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'WannaCry Makes an Easy Case For Linux' (techrepublic.com) 411

An anonymous reader writes: The thing is, WannaCry isn't the first of its kind. In fact, ransomware has been exploiting Windows vulnerabilities for a while. The first known ransomware attack was called "AIDS Trojan" that infected Windows machines back in 1989. This particular ransomware attack switched the autoexec.bat file. This new file counted the amount of times a machine had been booted; when the machine reached a count of 90, all of the filenames on the C drive were encrypted. Windows, of course, isn't the only platform to have been hit by ransomware. In fact, back in 2015, the LinuxEncoder ransomware was discovered. That bit of malicious code, however, only affected servers running the Magento ecommerce solution. The important question here is this: Have their been any ransomware attacks on the Linux desktop? The answer is no. With that in mind, it's pretty easy to draw the conclusion that now would be a great time to start deploying Linux on the desktop. I can already hear the tired arguments. The primary issue: software. I will counter that argument by saying this: Most software has migrated to either Software as a Service (SaaS) or the cloud. The majority of work people do is via a web browser. Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari; with few exceptions, SaaS doesn't care. With that in mind, why would you want your employees and staff using a vulnerable system? [...] Imagine, if you will, you have deployed Linux as a desktop OS for your company and those machines work like champs from the day you set them up to the day the hardware finally fails. Doesn't that sound like a win your company could use? If your employees work primarily with SaaS (through web browsers), then there is zero reason keeping you from making the switch to a more reliable, secure platform.
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'WannaCry Makes an Easy Case For Linux'

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  • by Aequitarum Custos ( 1614513 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @03:22PM (#54443727) Homepage
    Virus writers will target the largest market portion. If that's Windows, they'll write viruses for Windows. If it's Mac, they'll write viruses for Mac. If it's Linux, they will start writing viruses for Linux. Just because more vulnerabilities in Windows are known, does not mean there are less total in Linux. And short of taking away admin/sudo access from users completely, malware can always social engineer it's way into administrative privileges during an installer or something similar.
    • Of course its wrong, the correct answer is of course to run OpenBSD.
    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      Well, in the macro sense, it won't work. In the micro sense, it will work to some extent, at least until too many other people join you and suddenly things look appealing.

      Though having apt/dnf available software mitigates risks in a way similar to having an 'app store', and is one reason why MS is pushing the Windows Store concept hard (the larger reason of course being profit).

      Also, even without admin level access, untrusted software can make a mess of things, since all the stuff you care about is owned b

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Mac seems like a reasonably popular minority desktop, but doesn't seem to be having a problem so far, why would Linux?

    • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @03:35PM (#54443839) Homepage Journal

      Linux has been around enough and is used widely in high-value enterprise servers that it most certainly is attacked by malware, hackers, etc on a regular basis. Much is known about the security of Linux, and multiple vendors work to improve the security of the Linux Operating System and key applications.

      Microsoft, Adobe and others have not been doing that great of a job securing Windows and its key applications. And much of the industry that touts that they enhance security on Windows are also trying to sell you virus scanners that significantly impact system performance.

      What you fail to understand are two factors at play here:
      1. Linux(FreeBSD and Unix in general) have a very different security model than Windows. Unix is a much simpler model and is less flexible, but it is also applied more consistently as a result.
      2. Windows is not the top OS in the world in terms of numbers. Virus writers, if they are going only for high-volume attacks, would also aim their sites at Android or iOS as either of those have more installed systems than Windows. And like I said early, Linux dominates the enterprise environment and would theoretically be more valuable of a target to attack than Windows.

      • Linux will fall to the same things that Windows does these days.

        - Users conditioned to enter the admin password and click through warning to get that sweet emoji pack

        - Vulnerable applications

        - Zero day attacks and slow updates

        Nothing about the average Linux distro would prevent ransomware attacks, for example. Exploit the browser, get access to the user's files, game over. Yeah, there are more secure distros, but you can lock down Windows too and no-one does.

