After 8 Years of Remote-Access Trojans Attacks, Can We Still Say Linux is Secure?

Remember when BlackBerry reported Advanced Persistent Threat groups have been infiltrating critical Linux servers for at least eight years? What’s the lesson to be learned?

LinuxSecurity Founder Dave Wreski argues “Although it may be easy to blame the rise in attacks targeting Linux in recent years on security vulnerabilities in the operating system as a whole, this is simply not the truth. The majority of exploits on Linux systems can be attributed to misconfigured servers and poor administration.”

Writing for Linux Security, Slashdot reader b-dayyy gathered some additional responses: Some experts argue that it is the popularity of Linux that makes it a target. Joe McManus, Director of Security at Canonical, explains: “Linux and, particularly Ubuntu, are incredibly secure systems but, that being said, it is their popularity that makes them a target.” Ian Thornton-Trump, a threat intelligence expert and the CISO at Cyjax, adds: “From an economic and mission perspective, it makes sense for a threat actor to invest in open-source skills for flexibility and the ability to target the systems where the good stuff is happening.”

Despite the increasing number of threats targeting Linux systems, there is still a sound argument for the inherent security of Linux, which can be attributed to the core fundamentals of Open Source. Due to the transparency of open-source code and the constant scrutiny that this code undergoes by a vibrant global community, vulnerabilities are identified and remedied quicker than flaws that exist in the opaque source code of proprietary software and operating systems. Threat actors recognize this, and are still directing the majority of their attacks at proprietary operating systems.

These attacks do; however, serve as a much-needed wakeup call for the security community that more needs to be done to protect Linux servers. BlackBerry’s report reveals that security solutions and defensive coverage available within Linux environments is “immature at best”. Endpoint protection, detection and response products are inadequately utilized by too many Linux users, and endpoint solutions available for Linux systems are often insufficient in combating advanced exploits. Eric Cornelius, Chief Product Officer at BlackBerry, evaluates: “Security products and services that support Linux, offerings that might detect and give us insight into a threat like this, are relatively lacking compared to other operating systems, and security research about APT use of Linux malware is also relatively sparse.”