Linux has managed to build a reputation around being one of the most secure operating systems available today. But too many people tend to take its built-in security for granted. It gives them the false impression that they can do just about anything with it and still be safe. But that’s far from the truth. So let’s take a look at five such misconceptions and the underlying reality.
Myth 1: There are no viruses for Linux
There are indeed fewer pieces of malware and viruses for Linux. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get infected. This myth is so common that some people have started believing that Linux is impenetrable. Worse yet, some believe a malware infection is out of the question when using this operating system.
Linux architecture is more robust than, say, Windows. And it does ask you to input your root login credentials every time you’re making a change to the system. But that alone doesn’t account for potential vulnerabilities that malware likes to exploit. Not to mention any programming errors that may be in whatever software you’re running.
In any case, if you go looking for trouble, chances are you’re going to find it, especially if your operating system is out of date.
Myth 2: Antivirus software for Linux is not needed
Even if Linux distributions were impenetrable, there’s an essential thing that escapes the consideration of many Linux users.
What if someone sends you an infected file and you’re distributing it to others without being the wiser? When you have an antivirus suite, at the very least, it picks up malicious files and warns you about them. (Disinfection or quarantining the malicious file being the best case scenario).
The only legitimate argument for choosing not to use antivirus software for Linux is the concern that it might introduce a potential cybersecurity liability on its own. But that’s a topic for another occasion.
Myth 3: Linux only has trusted repositories
In case you make it a point to avoid anything but the official repositories for whatever distribution of Linux you happen to be using, this one is true. But you’d be shooting yourself in the foot since these don’t always contain everything you need. More often than not, they don’t go beyond the absolute essentials.
For any serious work, you would end up looking elsewhere and adding another repository to your list. The questions present themselves: who maintains these? Can you trust this person? Even if you check, there are no reliable means of knowing whether any given repository is malicious or not.
Myth 4: Linux shields you from user error or negligence
You can have the most robust and secure architecture. But in the end, there is no better defense than using your common sense.
For instance, if you use the same password everywhere, what’s stopping a hacker from re-using it on your accounts and devices after one is breached? A Linux password manager should be one of your go-to cybersecurity essentials. It allows you to use different passwords across different websites without having to remember them all by heart. One master password is all that’s necessary.
Once you’ve learned to keep your passwords varied and your system up to date, you’ll be a couple of steps ahead of those who wish to do you harm.
Myth 5: Malware designed for Windows cannot run on Linux
Remember Wine? It is a compatibility layer that allows you to run most Windows programs on Linux. While these will have limited or no root system access, they can still access your files and whatever you’re storing in them.
Even if you choose not to have Wine installed, what’s the barrier stopping you from getting infected with cross-platform malware?
Based on the points made above, it’s impossible not to conclude that Linux is only as robust as your education and level of precaution. Myths like the ones above get passed around by people who don’t know any better. Don’t be one of them.