I hardly think so.

I learned UNIX programming on SunOS. My SunOS knowledge works just fine on Linux (although not on OS/400 and hardly on Windows... unless you count what little POSIX compliance they barely put in).

Long live UNIX/Linux!

Re:Unix-based ... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148286)

My name is JANG DOO-HWAN, The brother of Mr. CHUN DOO-HWAN, the former President of South Korea who seized power in a military coup in 1979 and who ruled from 1979 to 1987. My brother was pushed out of office and charged with treason ,corruption and embezzlement of over 21billion won. He was wrongly sentenced to death but fortunately AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL stepped in and commuted the sentence to life. We thank God that he has finally being released though still under house arrest in the sense of conditions of the freedom. During my brother's regime as president of South Korea, we realized some reasonable amount of money from various deals that we successfully executed. I have plans to invest this money for my children's future on real estate and industrial production. Before my brother's was overthrown, I secretly siphoned the sum of $30,000,000 million USD (Thirty million United states dollars) out of Seoul and deposited the money with a security firm that transports valuable goods and consignments through diplomatic means. I am contacting you because I want you to deal with the security company and claim the money on my behalf since I have declared that the consignment belong to my foreign business partner. You shall also be required to assist me in investment in your country. I hope to trust you as a God fearing person who will not sit on this money when you claim it, rather assist me properly, I expect you to declare what percentage of the total money you will take for your assistance. When I receive your positive response I will let you know where the security company is and the payment pin code to claim the money which is very important. What we need is to indicate your interest that you will assist us by receiving the money on our behalf in Europe. For this, you shall be considered to be the beneficiary of the money. The project in brief, is that the funds with which we intend to carry out our proposed investments in your country, is presently in the custody of a Diplomatic Courier Services Company in Europe. We cannot do this ourselves because we do not have any relatives living outside South Korea and moreover we do not want the government of my Country to know about the money because they will believe I got the money from my brother while he was still in office as president .Once you confirm the receipt of the money ,I will come over with my Children to your Country or any Country in Europe to start a new life with my Family. As soon as payment is effected, and the amount mentioned above is successfully transferred into your account, we intend to use our own share in acquiring some estates abroad. For this too you shall also be our overseas manager of all our properties and you will be paid based on a certain percentage agreed on by both parties. For now, let all our communication be by e-mail because my line is right now connected to the South Korean Telecommunication Network services therefore we can not take the chances of being heard. Please also send me your telephone and fax number. I will ask my son to contact you to give you more details on after I have received a response from you. I am going to introduce you to him as an age long friend so as to prevent him from using any of his own friends who I regard as sycophants who are around him for financial gains and treacherous if he gives them this opportunity. This I got from the experience I had when the people turned against Chun, my brother that became the prelude of our sorrow. The reason why it took this long was that the security company's agreement with me was that my brother must personally sign the Power of Attorney that will transfer title to the prospective beneficiary. It was a long wait but it paid off. His excellency, Chun Doo-Hwan does not want to be personally involved for security reason. Your quick response will be highly appreciated. Thank you in anticipation of your cooperation. Yours faithfully,

Heres a site relaying spam (-1)

TheJesusCandle (558547) | about 11 years ago | (#7148224)

fire up your IRC client and head on over to (6666).

Found a trojan binary on usenet, it points to that IP address. At the time i found it, they had 1900 drones in the channel ##a

Have fun


interesing (0)

diablo6683 (556085) | about 11 years ago | (#7148081)

i wonder what the commercial applications/implications of this are? any takers?

Hi guys. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148086)

I've NEVER EVER EVER had a virus. Ever. I've never been infected.

Re:Hi guys. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148121)

you've forgotten about the fact that you have HIV, also known as the "gay cancer"

Re:Hi guys. (1)

angryelephant (678279) | about 11 years ago | (#7148235)

The only time I have had a PC become infected by a virus is my work computer which runs on a vastly microsoft dominated network.

Symantec Makes It Worse (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148287)

Symantec's new 2004 package with required product activation is highly entertaining, as it now suggests that I buy four! copies for my personal PCs alone.

Give them a call and tell how you feel.

1-408-253-9600. Hit 3, and then ask to speak to a senior supervisor.

Let's Keep the Party Going (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148088)

Congratulations on your purchase of a brand new nigger! If handled properly, your nigger will give years of valuable, if reluctant, service.


You should install your nigger differently according to whether you have purchased the field or house model. Field niggers work best in a serial configuration, i.e. chained together. Chain your nigger to another nigger immediately on unpacking it, and don't even think about taking that chain off, ever. Many niggers start singing as soon as you put a chain on them. This habit can usually be thrashed out of them if nipped in the bud. House niggers work best as standalone units, but should be hobbled or hamstrung to prevent attempts at escape. At this stage, your nigger can also be given a name. Most owners use the same names over and over, since niggers become confused by too much data. Rufus, Rastus, Remus, Toby, Carslisle, Carlton, Hey-You!-Yes-you!, Yeller, Blackstar, and Sambo are all effective names for your new buck nigger. If your nigger is a ho, it should be called Latrelle, L'Tanya, or Jemima. Some owners call their nigger hoes Latrine for a joke. Pearl, Blossom, and Ivory are also righteous names for nigger hoes. These names go straight over your nigger's head, by the way.


