A kernel of truth: Linux isn’t as foolproof as we may have thought


A world without Linux is hard to imagine. Every Google search we run is accomplished on Linux-based servers. Behind the Kindle we enjoy reading, to the social media sites we spend scrolling away every day sits the Linux kernel. Would you believe your ears if I tell you the world’s top 500 supercomputers run on Linux? No wonder Linux has permeated into every aspect of the digital age, not to mention its steadily growing enterprise user base.

 It may be true that Linux makes up only 9% of total enterprise operating systems, but don’t let the numbers fool you; the most high-value systems, including web servers, routers, and contingency machines are often trusted with Linux. One could see why, considering the global consensus on Linux being the most secure OS.

The age-old question: What makes Linux secure?

 While there are built-in defenses packaged into the Linux OS, the inherent security of Linux is generally attributed to its open-source nature, strict user privilege model, and diverse distributions.

 Being open-source gives Linux a decided advantage over Windows and Mac since the source code is constantly under scrutiny by a global community of experts. As a result, security vulnerabilities are identified constantly and fixes are released rapidly. As open-source advocate and author Eric Raymond puts it, “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.”

 Open source code also means it can be modified and distributed by any individual or organization. As a result, a wide variety of Linux distributions (distros) are available, each with unique functionalities that offer diverse options for enterprise users depending on the hardware and software they intend to deploy in their network. Besides satisfying different user requirements, this diversity also makes it difficult for threat actors to craft exploits against many Linux systems.

 By default, Linux users have low automatic access rights and require additional permissions to open attachments, access files, or adjust kernel options. This makes it harder for attackers to propagate malware.

 Nevertheless, the increased popularity of Linux has attracted the eyes of hackers in recent years. The Erebus ransomware and…

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