The virus which found its way on to a significant proportion of the world's computers yesterday is designed to exploit the Microsoft Windows operating system and Outlook email application. It uses Microsoft's own scripting language Visual Basic to overwrite files, download a malicious executable as well as pass itself own.
The global dominance of Microsoft's software is one of the reasons that 'ILOVEYOU' was so prolific. Another reason is the way Windows is designed to allow programs to inter-operate and affect the operating system with few restraints.
Linux is not just safer because it is less common, say distributors, but because of the way it is structured. Ruediger Berlich, Managing Director of Germany-based SuSE Linux points out that because Linux is immune to Windows viruses such the "Love Bug" businesses should seriously consider it as an alternative.
"Linux has been around for 9 years and in this time there has not been a serious virus threat. To me this proves, that Linux is far more secure than any other non-open-source operating system."
Berlich added that yesterday's outbreak once again confirmed the overall security and stability of the Linux operating system. "Unlike Windows 95/98 Linux or Unix in general doesn't allow every user working on the system access to everything on the system. In order to create significant damage in a system a virus would have to gain super-user privileges, which is extremely unlikely."
VP of Red Hat Europe Robert Tenwick adds his voice to the argument. "The Linux achitecture is built in a totally different way. The inherent ability for a virus to spread through the system is much more limited," he says.
Tenwick says that especially as a mail server Linux would be ideal. "This virus seems to be mainly attacking mail servers. Given the potential damage, people may want to consider an alternative."
Technical director of Symantec Anti-Virus Europe Kevin Street stresses that even though it is impossible to infect a computer running Linux with a Windows virus, this doesn't mean Linux is totally immune to them. "Even thought a Linux mail server cannot be infected, it doesn't mean it wont be affected. The amount of mail it could receive might mean that it is brought down and even though your company is immune, you have no email."
Ian McManus believes that Linux could be the way forward for businesses. "Unix has a structure that is much better. The best way to avoid infection could be to use Unix or Linux," he says.
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