Owing to a design error, your nigger comes equipped with a tongue and vocal chords. Most niggers can master only a few basic human phrases with this apparatus - "muh dick" being the most popular. However, others make barking, yelping, yapping noises and appear to be in some pain, so you should probably call a vet and have him remove your nigger's tongue. Once de-tongued your nigger will be a lot happier - at least, you won't hear it complaining anywhere near as much. Niggers have nothing interesting to say, anyway. Many owners also castrate their niggers for health reasons (yours, mine, and that of women, not the nigger's). This is strongly recommended, and frankly, it's a mystery why this is not done on the boat


Your nigger can be accommodated in cages with stout iron bars. Make sure, however, that the bars are wide enough to push pieces of nigger food through. The rule of thumb is, four niggers per square yard of cage. So a fifteen foot by thirty foot nigger cage can accommodate two hundred niggers. You can site a nigger cage anywhere, even on soft ground. Don't worry about your nigger fashioning makeshift shovels out of odd pieces of wood and digging an escape tunnel under the bars of the cage. Niggers never invented the shovel before and they're not about to now. In any case, your nigger is certainly too lazy to attempt escape. As long as the free food holds out, your nigger is living better than it did in Africa, so it will stay put. Buck niggers and hoe niggers can be safely accommodated in the same cage, as bucks never attempt sex with black hoes.


Your Nigger likes fried chicken, corn bread, and watermelon. You should therefore give it none of these things because its lazy ass almost certainly doesn't deserve it. Instead, feed it on porridge with salt, and creek water. Your nigger will supplement its diet with whatever it finds in the fields, other niggers, etc. Experienced nigger owners sometimes push watermelon slices through the bars of the nigger cage at the end of the day as a treat, but only if all niggers have worked well and nothing has been stolen that day. Mike of the Old Ranch Plantation reports that this last one is a killer, since all niggers steal something almost every single day of their lives. He reports he doesn't have to spend much on free watermelon for his niggers as a result. You should never allow your nigger meal breaks while at work, since if it stops work for more than ten minutes it will need to be retrained. You would be surprised how long it takes to teach a nigger to pick cotton. You really would. Coffee beans? Don't ask. You have no idea.


Niggers are very, very averse to work of any kind. The nigger's most prominent anatomical feature, after all, its oversized buttocks, which have evolved to make it more comfortable for your nigger to sit around all day doing nothing for its entire life. Niggers are often good runners, too, to enable them to sprint quickly in the opposite direction if they see work heading their way. The solution to this is to *dupe* your nigger into working. After installation, encourage it towards the cotton field with blows of a wooden club, fence post, baseball bat, etc., and then tell it that all that cotton belongs to a white man, who won't be back until tomorrow. Your nigger will then frantically compete with the other field niggers to steal as much of that cotton as it can before the white man returns. At the end of the day, return your nigger to its cage and laugh at its stupidity, then repeat the same trick every day indefinitely. Your nigger comes equipped with the standard nigger IQ of 55 and a memory to match, so it will forget this trick overnight. Niggers can start work at around 5am. You should then return to bed and come back at around 10am. Your niggers can then work through until around 10pm or whenever the light fades.


Your nigger enjoys play, like most animals, so you should play with it regularly. A happy smiling nigger works best. Games niggers enjoy include:

1) A good thrashing: every few days, take your nigger's pants down, hang it up by its heels, and have some of your other niggers thrash it with a club or whip. Your nigger will signal its intense enjoyment by shrieking and sobbing.

2) Lynch the nigger: niggers are cheap and there are millions more where yours came from. So every now and then, push the boat out a bit and lynch a nigger.

Lynchings are best done with a rope over the branch of a tree, and niggers just love to be lynched. It makes them feel special. Make your other niggers watch. They'll be so grateful, they'll work harder for a day or two (and then you can lynch another one).

3) Nigger dragging: Tie your nigger by one wrist to the tow bar on the back of suitable vehicle, then drive away at approximately 50mph. Your nigger's shrieks of enjoyment will be heard for miles. It will shriek until it falls apart. To prolong the fun for the nigger, do *NOT* drag him by his feet, as his head comes off too soon. This is painless for the nigger, but spoils the fun. Always wear a seatbelt and never exceed the speed limit.

4) Playing on the PNL: a variation on (2), except you can lynch your nigger out in the fields, thus saving work time. Niggers enjoy this game best if the PNL is operated by a man in a tall white hood.

5) Hunt the nigger: a variation of Hunt the Slipper, but played outdoors, with Dobermans. WARNING: do not let your Dobermans bite a nigger, as they are highly toxic.


Niggers die on average at around 40, which some might say is 40 years too late, but there you go. Most people prefer their niggers dead, in fact. When yours dies, report the license number of the car that did the drive-by shooting of your nigger. The police will collect the nigger and dispose of it for you.



Have it put down, for god's sake. Who needs an uppity nigger? What are we, short of niggers or something?


They all do this. Shorten your nigger's chain so it can't reach any white women, and arm heavily any white women who might go near it.


Not unless it outnumbers you 20 to 1, and even then, it's not likely. If niggers successfully overthrew their owners, they'd have to sort out their own food. This is probably why nigger uprisings were nonexistent (until some fool gave them rights).


Yeah, well, it would. Tell it to shut the fuck up.


A nigger's skin is actually more or less transparent. That brown color you can see is the shit your nigger is full of. This is why some models of nigger are sold as "The Shitskin".


What you have there is a "wigger".


They're as common as dog shit and about as valuable. In fact, one of them was President between 1992 and 2000. Put your wigger in a cage with a few hundred genuine niggers and you'll soon find it stops acting like a nigger. However, leave it in the cage and let the niggers dispose of it.


And you were expecting what?


This is normal.


Where are we, Wonderland? You'll have a lot of trouble getting it to fornicate with *other* niggers.


I don't really understand the question ("better quality of nigger"...?WTF?)

Re:Let's Keep the Party Going (2, Funny)

TooTechy (191509) | about 11 years ago | (#7148160)

Please. Let's just remove this comment.

