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Linux security threats grow, study finds

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The popularity of Linux has a downside - as more people use the open-source operating system, the more vulnerable it becomes to attacks, as programming miscreants create more worms and viruses for the system.

This is according to a recent survey done by mi2g, a London-based IT security research firm, which tracks the number of reported vulnerabilities in software as well as activities in the hacker community. Of the 1,162 new software vulnerabilities found in the first 10 months of 2002, 500 belonged to the Microsoft Windows operating system, the most among any PC or server operating systems. But in second place with 200 vulnerabilities was Linux.

The report found that the number of digital attacks committed so far in 2002 is around 58,000, up 54% from the 31,322 attacks that happened last year. The firm estimates that these attacks, combined with damage done by worms and viruses, caused around $40 billion in damage worldwide this year, taking into account the cost of lost productivity, share price decline, losses from property rights violations and other factors, according to mi2g.

Incidentally, the " safest " operating systems, with less than 25 vulnerabilities found so far in 2002, were Compaq's Tru64 Unix, the SCO Group's SCO Unix and Apple's Mac OS, which proves that there's something to be said for " security through obscurity. "

RELATED LINKS

More on mi2g, the conductor of the OS security report

Phil Hochmuth is a Network World Senior Writer and a former systems integrator. You can reach him at phochmut@nww.com.

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