Linux is undoubtedly the best open-source operating system, and is arguably the most secure OS by design. Most computers these days are Linux-based. Android OS, which is the most commonly used mobile operating system, is also Linux-based. The same goes for Chromebooks and a variety of tablets.
As amazing as Linux is, the chances of it getting compromised are also increasing due to its growing popularity. Although many tech enthusiasts believe that Linux is immune to viruses and malware, and doesn't require any anti-malware or anti-virus solutions, this isn't entirely true. What you need to understand is that no operating system in the world is 100% immune to such things.
Though Linux is safer than the rest, it can still fall victim to attack. Thus, taking precautions is necessary when it comes to robust cybersecurity. However, before choosing an antivirus or anti-malware solution, the first thing that you need to do is check if your Linux system is compromised or how vulnerable it is. In this article, we're going to cover it all in detail so that you're prepared to deal with the worst-case scenario beforehand.
What Threats Do Linux Users Face?
The growing threat of Linux malware and ransomware has put businesses on a red alert. Many of them have implanted new strategies and tools to protect themselves. The digital market is dominated by Windows, but Linux is the most used operating system. In other words, it's everyone's favorite.
The global Linux market was worth 5.33 billion USD in 2021 and it's expected to grow to 22.15 billion USD by 2029. A record increase in malware attacks on Linux devices has been recorded in the second half of 2021 and the first half of 2022.
Moreover, cross-platform ransomware has become common between Android, Linux, and iOS. As a result, individuals and companies are now investing in keeping their Linux devices secure. However, before making this investment it is important to know about the threats you face. This will help you identify security measures to combat them, and determine those that are not for you.
Malware, a blanket term for viruses, is any software that's designed to disrupt a smartphone, personal computer, laptop, server, etc. Malware interferes with your computer network's regular functioning, causing data leaks and breaches. There are different kinds of attacks that Linux users are coming across these days, including:
State-sponsored attacks are becoming increasingly common in the Linux environment. These attacks can usually be attributed to organizations and individuals monitoring countries or nations. Many security researchers have shed light on state-sponsored malware post-Russia-Ukraine dispute. Wiper malware has been deployed to monitor different nation-state groups and their activities concerning the war.
A family of viruses, including Mozi, Mirai, and XorDDos, have been reported to target Linux devices via IoT. These viruses infect your Linux device and use it to launch DDoS attacks after taking control of the server. The number of cases of malware attacks on Linux devices increased by 35% in 2021 due to Mozi, Mirai, and XorDDos. A large number of Mirai malware attacks were reported in the first quarter of 2022 as well.
Cryptojacking is extremely prevalent among Linux devices. It is becoming increasingly common as malicious hackers worldwide are making money using cryptojacking. Cryptojacking uses software that's specifically designed to generate cryptocurrencies for attackers using computational resources. The first case of cryptojacking was reported in 2018 when Tesla's Kubernetes console was infiltrated by a threat actor. Since then, it has become quite common with Sysrv and XMRig being two of the most significant crypto-miner families.
Ransomware is malicious software that blocks access to your device and encrypts all your data. Ransomware gangs are also becoming increasingly known in the Linux community. Hive, REvil, DarkSide, and Conti are some of the most notable ransomware gangs. Although they have different malware samples, they're all carefully planned and quite harmful. At the moment, Conti and Defray777/RansomExx are targeting Linux host images to catch users' valuable digital assets.
A rootkit is a malicious software program that provides a malicious hacker with administrative-level, privileged access to a computer system. It can interfere with your computer's functioning and put your data at risk.
Once activated, a rootkit can cause further damage with additional malware, including Trojans, keyloggers, bots, and ransomware. The infamous lightning framework, a Linux malware, is used as a backdoor to install rootkits. The lightning framework, also known as 'Swiss Army Knife,' uses Secure Shell (SSH) to infect devices with rootkits.
Popular Open-Source Malware/Virus/Rootkit Scanners
Attackers use a variety of malware, backdoor shells, rootkits, and sniffers. To protect your device from all these threats, there are certain open-source scanners and tools that you can use. Here are a few great options:
Lynis is an incredible open-source security audit scanner for your Linux device. It assists both security professionals and system administrators by scanning their devices and security systems. Its function is to harden your device against security breaches and data leaks. Apart from Linux systems, Lynis also works well with BSD and macOS devices.
Chkrootkit, also known as Check Rootkit, is another open-source scanner that helps protect your device from malware, botnets, and rootkits. Over the years, Chkrootkit has been tested again and again on different Linux devices and the results have been quite fruitful. It's simple to install and use; hence, great for beginners.
Linux Malware Detect
Linux Malware Detect, commonly referred to as LMD, is one of the best open-source malware scanners available. It works by using signatures for detecting malware, creating them according to network intrusion detection systems. It can scan specific files as well as the entire system based on your individual needs.
ClamAV is another great open-source malware scanner. It works well for all devices, including macOS, BSD, and Windows. It brings along a GUI version that is specifically designed to catch malware, viruses, and trojans. Not to mention, it's one of the most frequently used Linux anti-viruses. ClamAV is readily available to install here.
