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linux antivirusDoes a Linux user need antivirus software? Not really: infecting a Linux machine is pretty hard to do. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good reasons to have scanning software around, though.

If you insert your thumb drive regularly into Windows computers, for example, it might be infected, meaning you’re spreading malware with it and not even knowing it (see: Stuxnet).  Antivirus software for Linux gives you a quick way to check your drives without any risk of infecting yet another Windows machine.


It’s also a great tool to have around if you regularly help your Windows-bound friends and family recover from viruses. Remove their hard drive and plug it into your computer, or just use your Linux machine to clean their external drives.

Most Linux antivirus software focuses on removing Windows viruses, and function as one-time-scan tools rather than the Windows-style, sit-in-your-tray-and-protect-you products that’s common in Windowsland. Such software is not essential for Linux users, but is pretty handy.

Oh, by the way: if you’re looking for Windows anti-virus software, you will want to read the ten best free antivirus programs The 10 Best Free Anti-Virus Programs The 10 Best Free Anti-Virus Programs Read More that we previously published.

Avast

linux antivirus

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Avast, the anti-virus program I previously decided has the coolest name for an anti-virus program, also sports a pretty great Linux GUI. As you can see it looks right at home on my Ubuntu desktop. This makes it easy to update defintions and scan the folders of your choice.

It’s also really easy to install Avast for Linux. Just download your package of choice (rpm, deb and tar.gz), then register for a free year of Avast usage. If you don’t register, you won’t be able to use the program:

antivirus for linux

Happily, registering gives you one year of free non-commercial usage, so you won’t need to do this frequently. And you’ll have access to a sleak GUI and all of the definitions Avast has to offer.

BitDefender

antivirus for linux

This is one of my favorites. BitDefender frequently finds, for me, viruses that other scanners miss. Being able to use it from Linux is a big plus.

Finding it for Linux isn’t straightforward, though. You need to head over to the BitDefender for Unices page, then click the “evaluation version” button. You’ll be given a form to fill in, and when you’re done you’ll get a license valid for one month and a link to downloads.

The downloads look like this:

antivirus for linux

Find your platform and package of choice (ignoring, for now, the “.run” file extension) and download it (right-click and click “save as“, or your browser might try to open the entire file as a text document.) Change the permissions of the file to allow it to be executed. If you don’t know how to do this, the simplest way is to right-click it, click “Properties,” open the permissions tab, then click “allow executing.”

Finally, open your command line. Browse to the folder with the file, then type “sudo ./[filename]“, where [filename] is the name of the BitDefender version you downloaded. You’ll need to read an EULA before BitDefender will finally install (mercifully, using the package manager of your choice).

Why you need to go through all of that I don’t know, but it’s worth it. You now have access to a complete version of BitDefender. You can scan any file, update with the click of a button and much more. The graphical interface is identical to that of the BitDefender Live CD BitDefender Rescue CD Removes Viruses When All Else Fails BitDefender Rescue CD Removes Viruses When All Else Fails Read More .

The free license lasts for only 30 days, but you can apply for another one if you need to.

ClamAV

Completely open source, ClamAV is probably the most famous Linux anti-virus. Using it requires some command line knowledge, but there is a basic GUI for running scans:

antivirus for linux

Installing ClamAV is simple; it’s in the repositories of most Linux distributions. Install the “clamtk” package and you’ll get the above GUI and you’ll have everything you need; or, if you’re an Ubuntu user, simply click here to download ClamAV.

Once you’ve installed ClamAV, fire up your terminal and run “sudo freshclam“.  This will update ClamAV’s virus definitions for you.

Now you simply need to run clamtk. Fire it up from the command line, or find the program called “Virus Scanner” in the “Accessories” section of the menu. Use the GUI to scan any folder, or your entire system. Or, if you prefer, use “clamscan” from the command line. Either way you’ve got some quality, free anti-virus protection.

AVG

antivirus for linux

Those familiar with AVG’s Windows interface will be disappointed: AVG for Linux has no GUI. This command line scanner does offer the same virus definitions of AVG’s famous Windows program, though.

You can easily download AVG for Linux. You’ll find packages for every major distro, including .deb and .rpm files.

Using the program is straightforward. First you need to start the AVG daemon: run “sudo avgctl –start“. Then you can use “sudo avgupdate” to update the software, and “avgscan” to scan a given file.

linux antivirus

There’s not a whole lot else to say about this one, although I hope AVG releases a Linux GUI again soon (previous versions offered one).