What about r00tkits? (3, Interesting)

Leme (303299) | about 11 years ago | (#7148094)

He says "There are about 60,000 viruses known for Windows, 40 or so for the Macintosh, about 5 for commercial Unix versions, and perhaps 40 for Linux."

What about root kits? I would consider that a virus, not technically speaking, but it's still along the same lines.

Re:What about r00tkits? (2, Informative)

BagOBones (574735) | about 11 years ago | (#7148108)

A virus is self replicating.

Re:What about r00tkits? (3, Funny)

SquadBoy (167263) | about 11 years ago | (#7148158)

Who is to say that r00tkits are not? Maybe they are the really smart ones just using the kiddies as hosts. Every think of that smarty smarty go to a party?

Re:What about r00tkits? (1)

BlackHawk-666 (560896) | about 11 years ago | (#7148318)

Perhaps you could name some of these self replicating root kits to give your statements some degree of validity?

Re:What about r00tkits? (5, Insightful)

demaria (122790) | about 11 years ago | (#7148155)

Rootkits are probably more like a trojan than virus.

Personally, I consider viruses, worms and trojans to all fall into the same genus. The differences between the three aren't too important and blurry anyways. They are all hostile code that can affect any system.

Re:What about r00tkits? (1)

evil9000 (72113) | about 11 years ago | (#7148310)

No, not the same. If you are referring to an email with a root kit attachment, then your talking about a trojan.

meh (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148096)

Opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one.

Re:meh (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148114)

by Anonymous Coward on 05:25 PM October 6th, 2003 (#7148096)
Opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one.

And they all stink.

Re:meh (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148164)

"Opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one."
And they all stink.

Well, not necessarilly. My girlfriend's asshole smells like flowers. It doesn't taste too bad either.

ARGH! (-1, Offtopic)

MikeCapone (693319) | about 11 years ago | (#7148099)

I just submitted the exact same story to /.

Another rejection for my file... Reminds me of that Simspons episode when Milhouse tries to destroy his (literally) permanent school file.


Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148117)

y______________________________GO_LUNIX []
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yes, but the effect might be different (5, Interesting)

civilengineer (669209) | about 11 years ago | (#7148119)

there would be just as many viruses written for those platforms Probably, there would be as many viruses written, or more, but the effect of the viruses would have been different. As to whether the effects would have been not as bad, equal or worse is difficult to answer.

Re:yes, but the effect might be different (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148162)

so, from what this article is saying, lets add more steps and go the complicated way. Thats not what needs to happen.

I do believe windows is so "cobbled" together that its hard to keep it secure, but Linux is not a godsend either.

I use both systems, both have flaws, and linux is definatly no where near ready for the masses.

Damn vocal linux minority.....

Re:yes, but the effect might be different (5, Interesting)

pebs (654334) | about 11 years ago | (#7148245)

Take a look at this somewhat related article [] . It looks almost like its a response to reading Slashdot and responding with a troll.

his worst argument... (3, Interesting)

BobTheLawyer (692026) | about 11 years ago | (#7148124)

is that the relative difficulty a newbie has doing things in Linux makes it more secure.

And the network effect he mentions is really just a more sophisticated version of the "everybody uses Windows" argument he disparages.

I'm not qualified to comment on his technical arguments...

Re:his worst argument... (5, Insightful)

Killean (25381) | about 11 years ago | (#7148191)

Yeha, I love this quote:

Further, due to the strong community around Linux, new users will receive education and encouragement in areas such as email security that are currently lacking in the Windows world, which should help to alleviate any concerns on the part of newbies.

Yeah right. I garuntee if my Mom started using Linux all she'd be doing the same things she's doing now. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them check if it's contaminated first...

Re:his worst argument... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148230)

is that the relative difficulty a newbie has doing things in Linux makes it more secure.

This is a good point, and goes back to why a newbie will never use Linux in its current incarnation - unless someone else sets it up for them. You use a computer to get things done, and with Linux, a newbie is not going to get anything done.

I hate this argument. (1, Insightful)

papasui (567265) | about 11 years ago | (#7148125)

Sure you can mess up a Windows system easily. I could just as easily compile some code without reading every line of the source and have my entire home directory wiped out, which contains all my settings and documents, you know the important stuff. Every system can be damaged, the extent will vary, but you still need to be careful regardless of the OS you use.

Re:I hate this argument. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148177)

compile your stuff under another account then (not root).

Re:I hate this argument. (1)

lakeland (218447) | about 11 years ago | (#7148260)

You missed the point. While wiping /home would be 'unfortunate' for you, it reduces the virus' spread.

I see the problem. (5, Funny)

Soulfader (527299) | about 11 years ago | (#7148126)

"Check out this wicked screensaver!!!! But it um, only runs as root, so you have to su first. Also, chmod and make it executable, please. Thanks!"

Re:I see the problem. (1)

twoslice (457793) | about 11 years ago | (#7148248)

and what lame ass admin would ever give the root password to their users?

Re:I see the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148278)

Yep. That'll work for everyone who runs everything as root.

Operating System bugs vs Application level bugs (5, Insightful)

kevin_conaway (585204) | about 11 years ago | (#7148130)

I think Windows systems suffer more from vulnerabilities at the operating system level (possibly because it tried to integrate so many things) than application level (though they do exist). In Unix like environments, it is the opposite. The operating system is generally secure against remote attacks but it is the applications that run on top of the OS that introduce vulnerabilities.

As long as there is software there will be bugs, no matter where it is run.

