Bonum Certa Men Certa

Symantec Lies About GNU/Linux

Kent Hovind mug shot
Symantec: the Kent Hovind of security?
(mug shot of Kent Hovind courtesy of Escambia
County Sheriff's Office after his arrest)

Summary: In order to sell some products, Symantec spreads GNU/Linux fear based on misinformation

EVERY once in a while Symantec aims its FUD pistol at some innocent element of computing which Symantec claims has a problem (and Symantec of course offers a solution to this problem). We have already explained this business strategy (using examples that misuse Free software [1, 2]), which characterises many quacks and pseudo-science. That's why we put Kent Hovind at the top, for those who still wonder.

An issue which we discussed earlier today in IRC is the latest stunt from Symantec, which is probably best deconstructed and explained by Slashdot user "superapecommando" who submits:

The latest MessageLabs Intelligence Report from Symantec Hosted Services is filled with interesting and useful information regarding the current state of malware and e-mail borne threats as well as the trends over time. Of particular interest to me is the assertion in the report that "any given Linux machine is five times more likely to be sending spam than any given Windows machine."

A pretty clear case of sensationalist metrics from a company which wants to sell their hosted security solutions to Linux box admins. But one interesting thing that comes out of the story is that many of the security researchers believe that misconfigured POSTFIX and SENDMAIL installations are cloaking the actual amount of spam coming from infected Windows hosts.

Desktops that unleash vast amounts of SPAM actually run Windows and one in two Windows PCs is believed/estimated to be a zombie (either active or not). GNU/Linux drives many mail servers, so if it obeys a request from a Windows zombie, then it will deliver SPAM. Should GNU/Linux therefore be blamed? Of course not. It's just very good at delivering mail.

“GNU/Linux drives many mail servers, so if it obeys a request from a Windows zombie, then it will deliver SPAM.”Quoting Symantec a little further from its 'report' (which assumes bogus numbers about the market share of GNU/Linux), "by calculating a ratio of spam from a given operating system compared to the market share, we can get a “spam index” which shows relative to its market share, the likelihood that a particular computer is sending spam, based on its operating system. In the current spam climate, this index shows that relative to its market share, any given Linux machine is five times more likely to be sending spam than any given Windows machine..."

Another translation was sent to us by a reader who says: "Despite a total lack of evidence and being unable to detect the source OS of spam, we conclude that Linux machines are sending more SPAM because there are less of them."

As our IRC logs will show later today (fragment posted below), there are even better explanations for that.

Techrights logo

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: May 9th, 2010

Join us now at the IRC channel.

tessier__ 10 09:29
tessier__Someone is smoking crack.May 10 09:29
tessier__crapMay 10 09:31
schestowitzWindows is not used much for E-mailMay 10 09:31
tessier__There is something fishy about that websiteMay 10 09:31
schestowitzWhich one?May 10 09:31
schestowitzV3?May 10 09:31
tessier__Not intentionally, no. But that's what the botnets are doing with Windows: sending mailMay 10 09:31
tessier__YeahMay 10 09:31
schestowitzVNUNEt?May 10 09:31
tessier__Have you heard of v3 before?May 10 09:31
tessier__I never have.May 10 09:31
schestowitzYesMay 10 09:31
schestowitzLinux relays spamMay 10 09:32
schestowitzIt runs mail serversMay 10 09:32
schestowitzIt does what it's supposed to doMay 10 09:32
schestowitzWhich is to relay requestsMay 10 09:32
tessier__I cannot post a comment on that site. The captcha does not work. No matter what you put in there it does not accept it.May 10 09:32
tessier__Linux by default is not an open relay.May 10 09:32
schestowitzI wonder what sends those requests thoughMay 10 09:32
tessier__No distro ships their mail servers that way.May 10 09:32
schestowitzIt's spammersMay 10 09:32
tessier__it will deliver the spam to you that someone injected via a Windows box though.May 10 09:33
schestowitzThey use open relaysMay 10 09:33
schestowitzRunning Linux because it's betterMay 10 09:33
tessier__Open relays are hard to find these days.May 10 09:33
schestowitzThey get blacklistedMay 10 09:33
tessier__And spammers don't run open relays either. They don't want other spammers stealing their resources.May 10 09:33
schestowitzWhat was that list that gather IPs of spam relays?May 10 09:33
schestowitzmany services used to look it up and in 2008 it had sustainability issuesMay 10 09:33
tessier__Whenever I have investigated IP addresses that were sending me spam it was Windows boxes.May 10 09:33
tessier__There are lots of DNSBLsMay 10 09:34
tessier__And they operate quite successfullyMay 10 09:34
tessier__SORBS is one of the big ones these daysMay 10 09:34
schestowitzI can't recall the one I think about. Articles about it were widespread 2 years ago.May 10 09:34
*schestowitz creates 10 09:35
TechrightsTitle: Facebook - Techrights .::. Size~: 12.91 KBMay 10 09:35
tessier__There have been quite a fewMay 10 09:35
-BNtwitter/#boycottnovell-[popey] Mark proposes that 10.10 is released on Sunday 10th October 2010. Where 101010 = 42 = Meaning of Life / Universe / Everything!May 10 09:37
-BNtwitter/#boycottnovell-[nsisodiya] need a student volunteer for modifying C++ book #schoolosMay 10 09:40
*benJIman has quit (Ping timeout: 252 seconds)May 10 09:42
-BNtwitter/#boycottnovell-[popey] There will be no public ISO of #Ubuntu Light with Unity, but will be tailored specifically for OEMs.May 10 09:49
-BNtwitter/#boycottnovell-[davidgerard] From @cracked - 5 Insane File Sharing Panics from Before the Internet - 10 09:53
TechrightsTitle: 5 Insane File Sharing Panics from Before the Internet | .::. Size~: 81.74 KBMay 10 09:53
-BNtwitter/#boycottnovell-[satipera] Liberal Democrat negotiations with Labour look likely if Brown goes quickly.May 10 09:55
*narendra (~79f5e1b0@gateway/web/freenode/x-xaqdkqksysommyyc) has joined #boycottnovellMay 10 10:08
narendrawhere I can upload secrect document anonymousy ? May 10 10:08
narendrawikileaks is not working i think !!May 10 10:08
tessier__http://موقع.وزارة-الاتصالات.مصر/Default.aspxMay 10 10:16
tessier__Awesome.May 10 10:16
*benJIman ( has joined #boycottnovellMay 10 10:17
MinceRi'm not so enthusiastic about it.May 10 10:17
*benJIman has quit (Client Quit)May 10 10:17
tessier__Why not?May 10 10:17
*benJIman ( has joined #boycottnovellMay 10 10:17
MinceRbecause it allows even more domains that are difficult to type, read and compareMay 10 10:18
MinceRIDN already lets you create identical-looking but distinct domains that can confuse users trying to check whether a certificate really applies to a supposedly secure connection.May 10 10:18
MinceRdomain names used to be easy to handle (as such names should be)May 10 10:19
MinceR7bit US-ASCII should have been enough.May 10 10:19
tessier__SSL CA was broken from the beginning anyway. This doesn't make things any worse.May 10 10:21
tessier__Everyone just clicks ok regardless.May 10 10:21
tessier__Although I am curious to know how you would work that sort of thing into a bind zone file.May 10 10:21
MinceRno, not everyone.May 10 10:26


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