Conclusion

These four programs all offer Linux users a way to scan for Windows viruses, and the occasional Linux one as well. If you regularly help your friends and family out with IT stuff I recommend you install at least one such program, to keep it on hand.

Can you think of any other Linux anti-virus programs? What do you think of the ones outlined? Let me know in the comments below, along with any questions you might have about the above products.

  1. Ron Kowalski
    August 12, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Been using COMODO for quite a while now on openSUSE (Tumbleweed). One needs the "KINTA JAPAN" patch in order to be able to have "on access" scanning ("real time"). Without that, one cannot compile the necessary kernel modules. However, on demand scanning is still possible and av-defs can be updated without that.

    Also note that the KINTA JAPAN patch works (on Tumbleweed, anyways) up to and including the 4.6 kernels, as of 4.7 some structures have changed in the kernel and the patch will NOT work anymore. But, as noted, COMODO will, though without the on access feature.

  2. Orion Blastar
    July 8, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    All but ClamAV have been discontinued.

    It seems nobody wants to make a Linux based antivirus program anymore. A real shame as I'd like to scan Windows hard drives under Linux to make sure my system does not get infected.

  3. Letter Head
    August 6, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    good post
    one comment
    sleek not sleak
    we must perfect our spelling to be an excellent-er writer. .;)

  4. Ben Nevis
    July 12, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Comodo is a dedicated linux application. It works. Sophos is a pain to install, so...I don't think others listed above are worth considering.

    • Justin Pot
      July 12, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      It's great seeing new updates here five years after I published this article, thanks for contributing.

  5. Ben Nevis
    July 12, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Comodo is a dedicated linux application. It works well. Sophos is a pain to install. Most of those listed above are not worth considering

  6. Jouni "rautamiekka" Järvinen
    May 19, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Avast is dead and Bitdefender ain't free.

  7. evan mcveigh
    February 13, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    I am still having trouble installing bitdefender on my system, I am running 64 bit ubuntu 14.04 and this is the file I downloaded BitDefender-Antivirus-Scanner-7.7-1-linux-amd64.deb.run. I am unsure what exactly the sudo comand would look like, the file location is in my download folder.

    • Justin Pot
      February 13, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      You need to open the Command Line. First, you'll type this:

      cd Download

      This will tell the command line to "change directory" to your "Download" folder. Then you need to type this:

      sudo ./BitDefender-Antivirus-Scanner-7.7-1-linux-amd64.deb.run

      This will tell the command line to, as an admin (sudo) to run (./) the installer you downloaded (BitDefender-Antivirus-Scanner-7.7-1-linux-amd64.deb.run). You don't need to type the entire name of the installer: just hit the tab key a few letters in and it will complete. Good luck!

  8. John Wootten
    December 14, 2014 at 3:09 am

    I am a brand new Linux user and I am using Zorin 9 core. I am finding it difficult to use because I am used ti clicking on an icon to launch a program and I can't find any way to do that with Zorin. I'm afraid I will do something wrong and I want to be protected. So I am interested in two of the ones that have been talked about here. I want to download and try to use the CalmAV and Avair. They seem to be the best and eaisest ones to use. I am also interested in some wat to get the icons back into my life so I can enjoy using my laptop again. Can someone help me with both, the download of these virus programs and a way to get my icons for my software?
    Thanks so much,
    jwwpapa

    • Xi
      January 7, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      I'm also a linux user. But I'd never recommend ClamAV as it scans only for Windows virus and if you run a full scan, you'll end up deleting OS system files. Avira will shut down by 2016.

      I'd suggest you to opt for Comodo/Sophos Antivirus for Linux as they can detect Linux and Windows malware. Sophos can detect OS X Mac viruses too. Also, they both have GUI for easy navigation and operation.

  9. Jason Harris
    November 19, 2010 at 3:37 am

    Hey Guys,

    I work with BitDefender and am more than willing to help with any issues or concerns you guys have. reply to this comment and we can connect offline - I look forward to hearing any questions and helping!

    -Jason

  10. Jason Harris
    November 19, 2010 at 4:37 am

    Hey Guys,

    I work with BitDefender and am more than willing to help with any issues or concerns you guys have. reply to this comment and we can connect offline - I look forward to hearing any questions and helping!

    -Jason

  11. Ubuntuandstuff
    November 16, 2010 at 4:30 am

    I use a linux antivirus to disinfect a windows partition on my desktop.