Re:Operating System bugs vs Application level bugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148186)

Well thank you Dr. Knuth. I have another take on it: w1nd0z3 5ucKz l1nuX RuL3Z 9r33tZ t0 da @ssm@ster

Re:Operating System bugs vs Application level bugs (1)

NanoGator (522640) | about 11 years ago | (#7148240)

"As long as there is software there will be bugs, no matter where it is run."

This is very true. All it takes is an inexpicably popular piece of software that has a vulnerability in it. Franky, I don't think it'd be hard for somebody to write an interesting app just to do that. Kazaa ring a bell?

Linux Is Getting There, too! (5, Insightful)

PRES_00 (657776) | about 11 years ago | (#7148133)

Since many Linux distributions are trying hard to get convert desktop users, they are also diminishing the steps required for the launching of an executable virus thus, diminishing security.

If Linux becomes more popular, media recognition and increasingly "dumbed down" distros will make it a good platform virus writers.

Re:Linux Is Getting There, too! (4, Insightful)

JayBlalock (635935) | about 11 years ago | (#7148252)

It might make it easier for average users to infect themselves, BUT they won't spread it. Keep in mind, these days, most damage caused by viruses is secondary. SoBig didn't directly damage ANY computers - but it crippled a lot of networks and inboxes because of the huge load of mail it generates.

And that's what, as far as I know, NO ONE would manage to dumb Linux down to be able to do. All of the big virii like SoBig and Blaster rely on Microsoft's boneheaded insistance on cross-linking every program and giving everything full root rights. Did you know there's one theoretical expoit in Windows, thankfully not done yet, in which an MP3 could be given a corrupt header, which points IE to a virus online, and be activated simply on MOUSEOVER? No joke, it's out in MS's security updates archive.

So even if it becomes easier for lusers to infect themselves, the chances of an Internet crippling worm are FAR reduced. (and that's even assuming a few standardized builds; the huge multitude of programs available for Linux create a form of security through obscurity)

Re:Linux Is Getting There, too! (3, Insightful)

abeger (597544) | about 11 years ago | (#7148256)

My thoughts exactly. While I was reading his arguments, I was thinking "Y'know, half of these reasons are *why* more people don't use Linux...".

Re:Linux Is Getting There, too! (5, Interesting)

pla (258480) | about 11 years ago | (#7148292)

If Linux becomes more popular, media recognition and increasingly "dumbed down" distros will make it a good platform virus writers.


The very fact that Unix-like OSs have a concept of a "root" account (which the Windows "equivalent", "administrator", does not even come CLOSE to matching in terms of actual separation of permissions), makes it all but invincible to virii.

Yes, if Linux becomes popular enough for virus authors to target it, we'll see a round of trojans using root exploits - But unlike Windows exploits, very few of these exist to start with, and they will (and do) get fixed within a few hours of discovery.

Actually, for that reason, I think more Linux virii would help Linux security overall, as it would expose those root exploits faster than we can discover them normally. Yeah, a few boxes would suffer, but the community as a whole would benefit.

YES and NO... (1)

ArCaNe50 (587961) | about 11 years ago | (#7148140)

People tell me this crap too but they fail to see the MAIN difference is that we do not login as root in LINUX or (or at least I do not)

However I do see more problems as far as out dated (not patched) systems getting exploited.

Re:YES and NO... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148247)

The "logging in as root" thing comes up all the time, but although it might protect you against damaging your system, it doesn't necessarily protect you from spreading the code or sufferring some of the effects.

Most of the irritation from the recent worms come from things like: reading the contents of your address book & sending out craploads of emails, trying to DDoS some box somewhere, and setting themselves to restart when you next log in... all things that the regular user account would have privs to do.

Just a thought...

whatever (0)

edrugtrader (442064) | about 11 years ago | (#7148141)

unix based systems run many more daemons that are inherently more vunerable than microsoft products.

outlook is an easy target because it allows tons of scripting and has access to more email addresses to propegate... it is just 1 tool that corporate america has deemed necessary. it isn't the OS's fault, it is outlook and if linux blows up, then "outlook for linux" would be just as vunerable ON TOP OF all the other client server bugs.

i agree whole heartedly that market dominance dictates what viruses are written to attack. as a virus writer you want maximum penatration and the only way to get that is to go after the most possible hosts.

from the scientific journal "duh".

Re:whatever (5, Insightful)

edwdig (47888) | about 11 years ago | (#7148309)

it isn't the OS's fault, it is outlook and if linux blows up, then "outlook for linux" would be just as vunerable

Outlook Express isn't removable from Win2k onwards. MS considers it part of the OS. So it is the OS's fault.

If Linux came with unremovable email clients, then your argument would be valid.

Well, he bluntly says it's wrong... (1, Interesting)

lgordon (103004) | about 11 years ago | (#7148142)

The author seems to have a single point--Unix machines have security built in at a ground level (primarily because the root user really is the only one with power to mess things up) and a bunch of fluff material to fill out the article. I figured this guy would look at the systems from a usability standpoint and realize that sometimes you need an OS that has to allow you to install things even if you are clueless, because you don't have a full time system admin. Maybe if he spent more time researching what people actually use computers for instead of using his security buzzword hammer (Social Engineering!) he might have actually put together an insightful article instead of a bunch of not well thought out drivel.

Its all about the money (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148145)

For us oldsters, who were around when Microsoft finally woke up to the significance of the internet, the security problems that M$ faces coincide with their desire for market dominance.

MS quickly created some powerful internet enabled applications. Outlook is the best example. In order to provide so many 'innovative' goodies and features they had to sacrifice security. Deep system hooks and then trying to justify their inclusion of Internet Explorer forced them to tie IE deeply to the system. A great example of short term profiteering at the cost of long term credibility.

Just my opinion. But I am 37 and my degree is in International Relations!