        • by ctilsie242 ( 4841247 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @04:47PM (#54444577)

          The thing about ransomware, it doesn't need to fight with SELinux, nor escalate to root, to cause damage. It just needs enough access to read/write the user's files, which most web browsers provide. Even having an Internet connection isn't needed, since ransomware can bundle a public key with it that it can encrypt an individualized ephemeral private key, then use the public key from that ephemeral keypair to encrypt all files.

          Ransomware is part of a perfect storm. So many companies don't bother with security. Individuals don't care or don't bother. With the lack of consumer-tier tape drives and optical drives of a decent capacity, backup drives and cloud-synced storage are easy pickings for deletion. Not many end users really care to use a program like Mozy, Carbonite, or CrashPlan.

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        used widely in high-value enterprise servers that it most certainly is attacked by malware, hackers, etc on a regular basis

        The real question is how often those attacks succeed. We're seeing a near-constant stream of companies announcing security breaches. How many more go unannounced? And how many are targeting Linux vs Windows vs some other vector? Those questions are rarely answered with any confidence.

        For your two factors:
        1) I don't know about that. I suspect its applied more consistently more because Linux has a higher percentage of server vs desktop usage than Windows, and server administrators tend to be better at ma

    • I would actually recommend a diverse network. Windows, Linux and Macintosh. While a little harder to maintain it prevents from having all your eggs in the same basket.
      The biggest problem I see is over MS integration. Even doing little things such as using Apache instead of IIS on Windows. Make sure your Web Apps follow the standards and works on different browsers often can save a big headache in the future.

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        I would be hesitant to follow that advice. If your data is in a shared location (as it almost certainly would be in an organization with more than a couple PCs,) then all you've done is provide three attack vectors instead of one.

        If all you care about is individual workstations being operational then sure, get out of the monoculture. But if you care about your operation as a whole being secure then removing as many attack vectors as you can is by far the more useful solution.

        Using Apache instead of IIS on

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      I partially agree with you.

      My main point of disagreement is that many Linux distributions already have better long-term-stable support. Debian as a case-in-point backports security changes to older verisions almost to a ridiculous level, and Ubuntu as a dpkg-based distribution follows suit. If a particular version of a distribution of Linux is necessary for whatever reason, it may well continue to be supported by the distrubtion maintainers for much longer than Windows, with far less reluctance.

      Additional

    • Well, any way, I think Linux is the best argument for using Linux: the totality of its features, stability, useability, and I could go on. It may well be a matter of mostly taste; I dislike Windows for exactly the same reasons why others like it.

      • There are a few things that just plain will not run on Linux, that's why you have windows running in a VM!

    • Also, most of my software doesn't run in the cloud. A tiny fraction of what I use my computer for is done online, but the overwhelming majority is still done locally and doesn't even need a constant internet connection. (Wouldn't *need* one at all, except for licensing checks.)
    • Virus writers will target the largest market portion.

      Bullshit. Virus writers will target every platform they can — starting with the largest and working their way down to the smallest.

    • by Anonymous Coward
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    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by unrtst ( 777550 )

      Virus writers will target the largest market portion.

      This tripe is tired. There are more factors at play here, and being blind to them for decades isn't helping anyone.

      The size of the installed base does not matter.
      An argument could be made that the effectiveness of the exploit may matter. IE. if there are more vulnerable machines of some specific type, that's a bigger target. This could also be skewed depending on the demographic of that target (ex. if it was 90% of the ATM's and the exploit made all accounts using them available, it wouldn't matter if the n

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        For example, if every Mac OS X install had a remote root vulnerability, but only %1 of Windows 10 installs were still vulnerable to a similarly bad thing, then Windows would not be as attractive based on numbers and impact.

        Absolutely true. However, there's basically no instance where one OS will be 100% vulnerable while another is only 1%. Typical numbers will either be about equal (if its a bug in say a web browser that's common to both OS') or it will be on the scale of some double-digit percent vs 0% because very rarely does a bug apply even remotely equally between two completely different code bases.

