With yet another Linux-based vulnerability hitting last week, Mark Read, network security analyst at MIS Corporate Defence Solutions, delves into an age-old debate that fuels many a discussion.
Yes, it's the same old story of Microsoft versus Linux in the race for optimum IT security. What everyone wants to know is, who will cross the finishing line first?
Following in the footsteps of Ramen, Lion and Adore vulnerabilities, the Linux-based Remote Shell Trojan discovered earlier in the month, has certainly sparked the IT community into debate.
This latest Trojan has the potential to install a backdoor onto the infected Linux operating system, in turn enabling remote attackers to gain access and remotely control that system.
Although not considered a huge threat to knowledgeable Linux users, this new vulnerability does put one more book into the library of vulnerabilities that are appearing in what was once considered a 'bug-free' zone - Linux operating systems.
Certainly, over the last year, there has been much speculation within the industry over which operating systems will succeed in overcoming the ever increasing threat from security breaches in the IT forum.
In the past, many have been quick to dismiss Microsoft as tardy in its approach to security within its latest offerings. On the other hand, many have argued that due to the economies of scale, is it no wonder that breaches occurring in IIS running under Windows are going to be more prolific, solely because there are so many more users.
Crackers are immediately going to concentrate on the most popular systems in order to affect the highest number of systems. As Linux becomes ever more popular, the attention it receives, as far as finding vulnerabilities is concerned, is going to be greatly increased.
Linux was initially developed to create an operating system with the user at its heart. Formed under the General Public License, Linux source code is available to anyone who chooses to download it.
From here, the operating system can be tailored to fit each individual's needs, whether it be to develop a specific piece of software or to provide a low-cost alternative front-end system.
Created via open-source (OS), Linux has undoubtedly always held a stronger promise of providing utmost security. This is due to it mainly being the more technologically minded that are likely to be downloading, adapting and using Linux, therefore in theory more prone to take into account the potential security vulnerabilities.
The fact that Linux is more 'techie-friendly' has also helped: with fewer 'fancy' front-end programs, the less opportunity there has been for a breach to infiltrate, whether it be a hacker or a virus.
Where Microsoft has often stumbled is through the application provisions of its operating system and, as ever, the very often non-technical user involved. As Linux grows, so has the demand, with Microsoft citing it as the number one threat to its traditional monopoly.
With this growth, Linux is fast becoming open to more breaches, if those using it do so without the proper mind-set - that of ensuring security is top priority. As users start to download Linux, security needs are very much up to the individual and this is why many of the recent security breaches have cropped up.
Although the latest versions do give users options of security levels from 'low' to 'paranoid', it's in the choosing of these categories that many fall behind.
One of the key benefits of the Linux operating system is its ability to be used instantaneously once downloaded, and by choosing options such as 'paranoid/low', installers are weighing up the choice between high security and low functionality or low security and high functionality, for which they chose Linux in the first place.
It is obvious what most users will plump for, which in turn helps to estimate why so many more vulnerabilities will appear on the circuit.
Whatever the argument, no single operating system out there is ever going to be 100 per cent secure. The issue of Microsoft versus Linux is much less black and white than many portray it to be. Yes, there is a cost saving to be had by using Linux, but only if the person converting to it knows exactly what they're doing.
Linux undoubtedly has the potential to take security forward into new realms, but so too has Microsoft. Yes, it would be great to see more people taking the lead and using an alternative OS to Windows, but only if they are backed with the knowledge to do so securely.
More and more organisations are understanding that IT security is paramount, no matter what operating system. Through clear thinking and informed decision making, higher levels of security are bound to be reached.
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