I've just started using Linux a couple of days ago when my windowsXP restore disk for my laptop wouldn't work, so I decided to try Ubuntu instead. So far I'm really enjoying using it. I liked it so much that this morning I created a 2nd partition on my desktop PC and installed Ubuntu to that as well.

I would like to ask about firewalls, anti-virus and spyware. Well basically do I need a firewall and anti-virus and what sort of risk is spyware to Linux systems?

asked 12 Apr '10, 18:30

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edited 13 Apr '10, 22:13

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(14 Jun '11, 11:37) rfelsburg ♦

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A few points of clarification... Linux has had a few proof-of-concept malware and viruses in the past - only real problem is if you run your system as the ROOT user. Your own user account could get mangled, but that wouldn't affect the rest of the system (unlike Windows.) If your Linux (Ubuntu) box will be processing email (or as a SAMBA file server) for Windows users, then you might want to have anti-virus software (ClamAV is one option) running to scan Windows files BEFORE they get to the Windows users. Just my $.02 worth.



answered 13 Apr '10, 01:39

beely's gravatar image

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Short answer is yes, no, none. :)

Longer answer is - firewalls are another layer of protection and will help prevent someone else from taking over your machine. Luckily, all distros have iptables already installed. Virus protection is unnecessary for Linux, though if you feed files to Windows users (whether by email or otherwise), you will help protect them if you have one. As to spyware, there is (as yet) no spyware for Linux. This may change, but it hasn't for many years.


answered 12 Apr '10, 19:53

XavierP's gravatar image

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If your computer is just a regular home computer and if it has no seriously confidential information on it then I'd just install the Firestarter firewall, because it's simple and easy to use.

Unless you are going to be checking your brain at the door and opening attachments from strangers you probably don't need other anti-malware. Not yet anyway.

Get a good password security tool. I use lastpass (www.lastpass.com) which works across platforms. If you ever use other computers, other than your own, I also recommned getting a yubikey (www.yubico.com) to protect your passwords. It will protect you from keyloggers.

If you have an old PC you don't mind dedicating for use as a firewall appliance you can run Amahi (amahi.org) and gain some network storage, a family wiki and more besides. Check the site for more info.


answered 13 Apr '10, 23:06

PJO's gravatar image

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You can use Secure Login and Weave with Firefox, works really well.

(12 May '10, 03:47) Ron ♦

I use Ubuntu and I don't need a firewall at home. Why? because my linksys router already provides me with a firewall against the bad guys. In addition, if you port scan a Ubuntu PC you will find one or two ports open assuming you didn't install any additional servers.

As for malware Linux is immune because you will download all your software from the Ubuntu store. As for spyware, even visting the worst sites imaginable on the Internet will not cause Linux to get any spyware. Yes, no one cares about getting into a Linux box. Not that it is impossible but for now it is small potatoes and no one cares.

You really are in a secure operating system. Enjoy it while it lasts.



answered 13 Apr '10, 23:44

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edited 13 Apr '10, 23:51

enjoy but don't relax! :)

(14 Apr '10, 21:34) Web31337

I agree with the recommendation for a firewall at the router level. You shouldn't need more. But, I disagree with the second paragraph. We have just seen that Apache.org was hacked and mal-ware could have (AFAIK wasn't) been installed in what would look a normal download. The best security is TRUST NOBODY not even your distribution. Always check the signature and MD5 of the files you download. At least if they are signed you will know who to blame ;-) What makes Linux more secure is that its users are more conscious and inquisitive about security.

(17 Apr '10, 18:31) LiquidPaper

I always like to think of the relationship between Linux and malware as like a person who has an immunity to many diseases:

You may be immune to the swine flu, but if you have friends who aren't immune, then maybe it would be nice to make sure you follow guidelines to avoid having it for the sake of your friends.

It's a little like that. A big reason to have an anti-malware (anti-virus, etc.) soultion on your Linux box would be mainly to help out your Windows friends.

Put Simply: It's not really necessary to have an anti-malware on your system. But I like ClamAV, if you REALLY want one.


answered 13 Apr '10, 18:45

Emmanuel's gravatar image

accept rate: 25%

As everyone else has pointed out, you don't have to worry too much about malware. Probably the worst thing that would happen is a rm -rf ~/*, but that's probably very rare. As far as firewalls, I always start out with http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/blfs/view/stable/postlfs/firewall.html and work from there.


answered 13 Apr '10, 19:31

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As to spyware, there is (as yet) no spyware for Linux. This may change, but it hasn't for many years.

XavierP are you trying to say there are no keyloggers/rootkits for unix? :) Well, not every system uses Xorg/etc for keyloggers to be present, but rootkit may be a point of collecting information of different class, those may be used for different purposes. And not only rootkits may collect some private data from system.

As of root/not-root users... There is a possibility that your system will be compromised when attacker gains access to user-level shell, if kernel or some software running as root contains a vulnerability. If that's well-known and easily-exploitable one, you're in danger. Best way is to have firewall + correct permissions + more hacks :) Still, this usually is not required for home users... I've been learning linux in production environment from the beginning, so sometimes I think too deep when it comes to security questions, because, usually I have to deal with servers setup. A good way for home user is NAT(this is when you sit behind a router, a typical case that improves security of your internal network computers) or firewall blocking all input traffic not requested by you + latest software(use package manager to update your kernel, etc).


answered 13 Apr '10, 21:25

Web31337's gravatar image

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Rootkits are very different to spyware.

(15 Apr '10, 19:15) XavierP

I use the Firestarter firewall. I haven't had a problem ever, and have used Ubuntu for years. Liked the comment about KlamAV, which I use just as a check on files. Would suggest using RKHunter for rootkits or other malware in the system, but it will flag any python based apps you have loaded.


answered 14 Apr '10, 14:08

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rkhunter rules the world. Thanks to unSpawn for this tool :)

(14 Apr '10, 21:33) Web31337

Generally most home Linux users don't need it. The security of Linux is such that you're low-risk. There are options, however.

You can install ClamAV for antivirus and set that up. And the Linux kernel has a builtin firwall calle diptabled, and just about all the so=called "firewalls" for Linux are really just frontends for iptables.

Don't worry to much about adware or spyware. They're REALLY next to nonexistent on Linux. The keyloggers you find would usually be for employer use.

But, honestly, unless you're trying to do a hardened Linux setup, you don't have to worry about a firewall or anti-virus. Viruses are just extremely rare on Linux and most attacks are preventable with just a little know-how.


answered 03 May '10, 17:31

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Yaro Kasear
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Linux is not Windows, In the 10+ years I have never gotten a virus no matter what website I have been on, if configured properly and you never run any Linux distribution as root (administrator) virus(es)shouldn't cause a problem, as for a firewall most routers have a built in one which makes it really unnecessary to run one in the OS unless you are connected diretcty to your modem. IDK about Ubuntu but there are a few distros that have a built in firewall, Mandriva and it's sister distro PClinuxOS are two that have it located in the control center as well as a parental controls if you are sharing the computer with childeren. as for spyware, I have NEVER came across any...ever. It is so hard to take control of a properly administered Linux system that I guess it is just not worth the trouble to create it.

The short answer is: If administered properly you wont need anti-virus, anti-spyware or a firewall.


answered 12 May '10, 01:51

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Asked: 12 Apr '10, 18:30

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Last updated: 14 Jun '11, 11:37

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