One of the unwritten (?) rules of Linux is that, in contrast to our friends who use that other OS, it isn’t necessary to run anti-virus software. The prevailing wisdom has been that (a) there aren’t many Linux viruses out there, and (b) Linux is inherently more secure than some other operating systems. The first argument seems somewhat lightweight. After all, isn’t one Linux virus on your system, one virus too many? And, the second argument begs the question – why?
Chris Hoffman, writing for How-To Geek, provides an excellent overview of both aspects of the question, re-affirming that there are few Linux-specific viruses “in the wild”, and that the use of package managers and authorized software repositories makes catching a virus very unlikely. In addition, the use of limited user (i.e. non-root) accounts, and dedicated security features, like the built-in AppArmor (Application Armour – a security module for the Linux kernel) and SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux – access control policies), make Linux systems a tough nut to crack.
Chris also provides tips on keeping Linux systems secure – hopefully your common practices – keep all your software patched; avoid phishing attacks, and (particularly important for the very powerful Linux command line) don’t run commands you don’t trust!
If you are not an “average” Linux user, and especially if you are running a Linux-based file or mail server, Chris suggests that you may wish to run AV software. But, as he says: “The antivirus software will scan for Windows malware and delete it. It isn’t protecting your Linux system – it’s protecting the Windows computers from themselves.”
My take on this issue, since I do run a dual-boot system, is to use an on-access virus scanner under Windows. If a virus were to be loaded onto a Windows partition through some Linux operation, then the AV software would (hopefully) identify it any time that I tried to access the infected file. And, so far, so good!
Why You Don’t Need an Antivirus On Linux (and When You Do)
8 Deadly Commands You Should Never Run on Linux