Protect Your Linux Box from Viruses

Protect Your Linux Box from Viruses

There's a ridiculous rumor running around the net that Linux is so inherently secure -- or so securely obscure -- that you shouldn't even bother running an antivirus on it. But frankly, that's just not true. While it is true that there are very few significant viruses that target Linux today, the plain fact is that these threats do exist, and they're far more likely to infect an unprotected PC than one that's running an antivirus app. The idea of foregoing antivirus protection just because there are relatively few extant threats is akin to driving with your eyes closed because traffic is fairly light. Either way, you're asking for trouble. Fortunately, there are two great AV options made explicitly for Linux home users, and they're both available for free.

F-Prot -
FRISK's F-Prot antivirus is free to home users, complete with online definition updates. Unlike ClamAV and many other Linux antivirus apps, F-Prot is made specifically for workstations, rather than for mail servers. So it won't waste your time searching for virus threats that are irrelevant to you. It will, however, detect macro viruses that may infect office documents, so you can safely share files with your Windows-based compatriots without helping them spread their own infections.

F-Prot is CLI-based, so you execute it with a variety of command switches, such as "f-prot -disinf -report=/home/<username>/fprotreport". The lack of a CLI makes f-prot fast and efficient, but may pose problems for newbs who aren't familiar with cron jobs. But if you're OK with cron, it takes mere minutes to set up automatic updates and regular scans with f-prot.

Dedicated Max PC readers are no strangers to the virtues of AVG Antivirus, but you may not realize that Grisoft also offers a free version of AVG for Linux workstations. Like F-Prot, AVG works great from the command line, but it also includes a friendly GUI for those who are accustomed to Windows (or who just want to click buttons rather than type).

AVG is available in four different packages, for Debian, Red Hat, SUSE, and Mandriva, so be sure to pick the one that matches your distro to avoid undue hassles. In my tests with Ubuntu, I had to modify some settings* to get updates and scanning to work correctly from the GUI. (Although it worked fine right off the bat using sudo at the command line.) But even for a relative newb, it should be pretty painless.

Every time I mention a few good Linux options, I invariably leave out others, and this post is no exception. There are lots of good antivirus utilities out there for Linux, but these two are among the simplest and most effective for desktop users, and they're free. If you'd like to mention others I left out, please chime in with a comment below. But whatever you do, please don't keep spreading the unhelpful rumor that Linux is virus-free.

*For AVG users running Ubuntu Feisty, here's how to get updates and scanning to work correctly from the GUI.
1. In System > Preferences > Main Menu, select Accessories and then right-click AVG for Linux Workstation. Choose Properties, and then add gksudo to the front of the command entry, so it should read "gksudo avggui". This will launch the program as administrator, which will let Update run with the proper permissions.
2. In System > Administration > Users and Groups, select Manage Groups, then scroll down the list until you see avg. Highlight it, then click Properties. Put a checkmark next to each of the entries in this menu, which should be root, your username, and avg. Click OK and close out the Users and Groups menus. Now you'll be able to run scans without erroring out after 5 seconds.



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thanks a lot.. it's very good article.
Okey Oyna | Okey | Rottweiler | Tavla



A must read



Reality is deceitful.

There's a ridiculous rumor running around the net that Linux is as inherently insecure as Windows and that you should even bother running an antivirus on it.

Show me a link to a respectable source, where you can find info on a virus already on the wild affecting Linux users. C'mon, I dare you.

If there were at least one, it already would have hit hard those millions of Linux users who already surf the web, confidently, without antivirus programs. Heck, some don't even bother running a firewall.

Antivirus applications exist on Linux *just so you can scan windows documents and/or partitions*. So yes, it's a polite gesture to our friends using Windows, to scan something we might send their way.

Don't judge other OSes as you do Windows. Like John Ziegler says, it's like comparing apples to elephants.

From a regular MPC reader,




now i'm confused... the main article says that Linux-based OS's are not totally immune and that we should load our Linux boxes with anti-virus programs (which I immediately did after reading the article)... however, the last commentary (by WS) seems to suggest that NO, Linux-based OS's are, in fact, immune from viruses!

This newbie is thoroughly confused...


Robert Strohmeyer

Linux itself is relatively immune to viruses. Some do exist, but they are mostly experimental and don't propagate in the wild. However, Linux is perfectly capable of spreading Windows viruses, so I recommend running an antivirus app if your Linux box coexists with Windows PCs on your network.



I am running SimplyMepis 64-bit version Linux Distro and would like to try anther anti-viral package...

Do not want to pass along a badguy in my torrent downloads, or e-mails...




Love the Linux contributions here. I hope for a PDF or print magazine called Maximum Linux one day. My checkbook is open and ready. Keep up the great articles like this.



Thanks Robert for a good review.

There are 4 more free antivirusprog for Linux:
Avira AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic -

Free avast! Linux Home Edition -

BitDefender Linux Edition -

Panda Antivirus for Linux -

Just a tip for your next review :-)


Robert Strohmeyer

Thanks for chiming in with these, joboha. I always seem to overlook Avast and Panda. I think I'll do a bigger AV roundup with all of these sometime in the near future.



I was wondering wher in the world to find the AVG linux installer. On this site it was nowhere to be found. Am I missing something?

***edit found it:


Robert Strohmeyer

I don't want to send mixed signals here (although I probably am), but I don't really recommend running out and spending actual money on an antivirus app for your Linux machine. While some Linux threats do exist, the good news is that (as I mention in my post above) there are very few of them. The main reasons to scan your Linux PC for viruses are to A: be prepared for the inevitable creation of new Linux-specific threats and B: avoid acting as an infection vector for Windows viruses. But you can accomplish both of those tasks just fine with either of the two free tools mentioned above, so why buy the cow?



I have tested AVG on PCLinuxOS and openSUSE and it works well on both - very easy to install too!

You can purchase it from the link below for 12% off retail to get support from AVG and faster updates: AVG Anti-Virus Professional for Linux/FreeBSD

It's interesting that AVG Anti-Virus for Linux is 25% cheaper than the Windows version.

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