Re:Its all about the money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148234)

Where are you working with your IR degree?

How in the World. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148150)

I don't know how in the world someone can write decent viruses to attack such cobbled-together OS's as Linux. I'm running Slackware 8.1 now, (sort of), but I really didn't get the CD's, or install everything like I should. Oh, I got it to work, and I'm using MozillaFirebird right now. So somebody writes a virus to attack me. Well, I can just reinstall the entire thing all over again. Now Windows XP, which I cannot afford (costs $160.00,way more than my computer is worth) is supposed to be quite the target these days.

Duh!!!.... (0)

Mipsalawishus (674206) | about 11 years ago | (#7148152)

Of coarse Windows is more prone to malicious code execution. An OS that doesn't truly enforce permissions based code execution is going to be ridden with these problems. And yes, even those OSes that are permissions based like Unix and Linux will still have certain vunerabilities. Nothing is perfect. The difference? Bad software engineering (Windows) vs good software engineering (Unix and Linux).

But... (3, Insightful)

The Gline (173269) | about 11 years ago | (#7148156)

Isn't the fact that Windows's vulnerabilities are well known a product of its widespread use? I mean, this just sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.

Not that it matters to those of us who never patch, no matter what OS you're running. I administer a Win2K based server that has remained stable because I patched it religiously and made sure that it was not easily compromised, and so far nothing has happened to it. (In fact, I had a "white hat" come in and try the usual round of exploits on the box, and none worked.)

OTOH, a friend of mine administering a Linux server was too busy bragging about his non-stop uptime to upgrade to a non-exploitable version of Apache and got his site defaced. Twice.

It's not the OS, it's what you do with it.

No widespread viruses on Linux? (1)

moderators_are_w*nke (571920) | about 11 years ago | (#7148159)

None of the Unix or Linux viruses became widespread - most were confined to the laboratory

Surely slapper?

Re:No widespread viruses on Linux? (1)

ceejayoz (567949) | about 11 years ago | (#7148251)


Nice to know the article had good research, eh?

he forgot one thing. (0, Troll)

HornyBastard (666805) | about 11 years ago | (#7148163)

Stuid users.

If Linux (or any other OS) is going to be accepted by the idiots who allow viruses to spread (the majority of users) mail-clients that can exec an attachment with one click will have to arrive.
The thing that allows viruses to spread is people that want everything done automagically.

Re:he forgot one thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148291)

I have seen so many new linux users log in and do everything as root 'because it's easier.' Even seen chmod -R 777 abunchofstuff/* because they couldn't figure out why something wasn't working and thought permissions must be the problem

Windows viruses and GNU/Linux (5, Insightful)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | about 11 years ago | (#7148166)

RMS commented on this issue earlier this year:

There are several reasons why GNU/Linux has few viruses:

  1. We designed the GNU system, from the outset in 1984, as a multi-user timesharing system with security features. An ordinary user cannot change the system software. Linux, Torvalds' 1991 kernel, followed this design as well.
  2. We did not make the incredibly stupid decision to design applications so that they execute programs that arrive in the mail.
  3. Free software developers seem to do a better job, overall. (This is the point that the Open Source Movement primarily focuses on. For us in the Free Software Movement, this is a nice bonus, but please mention that freedom is even more important.)
  4. GNU/Linux is less popular than Windows and most virus developers target the more common system.

If everyone switches to GNU/Linux, reason 4 will go away, but not the others. Therefore, people can expect to have much fewer virus problems in a world of GNU/Linux users than then have now with Windows.


Re:Windows viruses and GNU/Linux (4, Funny)

realdpk (116490) | about 11 years ago | (#7148262)

Of course! I'm certain that once Linux is more popular than Windows, all of the people who used to code for Windows will simultaneously implode, preventing them from writing bad code on Linux.

GNU/Linux (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148271)

Why nobody takes what RMS and his sheep seriously:

1. The use of GNU/Linux. Stop trying to co-op Linux as your own, or "take credit". Nobody cares, it sounds stupid, and if you made a decent kernel, you can call it whatever the fuck you want.

hi (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148175)

i'm a worm n i just infected ur linux box (or OS OX box) woot!! pheer me!! oh n i magically wrote this comment in ur slashdot window while u were reading this cool article.

Forget Windows (5, Insightful)

mutewinter (688449) | about 11 years ago | (#7148179)

If people just stopped using Outlook and only used plain text email there'd be much less of a security problem... I doubt Gabe over at Valve is going to be using it again any time soon.

desirability and non-root destruction (1)

maliabu (665176) | about 11 years ago | (#7148182)

i thought virus-writing is based on the desirability rather than the ease. so as long as an OS is popular and spot-lit enough, there will be enough people to do so.

and the article mentioned a linux-based OS without root privilege will only damage one's /home directory. personally i think that kind of destruction is enough to damage an OS's security reputation.

Reminds me of an old virus joke (0)

UrgleHoth (50415) | about 11 years ago | (#7148187)


This virus works on the honor system:

If you're running a variant of unix or linux, please forward
this message to everyone you know and delete a bunch of your
files at random.

"Normal user" (5, Insightful)

owlstead (636356) | about 11 years ago | (#7148188)

Luckily I've already responded to the author in person before this became /.ed.

As I've pointed out to the author, being just a "normal user" is enough to let the virus spread and to destroy the "normal" users documents.

I keep seeing this argument over and over again when talking about system stability. But my system would be next to useless if all my documents and configurations would be gone. Maybe it would be easier to recover from backup instead of a full reinstall, but that would be it.

Most pc's out there are single user (or single family) computers, instead of the old multi-user mainframes. All the important data are in reach of the virus.

