Linked by Amjith Ramanujam on Sat 19th Jul 2008 19:01 UTC, submitted by cypress
Linux Linux and UNIX-like operating systems in general are regarded as being more secure for the common user, in contrast with operating systems that have "Windows" as part of their name. Why is that? When entering a dispute on the subject with a Windows user, the most common argument he tries to feed me is that Windows is more widespread, and therefore, more vulnerable. Apart from amusing myths like "Linux is only for servers" or "does it have a word processor?", the issue of Linux desktop security is still seriously misunderstood.
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RE: Wrong assumptions...
by alexandru_lz on Sun 20th Jul 2008 12:57 UTC in reply to "Wrong assumptions..."
alexandru_lz
Member since:
2007-02-11

I think the one with the wrong assumptions is you. Have you used a Unix system recently?

- first, the most serious misconception is that "root" account is somewhat more important for desktop OS than user account and that virus needs to access this root account. That is total nonsense. Reinstalling OS on the desktop is simple. Recovering deleted user data usually impossible. And virus does not need root to spread, all it needs is some form of internet connection. As long as user can display pages and sent emails, virus can spread.

That is totally wrong. In a properly configured system, an infected program running with user's priviledges will not be able to modify any other binary outside the user's home directory -- in any case, none that resides in /bin, /usr/bin, /usr/local/bin or any of the such (sure, those in /tmp may end up screwed, but then again). Hell, it's hard enough to even infect a binary in the first place. Run everything as root and you're screwed -- it gets write access to just about everywhere.

- second, the idea that malware cannot hide in sources is flawed as well. All it needs is to put its scripts somewhere in ~/.gtk/desktop/myapps. Moreover, these scripts are platform independent - they will run on any unix and any CPU. And then can be written in dozen of languages linux distro usually supports. Moreover, mutating sources to make them hard to detect by antivirus software might be even easier than mutating binary.

...and, ran as regular users, they will be totally harmless to the system :-). All they can do is probably some nasty stuff to the user's home directory, which is easily solved with a regular batch of backups.

I think that the only reason why malware is not so wide-spread in linux is really because malware writters still do not care. If linux ever gets more than 10% of market-share, it will get viruses too.

Oh please...

Edit: afaik, some programs that could circumvent permissions by exploiting various security weaknesses do exist -- but they are quite complex, and quite possibly too complex to be accessible to your avera script kiddie.

Edited 2008-07-20 12:59 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Wrong assumptions...
by casuto on Sun 20th Jul 2008 13:07 in reply to "RE: Wrong assumptions..."
casuto Member since:
2007-02-27

In a properly configured system, an infected program running with user's priviledges will not be able to modify any other binary outside the user's home directory


Like in Windows Vista by default


...and, ran as regular users, they will be totally harmless to the system :-).


Like in Windows Vista by default

Edited 2008-07-20 13:10 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Wrong assumptions...
by wrocic on Sun 20th Jul 2008 15:23 in reply to "RE[2]: Wrong assumptions..."
wrocic Member since:
2008-07-10

Yes, and Vista users think they are safe and secure, even though they blindly click OK to all the prompts UAC throws up. Or worse, they disable UAC completely

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[3]: Wrong assumptions...
by raver31 on Sun 20th Jul 2008 15:36 in reply to "RE[2]: Wrong assumptions..."
raver31 Member since:
2005-07-06

"In a properly configured system, an infected program running with user's priviledges will not be able to modify any other binary outside the user's home directory


Like in Windows Vista by default

Nope, I can install an application in Vista that can hose the whole system, after copying itself into /Windows/System32


...and, ran as regular users, they will be totally harmless to the system :-).


Like in Windows Vista by default
"

Also no, as a user called Dave, I can download format.com from DOS 5, open a command prompt, and type this

"format c: /u /autotest"

This will run and format the drive without any prompting.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Wrong assumptions...
by -oblio- on Sun 20th Jul 2008 14:16 in reply to "RE: Wrong assumptions..."
-oblio- Member since:
2008-05-27

"..and, ran as regular users, they will be totally harmless to the system :-). All they can do is probably some nasty stuff to the user's home directory, which is easily solved with a regular batch of backups. "

Sorry, but this is: LOL!

