Terri from Australia writes:
Hi….I love getting all the tips you put out so am wondering if you will be able to help us users who have gone over to Linux. My son put Linux Mint on a partition for me with XP on another. I will cut XP off the internet soon. What I am thinking is when you advise us what software to use or work around problems it would be good to know if they are suitable for Linux. Also you have said here that Linux can be sabotaged. I understood it was safe, it does not have any security programs. Should we be using an anti virus & malware, if so which would be suitable please? Can you help us.
Terri, no operating system is guaranteed to be safe. There have not been any massive attacks launched against home users of the Linux system, but that certainly doesn’t mean any computer is invulnerable to attack. The same holds true for Apple computers. Serious security flaws have been discovered and patched in both Linux-based systems and Mac OS.
The reason Windows computers are attacked more often is a numbers games. A lot more people use the Windows OS, so it makes more sense for attackers to spend their time working up ways to get into those systems.
Linux computers account for only 1.49% of systems, and those running the Mac OS X are less than 4%. That means more than 90% of computers are running a Windows OS.
Since Linux is open-source, the way vulnerabilities are patched work very differently than with Apple or Microsoft. For Mac or Windows computers, when vulnerabilities are detected, teams of security experts from the company are responsible for fixing the problem and then distributing the patches through automatic updates. That information is also distributed to 3rd party security companies that provide virus protection.
Since Linux Mint is an open-source software, the system works in a different way. Issues with the OS are addressed by its users who help the team managing Mint come up with solutions to bugs and vulnerabilities that are addressed in software upgrades that happen about every six months.
You’ll have to go to the Linux Mint site yourself and choose the upgrade. There are no anti-virus programs for Mint in the Mint software store. You could try a product like Comodo for Linux, but there’s a debate on whether anti-virus programs are of any use in Linux at all.
There was quite a backlash last year when the makers of Ubuntu said that Mint was insecure. Users of open-source software are very protective of the system and any suggestion that it could possible be insecure generally leads to a log of angry comments. But as the recent Heartbleed vulnerability in Open SSL shows, open source products can have vulnerabilities just the same as anything else.
One good precaution is to use security add-ons that are available for browsers like Firefox. While viruses that would lock up your Linux system may be rare, you could still be vulnerable through your browser for malicious attacks. If you’re using Firefox, choose the FireFox menu and select add-ons
Then select Get Add-ons.
Then search for security.
NoScript Security Suite is an especially good option.
You can install add-ons by clicking Install.
As always, be cautious with e-mail attachments and of what sites you visit. Linux systems have proven to be very-secure and user friendly. I will caution you about moving files from Mint to XP. It would be possible to attach something malicious to an e-mail that would have no effect in Linux. However if the file was opened in XP, it could activate.