        Also, given that the OS split is a bit above 80% Windows and a bit below 12% Mac (as per the current Wikipedia article's

    • Well, I think the truth is not as simple as you're implying. First, though virus writers are more likely to target the OS with the largest install base (not necessarily the largest market share), that doesn't mean that some operating systems are not more secure than others. Windows, for example, used to have many many large security problems, due to the fact that it basically wasn't originally designed to be secure. However, Microsoft has put a lot of effort into securing Windows in recent years, and it'

    • > Just because more vulnerabilities in Windows are known, does
      > not mean there are less total in Linux.

      That misses the point, badly.

      The issue is that there is an entire Windows virus ecosystem. Aspiring authors can get everything they need to get started from a huge library of code. WannaCry is a perfect example; the code they added is apparently very simple, and they connected it to a sophisticated exploit.

      This market exists because, in the past, Windows was less secure. So the virus writers had lots

    • Virus writers will target the largest market portion.

      Your response isn't new and is still wrong. Yes, they will target the largest OS market, yes they will probably find some exploits in whatever the market leader is. The big difference being that Linux is open source and can be fixed faster and be made more secure by more people.

    • Add to that Microsoft's clever incorporatation of Linux into Windows 10. Now we probably have the spectre of simple bash scripts that will delete, encrypt, or do something else undersirable to all the files a user has access to on Windows. And (once debugged) will do the same thing on Linux or Mac OS, or BSD.

      Let me submit that the underlying problem is that we're trying to run computers connected to a world encompassing network with software that has vast attack surfaces. That's probably never going to w

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      Virus writers will target the largest market portion. If that's Windows, they'll write viruses for Windows.

      Maybe. Where are all the worms targetting Non-Jailbroken iPhones over the network?
      Just because your software is a target, doesn't mean you get targeted as successfully, effectively, and broadly as Windows and Flash.

      Just because you made one point does not mean the Opinion that switching to Linux will result in fewer worms/Ransomware is wrong.

      At best you could say It is untested. Because we

    • Virus writers will target the largest market portion. If that's Windows, they'll write viruses for Windows. If it's Mac, they'll write viruses for Mac. If it's Linux, they will start writing viruses for Linux.

      Just because more vulnerabilities in Windows are known, does not mean there are less total in Linux. And short of taking away admin/sudo access from users completely, malware can always social engineer it's way into administrative privileges during an installer or something similar.

      I keep hearing this, but here we are at nearly 20 years of OS X/macOS, and there STILL isn't a single self-replicating (Worm-type) Virus for Macs.

      Even Linux can't make that claim, and its Marketshare is about five-times smaller than OS X/macOS.

    • More eyeballs are trained on open source projects and as such tend to get patched more quickly. While this is not always the case, we've all seen how walled gardens can at best quickly become gilded cages and at worst targets for malware writers. Removing root privileges does not really secure anything targeted by an exploit in an OS or a piece of hardware.
    • Virus writers will target the largest market portion.

      That's been a standard retort for many years, and it's still wrong. Linux has had a massive market share lead over Windows on Web servers for a very long time; yet the vast, vast majority of Web server compromises were, are, and always will be Windows infections

      If market share were the driving force behind malware, we'd see a LOT of Linux server compromises. But we don't see that. Instead, most of what we see are Windows infections.

    • by mspohr ( 589790 )

      I hear this argument all the time. Even if it was true that virus writers find more Windows flaws because it's more popular, then why would you intentionally go with Windows, knowing that you are more likely to be targeted? It seems stupid to stick with the more popular system and know that you are more likely to be attacked. I'd rather stick with a less popular system knowing that I'm much less likely to get targeted.

  • Every... time... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bizzeh ( 851225 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @03:23PM (#54443729) Homepage

    Every single time any sort of media coverage comes up about a non-event (didnt affect real users, only affected organisations which delayed the installation of a critical update), fanboys leap on the opertunity to say how much better linux is.