Regulars users do backups, right? (WRONG!) The average user is more afraid of "user land" viruses, than of "root land" viruses. The deadlies virus could be sent via social engineering, and look as harmless as this:
#!/bin/sh
rm -rf /home/`whoami`
You'd only have to fool the user into making it executable (which isn't necessarily hard to do).

Edited 2008-07-20 14:18 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Wrong assumptions...
by ichi on Sun 20th Jul 2008 14:41 in reply to "RE[2]: Wrong assumptions..."
ichi Member since:
2007-03-06

Sure, and you could just tell the user to type rm -rf /home/`whoami` on the console himself, or better yet tell him to pick a hammer and smash his box to pieces.

The point of linux security is not protecting the user from his ignorance, but protecting the system and all the other users from whatever that user might do.
You have every right to delete your /home directory, so the system won't stop you when doing so, no matter if you do it yourself or someone tricks you to run some malicious script.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[3]: Wrong assumptions...
by alexandru_lz on Sun 20th Jul 2008 19:42 in reply to "RE[2]: Wrong assumptions..."
alexandru_lz Member since:
2007-02-11

Regulars users do backups, right? (WRONG!) The average user is more afraid of "user land" viruses, than of "root land" viruses. The deadlies virus could be sent via social engineering, and look as harmless as this:
#!/bin/sh
rm -rf /home/`whoami`
You'd only have to fool the user into making it executable (which isn't necessarily hard to do).


Perfectly true -- yet this applies to any operating system. Unfortunately, users need not pass an examination to use a computer, like they do with cars.

Edit -- I wanted to say this in a separate post, but got carried away.

I think the likes of us have a certain... affinity towards not-exactly-essential points. From an engineering perspective, the exact reason and technical merits of why a solution is safer than another aren't that relevant in the short-term.

Quite frankly, given the average life cycle of computers in a production environment, I wouldn't need too many days to think about switching from Windows to OS X or Linux. Regardless of why *X is more secure, the reality simply belongs to the fact that, right ow, and in the foreseeable future, there are fewer viruses and the such.

Really now, seeing that Windows implements a complex and tested system that's still not efficient doesn't really make malware less harmful.

Edited 2008-07-20 19:47 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Wrong assumptions...
by luzr on Sun 20th Jul 2008 14:55 in reply to "RE: Wrong assumptions..."
luzr Member since:
2005-11-20

That is totally wrong. In a properly configured system, an infected program running with user's priviledges will not be able to modify any other binary outside the user's home directory -- in any case, none that resides in /bin, /usr/bin, /usr/local/bin or any of the such (sure, those in /tmp may end up screwed, but then again). Hell, it's hard enough to even infect a binary in the first place. Run everything as root and you're screwed -- it gets write access to just about everywhere.


You still do not see the misconception:

Malware does NOT NEED to access /bin, /usr/bin or any other "root only" directory. It does not need to infect binaries either. Access to home directory is enough for malware to spread and to have the full access to the most important files on the computer.


...and, ran as regular users, they will be totally harmless to the system :-). All they can do is probably some nasty stuff to the user's home directory, which is easily solved with a regular batch of backups.


But that is exactly the misconception. Who cares about system. What is important is exactly that "nasty stuff in user's home directory".

And yes, backups always solve the problem, but note that home-dir based malware will easily get into backup too..

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[3]: Wrong assumptions...
by ichi on Sun 20th Jul 2008 15:10 in reply to "RE[2]: Wrong assumptions..."
ichi Member since:
2007-03-06

Malware does NOT NEED to access /bin, /usr/bin or any other "root only" directory. It does not need to infect binaries either. Access to home directory is enough for malware to spread and to have the full access to the most important files on the computer.


The point is that I (say "UserA") don't have to worry about whether "UserB" is a moron and fills his ~ with malicious scripts. Both my own ~ and all the system stuff will remain safe.

And anyway, if you had such a disgusting user in your system you could just not let him execute anything on his ~. Chances are he doesn't need to do that anyway.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Wrong assumptions...
by MollyC on Mon 21st Jul 2008 01:42 in reply to "RE: Wrong assumptions..."
MollyC Member since:
2006-07-04

...and, ran as regular users, they will be totally harmless to the system :-). All they can do is probably some nasty stuff to the user's home directory, which is easily solved with a regular batch of backups.