If I get a response I will let you know...

I still argue.. (1)

cK-Gunslinger (443452) | about 11 years ago | (#7148189)

... that having your /home directory trashed and losing all your settings on a single-user, *nix-based machine is just as bad as having to format/reinstall your MS OS. (This is for home/personal use - any large, competent business should have a recent ghost image ready to go and a backup solution for user data.)

ummm (2, Insightful)

Ty (15982) | about 11 years ago | (#7148196)

This sort of social engineering, so easy to accomplish in Windows, requires far more steps and far greater effort on the part of the Linux user. Instead of just reading an email (... just reading an email?!?), a Linux user would have to read the email, save the attachment, give the attachment executable permissions, and then run the executable. Even as less sophisticated users begin to migrate to Linux, they may not understand exactly why they can't just execute attachments, but they will still have to go through the steps. As Martha Stewart would say, this is a good thing. Further, due to the strong community around Linux, new users will receive education and encouragement in areas such as email security that are currently lacking in the Windows world, which should help to alleviate any concerns on the part of newbies.

Yes, until someone decides to add that functionality to a mail program. Things like having a 4 step process to read email attachments is WHY linux is not seeing mainstream growth. The average person cares a heck of a lot more about convenience than security.

What a load (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148197)

This was favorite paragraph:

This sort of social engineering, so easy to accomplish in Windows, requires far more steps and far greater effort on the part of the Linux user. Instead of just reading an email (... just reading an email?!?), a Linux user would have to read the email, save the attachment, give the attachment executable permissions, and then run the executable. Even as less sophisticated users begin to migrate to Linux, they may not understand exactly why they can't just execute attachments, but they will still have to go through the steps. As Martha Stewart would say, this is a good thing.

The protection come from being harder to use!?!?! But it gets even better:

Further, due to the strong community around Linux, new users will receive education and encouragement in areas such as email security that are currently lacking in the Windows world, which should help to alleviate any concerns on the part of newbies.

I've found the community's respect for newbies is boundless.

Missing the point? (3, Interesting)

psydid (73199) | about 11 years ago | (#7148204)

Seems the author misses the very obvious point that many of the weaknesses in Windows are there for user-friendliness. Making it easier for users to open attachments & see HTML mail is practically a requirement for the great mass of users. Yes, they're clueless, and yes, it would be nice if they could get over their fear of slightly more complex interfaces. But it ain't gonna happen.

Yes, if Linux _in its current form_ was as common as Windows, it would be be much more secure. But we might as well wish for green eggs & ham ... Linux in its current form will never be as popular precisely BECAUSE of those same limitations. It's practically a tautology that any popular operating system, in order to become popular, must make compromises that make worms inevitable.

No one is debating.. (1)

NanoGator (522640) | about 11 years ago | (#7148205)

... that Microsoft's vulnerability-prone. However, I'm not so quick to accept this guy's suggestion. Viruses are only successful to the author of them if they cause a lot of mischief. Why target a handful of Linux or Mac boxes when you've got a common base many many times larger?

This guy is right that Windows security sucks, but it's ignorant to dispute that the sheer number of Windows machines out there makes it an attractive target. Look towards Blaster if you don't believe me.

Linux virusen are easy to create. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148210)

Its just that nobody does them because its not as fun. There has been for a long time a backdoor that allows hax0rz to gain acess to your system.

Don't belive me? Then do this! Press alt+printscreen+b! This sends a secret signal to the kernel to open a back door.


Architecture (2, Funny)

deputydink (173771) | about 11 years ago | (#7148212)

One of the things that makes Linux a poor target for virus writers is an almost bewildering array of platforms, kernels and architectures.
System binaries are often in different places even on the same distribution, depending on whether you are using package management or compiling source and sometimes run as different users.

I've seen about 5 diffenent schemes for laying out apache on the disk and i bet theres tonnes more. and i've seen some old solaris admins that move to linux feel the need to move important binaries into /etc.

there are alot of reasons why linux has less viruses than windows and none of them have to do with marketshare or bad admins. That being said, i wonder if it couldn't hurt to fuck with your filesystems just in case i'm wrong...

The users are a factor (2, Insightful)

Jason1729 (561790) | about 11 years ago | (#7148221)

Any OS is only as secure as the user. When an OS has as much market dominance as windows, it will have a lot of stupid users who do things like open email attachments and not install security patches.

That's why any dominant OS will be a prime target for virus writers.

ProfQuotes []

Most executables are +w only by root (4, Informative)

bersl2 (689221) | about 11 years ago | (#7148223)

You can't infect a normal system executable from a normal user on a normal UNIX-like system which, IIRC, is how most true viruses work on Windows. There are security holes; but then again, there are security holes in all software.

Right (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148226)

If Linux were as popular on the desktop as Windows is, there would be thousands of crappy apps from stupid vendors making the attack surface about ten times greater than what it is today, even ignoring all the r00tkit exploits that stupid sysadmins running unpatched Apache boxes get to know so well when some kid defaces their website.

Oh yes, there would be a wildly popular Outlook Express equivalent that would give you a "rich internet experience" by allowing aunt Martha to email the joke of the day and executing bash scripts on arrival.

There would also be about 100 distro "vendors" pumping out "teh gratest Linux yet!" with insecure shit running by default out of the box. Take the recent SSH vulnerabilities and apply them to this scenario - millions of zombied boxes pumping out billions of "Taste the latest internet pack from teh $CO corp." messages.

The oft-quoted "given enough eyes, are bugs are shallow" goes to hell real fast when the problem becomes "given enough unpatched boxes, all worms are happy".

