It feels to me that I'm buying a leaky bucket and a patch kit. Why is this considered normal?! Every now and again I get asked about virus scanners for Linux from Windows users trying Linux for the first time.
Most of the viruses I know of in Linux attack very specific versions of a particular distribution of Linux. Things like the Ramen worm. And thus, I've been able to take it as a point of pride that my a great deal of my system's resources don't need to go into running a virus scanner. I remember turning off the virus scanner in order to play certain games which needed those resources.
So not only, when running Windows, do I find people spending money on a virus scanner, but also they're having to pay for the computing resources to run it. Hardware, running costs (electricity) etc. It's the leaky bucket that keeps on giving!
So when should you run a virus scanner? I'm of the opinion that it's great for mail servers. But what about your standard desktop? Wikipedia have a list of malware for Linux here. The Mac OS X list is pretty small too - though it seems to mainly center around "social engineering" - that is, relying on the user to get past security (those pages that tell you that you have a virus and should install X piece of software to get rid of it).
I've heard the argument, time and time again, that Linux and Mac OS X enjoy a certain reprieve as they're not as widely used as Windows. What has become obvious to me though is the growth in viruses hasn't been in proportion with Windows.
And now conspiracy theory time... It's normal to buy a virus scanner for Windows and without a few scares, it wouldn't be quite as lucrative a market. What if the only people who had an interest in virus' on platforms were the ones making virus scanners? Selling software for the Linux platform has never really been easy and given the income generated by corporate Windows users, would targeting what is essentially a niche market (Mac OS X) make any sense?
The funny bit though, when computer talk about virus scanners, they talk about all 3 platforms. I'm not convinced. I think it's really hard to justify on both Mac OS X and Linux. But it's the norm right? ISP's everywhere are telling you that you should install a virus scanner. Hell, I'm sure Netsafe carry the same line.
What if people just swapped their leaky bucket for one that worked?
I just had a thought. Tonight at around 10:30 I had one of those silent calls that eventually ends in a "goodbye" in an automated female voice. A quick search on the Internet reveals that it's an approach used by scam artists - apparently the dailer does all of the hard work of finding someone at home willing to pick up the phone. Once the phone's been picked up, it attempts to find an operator on the other end. If one's available, you're connected to an "operator". Online reports show that it's most frequently those MS virus scams - claims that they're technicians and they've found a virus on your machine which they'll gladly fix for you remotely for a couple of hundred dollars.
How many times have you received a virus warning via email only to:
- Look at the format of the thing - if it's got more than 2 different fonts and about the same for font sizes - and uses bold in the middle of the text it's almost definitely a fake though I did at one stage inquire about getting my LPIC (Linux Professional Institute Certification) from Seek learning and got an email back that didn't pass this test - and think this is hinky?
- Did a little bit of research on the Internet to discover it's a hoax?
- Forwarded it, being a "conscientious" (gullible) person, only to get back a reply back saying it's a hoax and to stop forwarding such rubbish?
Viruses have a much worst effect - they have people installing crap (Win7 Defender), willing to pay stupid amounts to get rid of suspected viruses (otherwise the MS virus phone scam wouldn't be successful) and of course, Hollywood has people looking out for things like screen glitches...