A little while ago I found a very intelligent, well presented argument discussing the responsibility of Linux users to install antivirus software.
No, I’m not talking about Linux getting a virus; that is one worry I hardly ever consider. I’m talking about Linux machines acting as intermediaries — carriers, to follow the virus analogy — between Windows machines, and possibly passing contaminated files between them.
This is not something I regularly consider, but to be honest, I probably should, since I sometimes forward files to other family members. Mom is the least of my worries, since she runs Hardy on an Ubuntu-preinstalled Dell laptop.
The others are not so … lucky. Two family members steadfastly refuse to use Linux; one of them is savvy enough to take the precautions to avoid virus/malware problems, but the other is not so much a technophile, and is therefore at greater risk.
So do I shoulder some of the responsibility if I pass a file to one of them, and it proves to be infectious? Should I be taking the time to make sure my machine is not a vector for technological disease?
The best rationalization of the issue (that I have read, anyway) is here. That post makes me realize two things.
First, that an unprotected Windows box (or for that matter, a protected Windows box facing a previously unseen threat) is not something I can defend to any degree. Even if my family members were foolish enough to connect directly to the Internet, run without anti-virus/anti-malware, accept incoming traffic, etc. — and they’re not — there’s very little that my efforts can do to prevent, as the post says, the inevitable. Any machine infected by a document forwarded by me has already stepped out in front of that bus, so to speak.
And second, it’s not my problem. I admit, that’s a very laissez-faire attitude, but from my perspective it’s true. Part of the reason I use Linux is freedom from antivirus crap (which I mentally categorize under “reduced system load on older hardware,” as if that mattered ), and since it is a result of my conscious choice, I have the right to ignore that deficit in other operating systems. My family members have that same choice — they might believe they don’t — but choose otherwise.
So no, I see no need to worry about transferring files that may or may not pose a threat to relatives who use Windows. That danger is the consequence of their insistence on using a flawed product, and so it becomes their responsibility to compensate for that flaw. It is not mine.
Of course, I’ll be singing a different tune if I get an e-mail crying for help, and something I sent is a culprit.