    Linux has its fair share of these, and runs on its fair share of critical infrastructure, and is run by its own fair share of idiots, but it is never really media worthy, because it isnt Windows and it isnt something the general public will relate to.

    Give it a rest...

  • 2017 (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, 2017 @03:23PM (#54443731)

    I heard 2017 is the year for desktop Linux. Any day now.

  • by djbckr ( 673156 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @03:23PM (#54443737)

    This new file counted the amount of times a machine had been booted; when the machine reached a count of 90, all of the filenames on the C drive were encrypted.

    That should only take a few minutes, right?

  • by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @03:27PM (#54443757)

    My father runs an accounting business. His tax software is only available on Windows, and not as a service.

    I work in a media company. Yes, some have Macs, but most of the software is only available for Windows, so most users must use Windows. Now the other departments could possibly use something like Linux, but then it's another system that needs to be supported (given that we still must support Windows, anyway).

    I'm sorry Linux fans (of which I am one... the web servers I set up for work are Linux, and I'm typing this on Linux as my desktop right now), but there's a lot of proprietary software that many companies use that is only available on Windows. Most of it has no serious competition on Linux.

    • Unfortunately, that's true. I still have dual boot (Win7/Linux) because there are some packages, especially for multimedia, that I still need for work. However, there's a huge number of PCs in the world in govt. departments, schools, colleges, and universities (the public sector) that never use anything as exotic as multimedia editing software or generic accounting software (GNU cash is more than adequate for most businesses). Technically and financially, it would make sense for those millions of PCs to be

    • Your argument really sound like the anti waxers "I cannot get vaccinated since... I cannot"

      Yes, the Windows zealot will reply to this post saying that it is true, he is really stuck.

      At the end of the day it is just effort you have to put, you have a choice
      - Apparently easy choice now and windows spyware and viruses
      - Harder choice now but no spyware (stay away from NSA sponsored systemd) and viruses

      Freedom, such a nice thing when you have it.

      • Your argument really sound like the anti waxers "I cannot get vaccinated since... I cannot"

        No, it doesn't. He specifically said: there's a lot of proprietary software that many companies use that is only available on Windows.

        Yes, the Windows zealot will reply to this post saying that it is true, he is really stuck.

        At the end of the day it is just effort you have to put, you have a choice
        - Apparently easy choice now and windows spyware and viruses
        - Harder choice now but no spyware (stay away from NSA sponsored systemd) and viruses

        Freedom, such a nice thing when you have it.

        No, in his case, the choice is:

        - Run Windows and be vigilant about malware but still be able to function as a business
        - Run Linux on the desktop and go out of business because he cannot use the tools he needs

        I've been working in IT for nearly twenty years and am a big Linux geek (I even helped introduce Linux on the server side at a previous employer), but make no mistake: w

    • A decade ago I would've agreed with you. But modern computers have become so fast you can be OS-agnostic and just run stuff in virtual machines.
      • I run Windows on my laptop, but only because the 3D games I play are the only things that don't run well in a VM.
      • My other Windows programs run inside a virtual machine (I got tired of having to reinstall all my Windows programs every time I upgraded laptops).
      • I run FreeBSD in a VM for my file server and backups.
      • I run Linux Mint in a VM for when I do stuff with
      • by gfxguy ( 98788 )

        I run Windows on my laptop, but only because the 3D games I play are the only things that don't run well in a VM.

        As I pointed out, I work for a media company. We run real time 3D software; I do live virtual applications. I've tested Linux software from a vendor and I liked it a lot - but it was NOT ready for production use. Most of the tools we also require a lot of 3D performance. Maya, AfterEffects, and a number of programs you've likely never heard of. It's still just how it is right now.

        Now if you want to support my fathers small accounting business, you can go ahead and set up VMs for his tax software. It's

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          Most of the tools we also require a lot of 3D performance. Maya, AfterEffects, and a number of programs you've likely never heard of.

