Viruses and Unix

    November 7, 2005

I was in a meeting last week where a customer was exploring switching from a Unix platform to Windows.

Of course one thing mentioned in favor of the Unix platform was the lessened threat from viruses, but someone brought up the old “popularity” argument: if Unix were as popular as Windows, it would have just as many virus problems.

That’s just not true. I didn’t want to get into an argument at the table, but I did mention that basic OS flaws have a lot to do with Windows problems. The “popularity” proponent disagreed, stating that all operating systems have flaws.

Of course that’s true. But Windows has some problems that Unix doesn’t have. If that weren’t true, then why is Microsoft working to planning to change things in Vista?

Unix and Linux don’t suffer from the basic stupidity of built in privilege problems. Privilege escalation exists in Unix and Linux, but it’s always a mistake, not a design decision as it has been with Windows. Windows made this mess on purpose because they wanted “ease of use” more than they wanted security.

That’s about to change, but as I’ve noted in the article referenced above, I think too many horses are already out of the barn: the Windows community will thwart these controls and do everything they can to continue having complete administrative power.

*Originally published at

A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services