And besides, by that time everyone who is '133t' enough would have moved to some other OS because Linux would be too "mainstream" and "lame". Heck, even today most of you people think Lindows and Lycoris (along with RedHat) are the scum of the earth.

So carry on with your wild dreams of technological superiority. Me? I just want to write some code and play some games. Windows works just fine.

A little off on the virus numbers...nitpick (1)

midknight32 (702825) | about 11 years ago | (#7148232)

The article DOES miss out on all the MS-office macro viruses that affect the mac.... which effectively raises the total of mac viruses above the otherwise correct 40-ish.

OTOH.. you can still lay the blame for that on MS's door.

They all live in the highschool of popularity (1)

t_allardyce (48447) | about 11 years ago | (#7148242)

Obviously people would target those platforms if they were more popular. But more often than not, developers on those platforms wouldnt be stupid enough to create a hole like outlook visual basic script exicution on mail open!

And why the hell do system DLLs/procs on my Windows machine need to access the internet? they dont, i block them and the OS still works fine.

No OS is perfect, but some just leave poor hackers laughing on the floor with tears comming out - how can they possibly resist exploiting such stupid flaws? Its like drawing on the kid thats asleep at the desk infront of you!

How about, partly true (1)

phorm (591458) | about 11 years ago | (#7148244)

With the popularity of any OS, it is quike likely that you are going to get an increase in script-kiddies, etc using that OS and thus hacking at it.

Also, while you might get credence for hacking secure webservers... the major ones are fairly tight, and it might actually be easier to simply look up the hack-of-the-day and write an exploit. Even linux is vulnerable to this if they catch you before a patch. By hacking many windows boxen... said script kiddy can at least say "See all that, I did it! Look at how leet I am" to all his friends just before the FBI come and haul him away...

Differences... (4, Funny)

SharpFang (651121) | about 11 years ago | (#7148249)

Windows "out of the box" is as wide open as the guy. Linux by default usually has some tiny backdoors (say, unpassworded LILO) and is generally hard to break into. Now assume, breaking into the system using self-sustaining program (like virus - you deploy and it proceeds on its own, without "external help") is quite a bit harder than breaking in "manually" (i.e. trying diferent exploits, snooping, spoofing etc). If Linux is so much harder to break in manually, it's just as much harder to spread viruses.
Plus the "flavour" factor. If there were as many as different "windows distributions" and windows was as customizable as Linux, the viruses would have much harder time to find "exploitable system".
Now, when we are past the political differences, we may consider how "technically" harder is it to write Linux viruses.

In summary.... (1)

Joe5678 (135227) | about 11 years ago | (#7148258)

In order to eliminate viruses, you either need to eliminate the stupid people who run them, or make the operating system so impossibly hard to use, that the stupid people who run viruses won't be able to use them.

Seems kinda like getting rid of traffic accidents by making it so nobody can drive a car.

Read the post date of the article too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148259)

Slashdot excels in old news!!

IF IF IF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148265)

If money grew on trees, you could say that there would be no more robbery or killings for money. But could you REALLY say that without knowing unless it happens?!

disappointing article (2, Insightful)

mOoZik (698544) | about 11 years ago | (#7148267)

While poor programming may lead to holes, it is only widespread use (and frequency of use) that brings these holes to the surface. There are all sorts of holes found in Linux, BSD's, many open source software, etc, and considering their user base is much smaller, one could venture and say the products put out by microsoft are actually *safer* than open source. Think about it!

More Microsoft bashing... (1)

teks0r (622346) | about 11 years ago | (#7148269)

How long till the author of the article gets fired? Er wait...

Another reason (1)

evilmrhenry (542138) | about 11 years ago | (#7148272)

(First off, the author's point is that *nix is, by its very nature, more secure.)

Another reason for the greater viruses for Windows would be motivation. Simply take a look at Microsoft. A convicted monopoly, seeking (as far as I can tell) to control the world, and generally not-very-nice people.

Compare this with Mac. The icon of the counter-culture, and known for doing things the 'right way', they are simply cool.

Next, compare with Linux. A distributed project, with versions existing for almost all users, and the option to create your own if you dislike all of them.

With both Mac and Linux, there is little or no reason to hate those behind it, and so damage their work. With Windows, this is quite easy.

Unixcorn (2, Insightful)

unixcorn (120825) | about 11 years ago | (#7148274)

It is clear the author of this twaddle has never worked with the masses supporting any type of computer system. If he had, he would know that explaining the steps to open an email attachment and giving it executable permissions to 80% of end users would be like teaching a dog to drive. I get the same blank stares from my "charges" every day while explaining the most rudementary computer related tasks. If I hear "I am not a compter person" one more fricking time, I am going to go on a 5 state killing spree!!
I welcome the ease of use of Windows and I am happy to pay for the virus protection and fix an occaisional fuck-up. At least it keeps those blank stares from cluttering up my dreams at night.....

It's not that simple, is it? (2, Insightful)

Raptor CK (10482) | about 11 years ago | (#7148279)

What about wrapping a virus around a rootkit?

Once anything has root access, it's tough to stop it from making a great many changes to a system, and worming into other systems with the same vulnerability.

This isn't very different at all from the Windows viruses, where almost everything runs with admin access.

I'd say that Linux is a VERY tempting target on the server front, it's just that those systems aren't only under a more watchful eye than the common workstation, they're also usually locked down more tightly out of paranoia.

Now that Win2000/XP has a "Run As" feature built in, home users really shouldn't have default admin access anyway, so it's more of an issue of defaults than anything else.

This is, of course, coming as long-time Linux admin/Windows PC owner/current Mac OS X user. I've seen all three platforms, and Windows isn't really that bad if you just a) set it up properly, and b) train the users. Perhaps if Microsoft actually made a point of enabling privilege separation out of the box, it wouldn't have all these problems. Of course, this is exactly what's wrong with Lindows, ironically enough. It's engineered just fine, it's just not set up right.

