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Can a Linux PC Get a Virus?

written by: KateG•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 11/16/2009

You may have heard that a Linux system cannot get a virus. If you want to find out if that is true, then keep reading.

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    It is one of the most widely asked questions by Windows users: if I change over to a Linux based operating system will I be forever free of the scourge of viruses and othermalware? Lots of people want to give you a blanket answer of, “No, you will never have a problem again.” It is a comforting answer, but is it a true answer?

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    The Short Answer

    No, it is not true.

    A Linux based system can still get a virus. Don’t click away just yet though. Any system can get a virus, but it is extremely less likely on a Linux based PC. If you want to know why, just keep reading.

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    Why Linux is Safer

    Choosing a Linux based operating system for your PC is safer for a few basic reasons:

    1. Fewer viruses are written for Linux. When a less then friendly developer creates a piece of malware, they are looking to do the most possible damage. This means they will design for the most popular operating system. This is, generally speaking, a version of Windows. Thousands of viruses have been designed for Windows, but the estimate for Linux based systems is about forty.

    2. Windows users are more likely to run as admin. As a matter of fact for most Windows versions this is the default when you create the first account. To log in as the admin in a Linux flavor you have to be logged into the root account. What is the big deal about running as admin? The admin account has a lot more access to the system which means more access to the system and more ability to mess things up.

    3. It is easier to run an executable file on Windows, and nearly impossible to tell them apart. There are only two different types of executable files, an .exe and a .scr. All you have to do is open an email to let an executable file run on Windows. To run the same file on a Linux system you will have to read the message, save the files, give it executable permission, and then run the file. That means that an end user is a lot less likely to open a file lightly. That also means less of the careless behaviors that lead to accidental downloads.

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    Well, now you know why Linux is safer then Windows based PC. The truth is that no system is completely secure, but playing the highest percentage is always a good bet.

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    I Still Want Anti-virus Software, Just In Case

    Great decision! There is no harm in protecting your investment. Here are some current options:

    • Avast!
    • AVG
    • Avira
    • Bitdefender
    • ClamAV
    • Eset
    • F-Secure Linux
    • McAfee VirusScan Enterprise for Linux
    • Panda Security for Linux
    • Trend Micro ServerProtect for Linux