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Mark Taylor

Written by staff at Sirius Corporation, the Open Source services group, this blog seeks to dispel any FUD around the use of Open Source software in the Enterprise and provide perspectives on business, economics, politics, philosophy and the environment.

Linux and the sheer utter misery of viruses

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In our cosy *nix world we don't suffer from viruses, or rather we didn't. But thanks to an amazing piece of reverse engineering we have SAMBA, and SAMBA allows Windows machines to talk to Linux (and Solaris) networks and store files on them.

What this means is that we can have viruses by proxy if any Linux network we deploy has Windows workstations... which mostly they do. Often on the same network, thanks to the magic of that other unifying technology Open LDAP there are Linux and Mac workstations too.

Of course the Linux servers and the Mac/Linux desktops are immune to Windows viruses so one might hope that if a virus gets into the Windows machines, whether because of a less than perfect virus checker or security update policy, it would only serve to make the point about the vulnerability of Windows workstations.

Not a bit of it. Every sys-admin of a mixed-environment system knows that infected Windows workstations take the whole network down, whether through broadcast storms, weird network look ups or overwhelmed firewalls.

The only solution is to identify the infected desktops and take them off the network.. pronto.

An infected Windows workstation of XP vintage often needs a clean image reinstalled to fix it. This means of course keeping a stock of up to date Windows workstation images. Next, all staff and students (if it is a school or college) need to have their usb sticks checked to save them trashing their often even more vulnerable home machines. Lots of work.

Thanks to SAMBA and OpenLDAP companies have been able to take advantage of the cost savings and performance offered by Linux infrastructure and keep their Windows workstations. They wish to do the latter because sometimes they need to use Windows-only applications and sometimes they wish to avoid any retraining overheads for their users.

Thanks also to SAMBA and OpenLDAP all the woes and sheer utter misery of viruses,trojans et al are perpetuated. Linux infrastructures are now very common, Linux workstations are much rarer.

The security of a Windows workstation cannot be taken lightly. It must have the very best policies of updates and maintenance. Human nature and organisations often fall below the best...with inevitable results.

One cannot help wondering whether the time has come to ditch the Windows PC.

Is the pain really worth the gain?

Ask any one struggling with an outbreak of infection and you will get the answer.

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