Which antivirus for Linux | Do you really need it?


Linux refugees from other platforms are used to the need for continued vigilance against viruses and other malware. Robust, always-on antivirus software is a simple, albeit annoying, necessity of life for Windows users, and is highly recommended for Mac users.

With Linux, however, the usual advice (including, for example, official Ubuntu advice) is that no antivirus software is needed. And, despite the (very rare) existence of malware targeting Linux systems, antivirus software can endanger your Linux device. It is an opinion that we endorse. This can make the fact that Linux antivirus programs exist quite confusing. So let’s go a little deeper.

Please note

The caveat here is that we are talking about home systems. Securing Linux servers is beyond the scope of this article, but the main purpose of running antivirus software on Linux servers is to prevent shared files on servers from infecting Windows and Mac machines, rather than to protect the Linux servers themselves.

Why don’t I need a Linux antivirus program?

1. Popularity (or lack of popularity)

Linux has a desktop market share of around 1.8%. It’s simply not worth the trouble for a techie to develop malware that targets its users. Windows (88% market share) is the most obvious fruit, although Mac malware (9.3% market share), although rare, is becoming more and more common.

2. Most Linux software is installed via the “app store” of a distribution

And the chances of getting malware from software cataloged by your app store are practically zero.

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3. Linux is secure by design

It is very rare to log into Linux as a root user, which means that malware cannot run without your express permission (i.e. entering a password ).

On top of that, in most distributions, the open source Linux kernel is usually protected by a mandatory access control system (MAC) such as AppArmor or SELinux, which limits what programs can do.

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4. Antivirus software can be dangerous!

Antivirus programs can being hacked, a problem compounded by the fact that by their very nature, they require many high-level permissions to do what they do.

This is also true on other platforms, but the risk of malware is even greater on other operating systems as the need for antivirus software easily outweighs such concerns. When the risk of malware is almost nonexistent with Linux, however, the anti-malware software itself should be viewed with suspicion.

Is there Linux malware?

Yes. But the bottom line is that it is so rare that the remedy is arguably more dangerous than the disease. And no root kit that affects desktop Linux systems has ever been found in the wild.

Is there Linux anti-malware?

Given this situation, and given that almost all reputable sources recommend against the need to use anti-malware products, it is surprising that Linux antivirus products exist (although several highly publicized and still often recommended options are quietly dead in recent years).

The strongest argument for using anti-malware programs on Linux is to protect Windows and Mac users from malicious files that you might unintentionally transmit.

This is the main reason why the use of antivirus applications is a higher priority on Linux servers which store a large number of files downloaded by users of other platforms.

If, despite all of this, you are concerned that a virus might infect your Linux system, you have options.

What Linux antivirus exists?


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