F-Secure launched antivirus software for Linux on Thursday that is designed to protect open-source Samba file servers and Linux by automatically detecting and removing viruses from files stored on the server.
There are only about Linux 500 viruses in the wild, compared to the many thousands that have been written for Windows. Security experts say this discrepancy is mainly due to the fact that Windows has such a larger user base than Linux. But as Linux becomes more popular and is used in more mission-critical systems, security companies say Linux antivirus protection should be taken more seriously.F-Secure Anti-Virus for Samba Servers detects, cleans, removes, and disinfects viruses from files stored or processed on Samba Servers, said F-Secure on its Web site. In addition to stopping Linux viruses, the product stops viruses that hit Windows, DOS files and macros, which infect Microsoft Office files. It runs on default configurations of Red Hat 9, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, SUSE Linux 9.0 and SuSE Linux 8.2, as well as other versions including Debian 3.0r1 with Samba updates.
The best known Linux virus was called Slapper, which two years ago infected vulnerable versions of the Apache Web server running on Linux and made them launch DDoS attacks. Experts estimate that at the time, there were around 4,000 computers infected by the worm.
Steven Sundermeier, vice president of products and services at antivirus software developer Central Command, said he has been selling a Linux-based antivirus product called Vexira for more than two years and that most people still don't realise that Linux viruses even exist. However, he said the problem is growing: "The very existence of Linux viruses is reason enough to install an antivirus package. Large corporations are implementing Linux mail servers that let Windows-based viruses pass through," he said.
Although Central Command's Vexira antivirus product is designed for Linux, like F-Secure's solution it is also able to recognise and remove Windows-based viruses: "You'd be very surprised about how many large corporations in the US are migrating to Linux and still have Windows clients. Without protection to detect these viruses, you are using your Linux file server as a conduit to your Windows clients, which is not good at all," he said.
In its recently published annual Threat Report, Symantec recognised Linux viruses as a future threat, but the company said it has no plans to launch an antivirus product in the near future.
According to Laura DiDio, analyst for The Yankee Group, Linux viruses are stealthier and harder to detect than Windows viruses. "People say Windows is still the main target, and that's true. Linux is a small threat, but even a small threat can translate into a high risk," she said in a statement.