Quick security test. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148289)

If you are running linux, press alt+f2, and type the following into the run command box

yes > /dev/mem

If your computer crashes doing that, then your version of linux is not secure. Secure versions of linux will give a permission denied message.

Webserver or Desktop? (1)

TLouden (677335) | about 11 years ago | (#7148290)

A server and a desktop are two very different things as you all know (or should). A server could be exploited by a password insecurity and much damage done, but the server would need to be specifically targeted. A desktop on the other hand is not as valuable individually and so less effort is going to go into 'hacking' it. A desktop is also going to have less to defend it and be more vulnerable to these hacks. Open source allows servers (and desktops) to be patched hours after a major problem is found. Proprietary may take days to fix. A desktop that gets hacked is not a serious problem. A server is. So use an open source OS for a serve AND patch it regularly AND use algorythmic passwords (the server doen't need to be accessed by more than the admins and they can remember an algorythm). Desktops can continue to be dominated by windows but if you want to see safe servers they need to implement these security features.

Good conclusion, bad logic (2, Informative)

proberts (9821) | about 11 years ago | (#7148296)

The number of viruses doesn't map directly to "OS is safer." There are lots of factors, like motivation to create malware, and ease of injection that come into play, and ease of injection is an application issue more than it is an OS issue. Small modifications to the most popular mail application on each platform would have more effect (discounting worms) than anything else outside of motivation of malware authors.

Secondly, the author obviously lacks clue- modern Windows OS' do *not* execute files based on file type, its a combination of reading the first N bytes of the file, and file type. Rename any .exe to anything else and click on it on a Windows host.

If you have to go back 4 years to get security bulletin examples, it's because you don't have sufficient information- there are ~30 unpatched IE vulnerabilites that affect IE and Outlook that are public, and another ~20 that aren't. You don't have to go back to 1999 to find examples of why the platform is seriously hosed.

It's also too bad the author doesn't address rootkits, because it's important to give some overall malware pictures to show that everything isn't rosy on either side of the fence.

*nix is definitely in a better default state, but it's not the OS that makes that possible (heck, NTFS has filesystem attributes that could likely help.) It's too bad someone with a better understanding of the issues didn't write this article, there are too many holes for serious *doze admins to poke in this one to make it worth passing around.

[Addressing exec-shield and worms would have given a really good argument for Linux, for instance.]


windows xp & "linited" users (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148297)

One thing the article pointed out that struck me was this... it is possible for the limited user to damage the system, yet from a practical standpoint the "limited" account is basicly useless. Perhaps the guest account is MORE secure, but you can only have one. This in essence nullifies all of the windows xp account features.

not at many viruses but... (1)

gr1mm4c3 (713926) | about 11 years ago | (#7148298)

you are dealing with technology and paradigms that were cutting edge when Manson was a free man.

Advocacy in disguise (0, Flamebait)

motek (179836) | about 11 years ago | (#7148303)

Just gotta love this: advocacy disguised as so called 'objective journalism'. Firstly, the point if moot: 'what ifs' are not a valid line of reasoning. Perhaps Linux would be less vulnerable - but we will never know, because it is not as popular a desktop system, as MS stuffy thingee is.
Secondly, maybe the very aspects of Linux that would prove it more secure render it less popular. Actually, I am quite certain that this is the case.

Besides, I do not think anyone in his/her/its right mind considers Linux superior just because its concept is so dated.


What tripe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148306)

Yet another article by some halfwit who believed he can stand on a soap box and profess to the inherent security in the Unix operating system. I've used Unix and Windows of all flavours and only a nob like this guy could talk such drivel. I know that in Unix it's more likely that someone will take advantage of an already +x'ed program like Perl, bash or sh to do their handy work - it would take a different kind of virus writer but someone with the wit could still do it.

Windows isn't any less secure than Unix and I think that most Unix users who really *do* know what they're talking about would admit this - I also take the point that it's the apps and not the OS that are to blame - hell someone with more time than sense should write an Outlook clone for Unix just to prove the point.

The other thing that made me smile was the comment about the guy's default e-mail client - Jesus some people forget that computers as tools are only as good as the software that you run on them and personally i prefer to make an informed choice and have the options of running more than a handful of "guy in his bedroom" apps that have less zero functionality - if Windows is so freaking bad then why do people (including veterans of the computer industry like myself) continue to use it? You prepare yourself, protect yourself with good virus software and laugh at the virus writers that do their half-assed job to infect your machine....

Meanwhile i run a bunch of great apps, games, development systems, graphics systems and games..... I can live with that..

Virus results according to Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7148307)

"mac virus" 1,260,000
"linux virus": 2,410,000
"windows virus" 5,620,000

Looks like THAT theory is blown...

Importing windows viruses thru wine... (1)

jubalj (324624) | about 11 years ago | (#7148311)

With wine slllloooowly maturing, i wonder if we'r going to start seeing more of the windows viruses affecting linux computers? And as someone else has pointed out.. loosing the ~ directory is bad enough..

This sorta stuff has got to be a good indicator of how well wine works:

Rebuttal linked from newsforge (2, Informative)

Eberlin (570874) | about 11 years ago | (#7148316)

For those interested, there's a rebuttal linked from Newsforge which pretty much summarizes a lot of the points made here.

Direct link to the article here [] .

I do wish I could get a good, clear, Linux-favoring argument on the security level (or any other level for that matter). I really am concerned about personal zealotry and the less I come off as a Penguinoid, the more believable/convincing I would be.

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