I don't buy this. I do weekly backups, but mainly as a safeguard from harddrive failure, not as a safeguard against malware, because malware can be so subtle as to alter files without your knowing it, so you'd never consider restoring the files from the backup.

Sure, if malware trashes your whole home directory (or, at least trashed it enough so you'd notice), then you'd restore the files from the backup, but what if the malware just altered a few files? (For example, even just changing one value in a spreadsheet used by a small business to calculate payroll could lead to havoc that might not be noticed for weeks.) You'd not know it so you wouldn't bother to restore the files, and eventually you'd backup the altered files themselves, resulting in a backup that lacked integrity.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[3]: Wrong assumptions...
by raver31 on Mon 21st Jul 2008 16:21 in reply to "RE[2]: Wrong assumptions..."
raver31 Member since:
2005-07-06

Very good point. I would have modded you up, but I have already posted here, so have a virtual +1

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Wrong assumptions...
by rtfa on Mon 21st Jul 2008 08:34 in reply to "RE: Wrong assumptions..."
rtfa Member since:
2006-02-27

And they have to try and set the execute bit on that script before it can run unlike windows which will run anything as long as its got the correct file extension.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Wrong assumptions...
by Soulbender on Mon 21st Jul 2008 08:58 in reply to "RE: Wrong assumptions..."
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

That is totally wrong. In a properly configured system, an infected program running with user's priviledges will not be able to modify any other binary outside the user's home directory


So what? Who cares? Nor Joe User when his MP3 collection in hos home directory was wiped out.

Hell, it's hard enough to even infect a binary in the first place.


No it isn't.

and, ran as regular users, they will be totally harmless to the system


Again, who gives a shit? The system can be restored from installation media in a short time. Your corrupted data can't and that doesn't even take into account the damage from your stolen data.

All they can do is probably some nasty stuff to the user's home directory, which is easily solved with a regular batch of backups.


Please show me where I can get a backup solution easy enough for Joe Average that will effortlessly backup 100's of GB's of data.
Plus they can read all your data files and who knows what interesting secrets you have in those?


In case you havent kept up to date, malware isn't about getting respect for rooting boxes anymore, it's big time crime that is often after your personal data.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Wrong assumptions...
by WereCatf on Mon 21st Jul 2008 09:57 in reply to "RE[2]: Wrong assumptions..."
WereCatf Member since:
2006-02-15

Please show me where I can get a backup solution easy enough for Joe Average that will effortlessly backup 100's of GB's of data.

I don't think the issue is about having an easy backup solution. I think the issue is rather that they have nowhere to backup all that stuff to. It is a serious hassle to backup ~100GB stuff to f.ex. DVDs, not even I would be wiling to do that so even less a Joe User. Then again, some users just back up their files with some backup application to another directory or hard drive partition and assume it's just as secure...It ain't. I've several times had to explain to people that as long as a virus can write and delete stuff on their computer those backups are just as much in danger as any other file.

So what? Who cares? Nor Joe User when his MP3 collection in hos home directory was wiped out.

Very much true. Just do note that malware nowadays doesn't usually try to delete any of your files, they instead try to f.ex. mess up your web browser so that no matter what you do you will always be redirected to a certain website. Or they can just be sitting in the background collecting information about your habits, your username and password and such. But it's harder to hide and even make such malware function if they don't have access to system files.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Wrong assumptions...
by adricnet on Mon 21st Jul 2008 12:00 in reply to "RE[2]: Wrong assumptions..."
adricnet Member since:
2005-07-01

Please show me where I can get a backup solution easy enough for Joe Average that will effortlessly backup 100's of GB's of data.
Plus they can read all your data files and who knows what interesting secrets you have in those?


Sorry, can't resist. Time Machine (from Apple and integrated into the latest OS release) is the most user-friendly frontend to rsync(1) I've seen yet ;)
for the end user. Anyone on a corporate network should have expensive geniuses configuring seamless backups of their data. ;)

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled theological discourse.

Reply Parent Score: 1