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Still D ebating Linux on the Eve of the Zotob WORM
by Walter V. Koenning for the OPINION/EDITORIAL section.

NOTICE: Our other OP/ED postings include:
Microsoft's Approach May Isolate U.S. Permanently
Open Source VS Windows: Reality of a Better Paradigm

As the newest Internet Worm, dubbed Zotob, potently makes its way around the world crashing business computers, I have to wonder about that ďoldĒ Linux debate.

Is Linux truly safer or could such worms target systems not running the Windows environment? The answer, in almost every case of Internet worms is that yes indeed it could also happen to Linux systems. But it simply does not. It does not for a many reasons.

Most of the attacks against Microsoft based infrastructure are effective because of the numerous security limitations of the OS itself. The adamant debaters and nay-sayers argue that Linux has its share of security holes too. However, by design the operating systems has componentized and isolated key kernel functions in memory and on disk. This is what Linux does by design mind you. Not after thought or after patch.

This is an essential part of being more secure. Writing a simple hack to attack vulnerable Visual Basic code embedded in the Operating System, for instance, can foul up a whole slew of systems from the IIS server all the way to the local area network PCs on the same subnet. Of course there is a way to secure those remarkably vulnerable Microsoft subnets, where simply using the combination of ping and fetch can id and target every user on the service. However, locking down the network often means massively restricting user access, taking away simple functions like sharing drives or folders, etc.

In the case of Linux, even major hacks are invariably isolated from key kernel functions and system processes. Does this mean a nasty attack canít ever take down a Linux system? No, it does not. Iíve no intent to debate the obvious. Every system is vulnerable. Iíve even watched the famed Stratus VOS choke out and go down on rare occasion. But those occasions for Linux are few and far between.

Another constant factoid used to make the argument that Windows and Linux are just as stable and secure has to do with total number of users. The argument goes, "if a majority of systems were running Linux we would see comparable numbers of failures." Sadly this argument, a kind of pseudo logical premise fails to recognize that today there are actually more Linux servers running Internet infrastructure than there are Microsoft servers. As Mark Rais poignantly noted in his recent article even Microsoft understands that UNIX variants like BSD are more stable and scalable for internet services.

But on and on the debate goes. How many desperate businesses today are clinging to a lifeline trying to get their systems back up so they can continue to run? Iíve no idea, but Iím willing to bet on one thing. Today I contacted a number of folks and every one of them comfortably, and even with a hint of glee, stated they are running just fine on their Linux/KDE/OpenOffice desktops. Stable, reliable, and simply not as vulnerable to worms, such systems are allowing businesses to spend less time worrying about catastrophes and more time expanding productivity.

I would jump for joy along with these buddies if only there were not so many good people hurting just now because of this latest worm. For my numerous friends using Microsoft Windows 2000 as their core desktop environment, I implore you to view this as a chance to consider potential alternatives or at least options. Even if you will cling on to your Windows system, try out a FREE version of Linux as a Live-CD. Using something like the Knoppix Live-CD you can try out Linux on any system easily without installing it to your hard disk. Please friends, as you dig out of yet another painful day of infected network neighborhoods and total server outages, please give Linux a brief try.

Walter V. Koenning is a technology writer and provides insights regarding industry trends. He contributes occasionally to the OPINION/EDITORIAL section on

This brief opinion piece should not be construed as factual information, and only contains the opinions and personal experiences of the author at the time of publication. could not find information in this article that at the time of publication was inaccurate. However, the opinions and personal experiences that have been posted do not express the opinions of and are not endorsed in any way. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. Microsoft, Microsoft Windows, Windows2000 are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation both in the United States and Internationally. All other trademarks or registered trademarks in this opinion piece belong to their respective owners.

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This site is not related or affiliated with any other sites.