          Maya runs on Linux, BlackMagic has released Linux versions of DaVinci Resolve and Fusion but as long as you're tied to Adobe? When hell freezes over. I know quite a few people who would drop Windows in an instant if Adobe decided to release Creative Cloud for Linux. I think the problem is Adobe knows people buy the OS that their products run on, not the other way around. While there's many that would switch OS, there's very little new business in porting everything to Linux so it's not worth it. It's availa

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Firewalls and security updates. The Windows server firewall is locked down by default. The Windows desktop firewall has a million ports open. Many are to localsubnet, but it's still open.
    What I really want MS to do is make their firewall scoping easier to use, like icefloor: allow grouping of IP ranges as a common name, and allow scopes to use that name. They started to do that with predefined networks, but stopped for some reason.

    • by mea2214 ( 935585 )
      AFAIK, to protect yourself from Wanncry simply block 445 in the Windows firewall. Don't even need to update. I haven't used smb in years and was surprised Windows 10 had that server process running listening to 445..
  • There is only other people's computers. If you move to relying on "the cloud", all you are doing is delegating your security to someone else. Now you have two points of vulnerability: Your local Linux machine, and the "cloud" server, either of which could be infected with malware. You have not fixed the problem, and you have actually doubled your exposure.
    • But it also offers a point of redundance. Say, if your hardware fails and you lose your local files, you still have them online.

  • For real. I read these submissions, and I wonder if it's just a big troll. I mean, does anyone have a real company that uses 100% cloud offerings? I mean, I get that it's theoretically possible, but it's just not practical. Because, reasons. I mean, really, does anyone actual think this?
    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      100%? Common in start-ups.

      90%? Lots of large companies, especially social media and content distribution. There will be some control stuff in-house, but all the heavy lifting is in the cloud.

      And then there's the cloud providers, how much they "use cloud offerings" is a philosophical question, and Facebook/Google, which similarly "use the cloud" just their own cloud.

  • by cmeans ( 81143 ) <cmeans@i n t f ar.com> on Thursday May 18, 2017 @03:52PM (#54444009) Homepage Journal
    If one is doing all their work in the cloud, then more likely than not, that's where the files are as well...so not local and not subject to a local Ransomware attack. Wouldn't matter what the local OS is.
  • Putting aside older Windows XP machines which did not have the fix (and for which users who care about security shouldn't be running since there is no longer patch support for the platform) - Microsoft had rolled out the fix for their other Windows platforms well before WannaCry came out. What difference does the OS make if the user isn't going to be diligent in keeping their OS updated with security patches?
  • I have used various Linux distros going back to 1997. And various Windows versions going back to 3.1. Servers, clients, etc. And I can say that a lot of Linux offerings have improved the front end UX. And installing/updating/configuring apps is a lot easier nowadays with current Linux distros.

    But that being said, I still can't see Linux taking over the typical home user's environment. I am a techie, and I like to noodle around. So working around quirks, compilation issues for third party drivers, and the li

  • Just like everyone these days drives an electric car. Oh, wait...something like .001% do.
  • It's not like Linux is any more secure than Windows currently is. Linux has just as much exploits in it, but most of them aren't still known (at least not publicly). The more people will use it, the more it will be targeted by malwaremakers and hackers..
    Don't think for a second Linux is so much better secured than any other OS..

  • If everyone switched to Linux, virus writers would target it. So no-one switches. So it makes sense to switch because nobody else will, so you'll be ahead of the game.

    Just don't tell anyone else that...

    (My company has run completely on Linux since 1999. We're well ahead of everyone else that the bear is chasing.)

  • I was honestly expecting someone to post this and how we should all be using slack with everything done using the CLI.

    I worked hard to use Linux (either openSUSE or Ubuntu) as my main OS for several years. There are things that just don't work well, and other things that don't work in VM's which force me to use Windows. As it is, Win10 is as good - if not better than - Windows 2000. I'll still fire up Ubuntu for various things but mostly use Windows just fine.