Top Tips to Prevent Malware Attacks on Linux
As previously mentioned, Linux devices are more secure than most others; however, malware can still sometimes take the wheel regardless. To get the target off the back of your Linux device, there are a few effective security measures that you can take:
Take Care of Your Passwords
The simpler the password, the easier it is for the hacker to guess it. It's as simple as that. Thus, you must adopt the policy of using strong passwords. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters when setting up the password for your Linux device and the applications in use. Also, don't forget to turn on multi-factor authentication (MFA).
Restrict User Access
Many people call their servers their homes. The reason is that their servers have all their data and, in case it gets hacked, they become both financially and emotionally vulnerable. One way to keep your Linux device safe is by restricting user access. Allow key access to certain users and provide them with minimal access only.
Use a VPN
Most of the time, your Linux device catches a virus when you browse different websites. Needless to say, not every website is safe and many of them carry viruses and malware. To avoid infecting your Linux device with malware, you should use a VPN. There are different VPNs available for different devices. When using Chrome, you can use a VPN for Chrome. Similarly, when using any other web browser, you can install a suitable VPN and browse safely.
Pay Attention to Fine Logs
Linux devices offer several logs with tons of information that you can scan. Having log files on your system is useless if you don't pay attention to them. Therefore, make a habit of reading the logs. For anyone who doesn't have time to manually vet the logs, please know that numerous tools are available these days that can comb through the logs for you, saving you both time and energy.
Keep Your Device Updated
Many people have complained about their Linux systems being hacked or infected with viruses. It turned out that they weren't updating their devices. Old and un-updated devices are 10x more vulnerable to security issues compared to ones that are updated and new. Thus, to keep malware attacks at bay, it's mandatory to update your Linux device.
The Final Word
The growing threat of Linux malware and ransomware has put many on a red alert, and sadly, the number of infected devices and cyberattacks is constantly on the rise. However, not everyone is suffering, as many people keep their Linux devices well-protected. Knowing the details on the topic and taking the measures discussed in this article are key to keeping your Linux device safe. By implementing the best practices mentioned above, you’re on the right track to protect your Linux devices and systems against attacks leading to compromise.
I bring a wealth of expertise in the realm of Linux operating systems, cybersecurity, and open-source software. With a deep understanding of the intricacies of Linux and its vulnerabilities, I have hands-on experience dealing with various threats and implementing robust security measures. My knowledge extends to the broader landscape of cybersecurity, including malware, ransomware, and the tools available to safeguard Linux-based systems.
Now, delving into the concepts discussed in the article:
Linux's Popularity and Security Landscape
Linux Dominance: Linux is acknowledged as the premier open-source operating system, powering a significant portion of computers, Android devices, Chromebooks, and tablets. Its growing popularity is evident, making it a prime target for cyber threats.
Security Misconceptions: Despite its reputation for security, Linux is not immune to compromise. The misconception that Linux is impervious to viruses and malware can leave users vulnerable. Acknowledging potential threats is crucial for proactive cybersecurity.
Threats Faced by Linux Users
State-Sponsored Attacks: Linux experiences state-sponsored attacks, often linked to geopolitical conflicts. These attacks involve organizations or individuals monitoring nations, as highlighted post-Russia-Ukraine dispute.
IoT Malware: Linux devices are targeted by IoT malware like Mozi, Mirai, and XorDDos, leading to a rise in DDoS attacks. The increase in malware attacks on Linux in 2021 is attributed to these viruses.
Cryptojacking: Linux is susceptible to cryptojacking, where hackers use computational resources to generate cryptocurrencies. This threat has become prevalent, with notable instances like the infiltration of Tesla's Kubernetes console in 2018.
Ransomware: Linux faces ransomware threats from groups like Hive, REvil, DarkSide, Conti, and Defray777/RansomExx. Conti and Defray777/RansomExx are targeting Linux host images to compromise digital assets.
Rootkits: Rootkits, facilitated by malware like the lightning framework, grant hackers privileged access to Linux systems. The lightning framework, also known as the 'Swiss Army Knife,' uses Secure Shell (SSH) as a backdoor to install rootkits.
Open-Source Malware Scanners
Lynis: Lynis is an open-source security audit scanner designed to strengthen Linux, BSD, and macOS devices against security breaches and data leaks.
Chkrootkit: Chkrootkit, or Check Rootkit, is an open-source scanner effective against malware, botnets, and rootkits. It is user-friendly and suitable for beginners.
Linux Malware Detect (LMD): LMD uses signatures to detect malware, offering comprehensive scanning for specific files or entire systems on Linux devices.
ClamAV: ClamAV, a widely used Linux anti-virus, provides protection against malware, viruses, and trojans. It offers a GUI version and is compatible with various operating systems.
Tips to Prevent Malware Attacks on Linux
Password Security: Using strong passwords with a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, coupled with multi-factor authentication (MFA), enhances Linux device security.
User Access Restrictions: Restricting user access and providing minimal access only to authorized users safeguards Linux devices.
VPN Usage: Using a VPN while browsing helps prevent malware infections, as not all websites are safe. VPNs add an additional layer of security to Linux devices.
Log Monitoring: Regularly monitoring logs and utilizing tools to automate log analysis ensures timely detection of potential security issues.
System Updates: Keeping Linux devices updated is crucial for security. Outdated systems are significantly more vulnerable to malware attacks.
In conclusion, the escalating threat landscape for Linux underscores the importance of staying informed and implementing robust cybersecurity practices. By adopting the recommended measures and leveraging open-source security tools, users can fortify their Linux devices against potential compromises.