A Love/Hate Relationship


A Love/Hate Relationship

This is a pie graph of OS market stocks, from Google Analytics. This comes from a reasonably popular website, therefore the percentages are pretty accurate. The blue section is Windows. Green is Mac. That little orange cut is Linux (Ubuntu is a flavour of Linux designed to be possible for users). This is enough to convince most people why Windows has infections.

Many Linux advocates claim that the viruses to users ratio for Linux is a lot lower (by lower I mean much much lower), but this doesn’t mean anything. Why would a computer virus be made with a pathogen maker for Linux when he/she will make one for Home windows instead, and also have a higher target market? Now for just a little thought test. Suppose these three platforms had equal market share.

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Since the mark market is the same for every platform, there is absolutely no preference predicated on market share for virus makers. So put yourself in the shoes of a virus manufacturer. Which platform would you write your virus for? For Windows, there is no idea of a superuser. A lot of the right time, an individual logged in has usage of the whole system. Which means so do the programs that are operating, like viruses. So if I were to create a pathogen for Windows, which means that I can start deleting data files and installing what to my heart’s content.

Compare this to Linux, where this is not an option, you need a main security password. You could probably get the main password by having an application simulate the password request screen or some junk like this, but that is clearly a lot of work. In Windows, there’s a standard set of software: Microsoft.

If biology tells us anything, it says that homogeneity is a breeding surface for extinction. If a computer virus can use an exploit in Outlook to infect the operational system and broadcast itself, some other computer with Outlook (a large number in the Windows world) is also easily contaminated. Compare this to the Linux world, where there is a heterogeneous mix of software: Evolution, Thunderbird, KMail.

Although a pathogen may be able to exploit a bug in Evolution, it might not be so successful with Thunderbird, decreasing the spread of the computer virus thus. Same goes for distributions, if an exploit in Ubuntu is found, it may not affect Fedora or Mandriva (or even Kubuntu). This is not true and is completely speculation necessarily, but it is even possible that the anti-virus software companies might not be working completely in your favour.