How safe is Ubuntu?

One thing I have not touched upon yet in my Working without Windows series is security. Coming from a Windows background, we have become used to making anti virus software installation the first thing we do before going online. In a world where viruses, malware and spyware infest our lives and computer systems, it is not something to be taken lightly.


How secure and how safe is Ubuntu?

Linux was designed with the security conscious in mind. Ubuntu restricts root privileges and forces you to unlock them every time you want or need to do anything that may mess around with your system. That in itself makes it difficult for malicious software to gain a foothold. Couple that with the relative scarcity of malicious software written for Linux based operating systems and you start to feel pretty safe. For a more complete explanation as to why viruses are virtually non-existent on Linux platforms, read The short life and hard times of a Linux virus.

Do you need antivirus software?

With that all said, it would appear that antivirus software is redundant. Well, not really is the answer. There are still occasions where you might want to scan a file. For instance, you may want to check that an attachment in an e-mail is not infected, before sending it on to someone else, or you may want to scan some files on a Windows share, etc. There is also the possibility, however remote, that a Linux specific virus is created that does pose a threat.

What anti virus software is available for Ubuntu?

Given the level of threat involved, there are quite a few anti virus programs available. A good open source option is ClamAV. If you are installing it via the Software Centre, search for ClamTk. It is the GUI (Graphical User Interface) front end to ClamAV and is simple to get to grips with and use. It is the one I use myself.

You can also find free versions of popular proprietary antivirus solutions as well, such as AVG and Avast! I haven’t tried them with Ubuntu, so I will reserve judgement. If you have had experience with them or other antivirus software within Ubuntu, then please leave a comment about your experience.

There is a useful list of antivirus solutions for Linux in the Ubuntu Community Documentation. The page goes into more detail about why Ubuntu is secure, so it is a must read if you wish to learn more about the subject.

I’d like to finish this little post with a couple of thoughts. Firstly (and this is a general comment), security does not stop at your computer. You must have a firewall in place to block intruders to your system. You should also think about the physical security of your computer. Secondly, it is often a worry that children may ‘accidentally’ install something they shouldn’t onto a computer. As Ubuntu restricts root privileges this is less likely to happen and should not happen if you keep your administrator password secure.

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