Mission Linux: How the open source software is now a lucrative target for hackers

Growing at close to 20% year-over-year, the Linux operating system market is expected to touch $22.15 billion in 2029 from a mere $6.27 billion in 2022, according to Fortune Business Insights. However, with growth, opportunities come, and sometimes these are opportunities for threat actors.

Linux has gained significant popularity and broader adoption in various domains, including servers, cloud infrastructure, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and mobile platforms.

The increased adoption of DevOps and modern applications is making Linux the platform of choice for servers and hence developers are increasingly developing it.

“Linux powers critical infrastructure, servers, and cloud environments, making it an appealing target for attackers aiming to compromise sensitive data, disrupt services, or launch broader attacks,” said Royce Lu, distinguished engineer at Palo Alto Networks.

In 2022, Palo Alto Networks observed Linux malware samples increased by 18.3% compared to 2021. Keeping with the trend of increasing attacks from December 2022 to May 2023, the maximum daily number of encounters with malicious ELF files (targeting Linux-based OSes) increased by almost 50%, according to Stefano Ortolani, threat research lead at VMware.

Weak security practices are making Linux systems vulnerable

Improperly configured Linux systems or weak security practices, such as default or weak passwords, unpatched software, and unsecured network configurations can make them vulnerable to attacks.

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