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May 28 2015

Sophos Launches Free Antivirus for Linux

Britain's leading IT security firm Sophos has introduced a software tool that's supposed to protect servers and desktops running the open source OS against "Linux-based and cross-platform exploits." The basic installation is cost-free.

The increasing use of mobile devices and Web-based technologies has had a number of often overlooked side effects. One of them is the huge popularity boost for Linux that occurred over the past 5 to 10 years: once considered a fringe OS that would only appeal to nerds, it now drives not only a plethora of web servers, but also an unprecedented amount of endpoints ranging from embedded systems through tablets to developer workstations. This sweeping success gets all the more understandable if you take into account that despite its massive proliferation, Linux – or rather, its various distributions – is still considered to be more secure than other popular operating systems, especially Windows. Given this scenario, it was only a matter of time before adversaries of any kind and standing would try and launch Linux-specific attacks – which is exactly what has happened in recent months and why Linux users need special protection, Sophos says.

According to the product website, Sophos Antivirus for Linux offers pretty much the same functionality that you would expect from Windows tools, that is

  • Effective algorithms for detecting and eliminating viruses, Trojans and other malware
  • On-access, on-demand and scheduled scans
  • A lightweight software agent with low impact on performance, small software updates that typically don't exceed 50 KB
  • Numerous configuration options to optimize scan performance
  • Compatibility with various Linux distributions and editions, including customized installations

Quite unlike 'normal' AV tools, however, the Sophos product will also detect, block and remove malware that targets other operating systems, namely Windows, Android, and Mac OS X. Even more unusual is the fact that the "basic edition" (i.e. the one without support) is now available free of charge. Users with more sophisticated demands may want to upgrade to the premium version, which comes at a fee and includes 24/7 tech support and centralized, cloud-based or on-premises management (the cloud option is available from June).

While the offering sounds pretty decent at first glance, it comes with a few small caveats. Users in several online forums have raised the question whether it makes sense to mix an open source operating system with an AV tool that is usually closed source – or whether this could result in technical, legal or licensing issues. Likewise, there's always the question whether the Sophos tool will in fact work with as wide a "range of Linux distributions and kernels" as promised – or whether it is more compatible with, say, Ubuntu than with SUSE.

 
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