How Secure Is Linux?
Choosing the safest operating system (OS) is a key determinant of your online security. After all, this software manages the memory and processes throughout your server. Experts agree that Linux is a highly secure OS, if not the best security OS designed. In this article, we will examine the key Linux security features that contribute to this system's being a secure OS. Additionally, we will evaluate the protection capabilities Linux features offer to administrators and users and how they combat cyber security vulnerabilities and attacks in network security.
Secure by Design
When it comes to security, Linux Security users are at a decided advantage over their Windows- or Mac-using counterparts. Unlike proprietary OSes, Linux is the most secure OS by design, as Linux Security features are built into the system. The increasingly popular open-source secure OS is highly flexible, configurable, and diverse. Linux Security OS also implements a strict user privilege model and offers a selection of built-in kernel security defenses to safeguard against cyber security vulnerabilities and attacks. Linux source code is transparent to make sure any network security issues are short-lived despite being inevitable on even the most secure OS. Let’s take a closer look at Linux features and how they contribute to data and network security.
The Open-Source Security Advantage
Linux Security vulnerabilities are generally identified and eliminated very rapidly since their source code undergoes constant, thorough review by the vibrant, global open-source security community. In contrast, vendors like Microsoft and Apple employ a method known as “security by obscurity,” where source code is hidden from outsiders in an attempt to conceal network security issues from threat actors. This approach is generally ineffective in preventing modern exploits in cyber security because it undermines the security of the “hidden” source code by preventing outsiders from identifying and reporting data and network security weaknesses prior to malicious actors. When it comes to discovering security bugs, a small team of proprietary developers is no match for the worldwide community of Linux Security user-developers who are deeply invested in protecting Linux Security to help it maintain its status as the most secure OS.
A Superior User Privilege Model
Unlike Windows, where “everyone is an admin,” Linux greatly restricts root access through a strict user privilege model. On Linux, a superuser owns all the privileges, and ordinary users are only granted enough permissions to accomplish their tasks. Because Linux users have low automatic access rights and require additional permissions to open attachments, access files, or adjust kernel options, it is harder to spread malware and rootkits on a Linux system. Thus, these inherent restrictions serve as a key defense against system compromise and attacks on network security.
Built-In Kernel Security Defenses
The Linux Security kernel boasts an array of built-in security defenses, including firewalls with packet filters, UEFI Secure Boot firmware verification mechanisms, Linux Kernel Lockdown configuration options, and SELinux or AppArmor Mandatory Access Control (MAC) security enhancement systems. By enabling these Linux Security features and configuring them to ensure a secure OS through high-security levels, known as Linux kernel self-protection, administrators can maintain the safest Operating System.
Security through Diversity
Linux Security environments allow for much diversity, as there are various distros, system architectures, and components companies can pick to meet their business needs. This diversity not only helps satisfy users’ individual requirements but also enhances the secure OS so that attacks in network security are more difficult to achieve and exploits in cyber security are harder to find. If such cloud security breaches are to take place, however, malicious actors cannot use those tactics on a wide range of Linux systems, as Linux Security features keep every system diverse. In contrast, the homogeneous Windows “monoculture” makes their systems a relatively easy and efficient attack target.
In addition to the design diversity seen in Linux, certain secure Linux distros are differentiated in ways that specifically address advanced security and privacy concerns shared among pentesters, reverse engineers, and data and network security researchers.
Highly Flexible & Configurable
There are vastly more configuration and control options available to Linux Security administrators than to Windows users. For instance, Linux sysadmins have the ability to use SELinux or AppArmor to lock down their system. These security policies offer granular access controls, providing a critical additional layer of security throughout a secure operating system. Linux Kernel Lockdown configuration options strengthen the divide between userland processes and kernel code, and admins can harden the sysctl.conf file, the main kernel parameter configuration point for a Linux system, to give their server a sturdier foundation for their secure OS.
Why Is Linux an Increasingly Popular Target among Cybercriminals?
Linux powers the majority of the world’s high-value devices and supercomputers, and the secure OS’s user base is steadily growing. Unfortunately, cybercriminals have taken note of these cybersecurity trends. Malware authors and operators are targeting Linux Security systems in their malicious campaigns more frequently. The past few years have been plagued with emerging Linux malware strains, including Cloud Snooper, EvilGnome, HiddenWasp, QNAPCrypt, GonnaCry, FBOT, and Tycoon. That being said, Linux is still a relatively small target, with 96% of new malware targeting Windows in 2022. Furthermore, the recent increase in Linux malware breaches is not a reflection of whether or not Linux is a secure Operating System. The majority of attacks in network security on Linux systems can be attributed to misconfigurations and poor administration, highlighting a widespread failure among Linux sysadmins to prioritize data and network security.
Luckily, as Linux malware continues to become increasingly prevalent and problematic, Linux Security features have built-in protection against malware attacks through its strict user privilege model and design diversity. There is a selection of excellent reverse engineering and malware-scanning network security toolkits like REMnux, Chkrootkit, Rkhunter, Lynis, and Linux Malware Detect (LMD) available to help admins detect and analyze malware on their systems.
Final Thoughts on Linux Security
Having a secure OS is crucial in verifying you have data and network security online. However, those features are not a complete safeguard against malware, rootkits, and other attacks on network security. Effectively secure Operating Systems are dependent upon defense in depth, security practice implementation, and smart online behavior, all of which play a central role in your ability to improve security posture. That being said, choosing a secure OS is of utmost importance, as the OS is the most critical piece of software running on your computer. Linux Security is an excellent choice, as it has the potential to be highly secure due to its open-source code, strict user privilege model, diversity, and relatively small user base.
However, Linux is not a “silver bullet” when it comes to digital security. The OS must be properly and securely configured, and sysadmins must practice secure, responsible administration in order to prevent attacks on network security. Also, it is crucial to keep in mind that security is all about tradeoffs in security and usability and/or user-friendliness. Linux Security Founder Dave Wreski explains, “The most secure system is one that is turned off, covered in cement, and located at the bottom of the ocean - but this system is obviously not very usable. Admins should configure their systems to be as secure as is practical within their environment. In regards to convenience, Linux has a bit of a learning curve but offers significant security advantages over Windows or MacOS. It’s a tradeoff that’s well worth it if you ask me.”