    Oh, and i can use Bash in Windows
  • Security is only as strong as its weakest link and that is the end user. It doesn't matter if they're running MacOS, iOS, Linux, Windows, or DOS. Period. If they're not running updates, the OS doesn't matter.

    And if you want to get into the pissing contest, Linux has had a few major bugs with some of its components. Sendmail has had bugs that allowed someone to get root access by simply sending an e-mail to/through the server. Last year Google found a bug in glibc that would cause a buffer overflow and thus

  • by Lost Race ( 681080 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @09:46PM (#54446095)

    You don't need to outrun the bear, you only need to outrun the other campers.

    It appears that Windows will be a far bigger and softer target for the foreseeable future because most people need some Windows-only app or other. That's great for those off us who can use an alternative that's easier to secure and much less tempting to malware developers.

    So if you can, you should switch to Linux, not because it's popular, but at least in part because it's not popular, and probably never will be.

  • by XSportSeeker ( 4641865 ) on Thursday May 18, 2017 @11:45PM (#54446497)

    Everything since Windows 10 happened has been a case for Linux, it's just still not an easy one by any means to your average Windows user unfortunately.

    Let's see here. Shady strategies to force users to upgrade, horrible advertisement schemes, forced telemetry, always on always listening always dialing back strategies... not to mention how Microsoft keeps persisting on ideas like Windows 10 S because what they really want is to copy Apple and the walled garden model.

    Malware, vulnerabilities and ramsonware have been there for the longest time, and arguably for regular users the horrible experiences of the past with Vista, BSoD, among several other problems have been a far more convincing case for Linux. We don't even have that many shovelware as we did in the past.

    It just won't happen. Sorry. It's not your fault, but this has never been a convincing argument, not for regular Windows users. It won't start being because of WannaCry. And defeatingly enough, other than our own tech circles, it's likely that most people haven't even paid much attention to WannaCry anyways... it'll be forgotten, if it isn't already, as fast as stuff like Mirai Botnet, among others. I mean, even techies, do most people remember the most publicized malware attacks of 2016? I have to admit I don't.

    And yes, I know Android exploded in popularity, I know over half of servers these days uses Linux, I know almost all supercomputers also do... but your regular non-techie consumer will, for the foreseeable future, always run to Windows, or at most Macs. In fact, if WannaCry was really going to do any substantial push for migration (which let's admit it, it won't), it'd be for Windows users going for Macs.

    The unsolvable problems that Linux will seemingly never be able to overcome are:
    1. Advertisement and marketing. An image problem;
    2. Community. Even for folks like my mom who avoids using computers like the plague, if she has a problem with it, there's bound to be someone near her that can help. Linux? I wouldn't even know were to start. Neither I nor her friends would be able to indicate a repair shop or something with someone who could deal with command line configuration. I perhaps have a couple of friends who could help, but which would most likely be working with no free time to help.

    And this isn't only about OS, it's about apps. Sure, Linux have plenty of basic office level apps and whatnot, but it's not about having an app that works in a similar way, it's about having people around to help with specific tasks as they arise. This is also why Microsoft Office still dominates while open source alternatives like LibreOffice or OpenOffice never catches on.

    The needs non-computer geeks have around computers are often misunderstood, underestimated, and superficially analized. I feel bad because I'd really love for everyone to move to Linux. With enough people there, developers would be forced to migrate too. I'd love to have a fully functional Ubuntu smartphone. A Debian desktop with all I need. A Mint tablet to go around. Well, actually I have an Ubuntu laptop and tablet. But it's not something that I'd recommend for family and friends who don't know much about computers, because the whole thing makes no sense to them. Basically all of them (and I come from a big family) have no friends or relatives that would be able to help either to make their regular stuff work, or to solve problems when they come up. Among my multiple uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces... I must be the only one to have had contact with Linux. And I don't even know how to handle it properly myself.

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