  12. Ubuntuandstuff
    November 16, 2010 at 5:30 am

    I use a linux antivirus to disinfect a windows partition on my desktop

    ubuntuandstuff.blogspot.com

  13. DiagonalArg
    November 14, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Thanks for clearing up the Win/Linux issue, Ghostcat.

    Here's another interesting review that I just found:

    http://www.tuxradar.com/content/get-best-virus-scanner-linux

    I too had settled on Avast, though that reviewer was mildly more positively disposed to BitDefender.

  14. DiagonalArg
    November 14, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Thanks for clearing up the Win/Linux issue, Ghostcat.

    Here's another interesting review that I just found:

    http://www.tuxradar.com/conten...

    I too had settled on Avast, though that reviewer was mildly more positively disposed to BitDefender.

  15. Ghostcat
    November 13, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    But it would be interesting to know how do they perform when cleaning Windows infected systems from Linux.

    I am, as we speak, testing them, with several samples of Windows viruses, taken from an infected machine.
    So far, neither F-Prot, Bitdefender or - to my disappointment - AVG are able to detect Windows viruses. It seems that they are intended to be antivirus protections for Linux itself. Not really what I'm looking for.

    ClamAV has unfortunately never been too good; the detection rate is rather low; I can't trust it enough to be sure I have cleaned a Windows infected machine.

    I haven't been able to evaluate Avira, since it asks for some dependencies that I don't have installed in my PCLinuxOS.

    Avast is the only one that is doing a good job detecting Windows viruses when running on a Linux system. And the latest release of the GUI seems to have corrected a minor but annoying problem that I used to have: the GUI used to crash when trying to scan large directories, but right now that seems to be working well.

    The greatest disappointment is AVG. The older version 7.x was pretty good to detect and clean Windows infections. Even without a GUI it was very useful. The next version 8 was still usable even thought they removed the cleaning capability. But the latest 8.5 version does not detect Windows viruses; it's even called "AVG Server Edition", which appears to indicate that is intended for servers running Linux.

    I think that having an antivirus software on a Linux system can be, as Justin says, very handy when cleaning Windows systems. Sadly, most vendors don't seem to be interested in this use; they make only antivirus solutions for Windows - which not always work once the computer is already infected -, or they make antivirus software to protect Linux installations - servers mainly.
    I hope that Avast continues making their excellent Linux version, and that ClamAV gets better.

  16. Ghostcat
    November 14, 2010 at 12:55 am

    But it would be interesting to know how do they perform when cleaning Windows infected systems from Linux.

    I am, as we speak, testing them, with several samples of Windows viruses, taken from an infected machine.
    So far, neither F-Prot, Bitdefender or - to my disappointment - AVG are able to detect Windows viruses. It seems that they are intended to be antivirus protections for Linux itself. Not really what I'm looking for.

    ClamAV has unfortunately never been too good; the detection rate is rather low; I can't trust it enough to be sure I have cleaned a Windows infected machine.

    I haven't been able to evaluate Avira, since it asks for some dependencies that I don't have installed in my PCLinuxOS.

    Avast is the only one that is doing a good job detecting Windows viruses when running on a Linux system. And the latest release of the GUI seems to have corrected a minor but annoying problem that I used to have: the GUI used to crash when trying to scan large directories, but right now that seems to be working well.

    The greatest disappointment is AVG. The older version 7.x was pretty good to detect and clean Windows infections. Even without a GUI it was very useful. The next version 8 was still usable even thought they removed the cleaning capability. But the latest 8.5 version does not detect Windows viruses; it's even called "AVG Server Edition", which appears to indicate that is intended for servers running Linux.

    I think that having an antivirus software on a Linux system can be, as Justin says, very handy when cleaning Windows systems. Sadly, most vendors don't seem to be interested in this use; they make only antivirus solutions for Windows - which not always work once the computer is already infected -, or they make antivirus software to protect Linux installations - servers mainly.
    I hope that Avast continues making their excellent Linux version, and that ClamAV gets better.

  17. Lott11
    November 3, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    I have used this combination for the past few years on my MS 64 bit OS.
    Comodo Firewall, Avira Anti-virus, Emsisoft A2 Square Mal-ware & A2HiJackFree, and Spy-bot..
    Since I put this combination I never had any problem and it is free.
    Even Dow this is not needed for Linux, I do like Avira best of all it is quick and is a real time scan.
    Any USB, flash memory, external drive, what ever gets plugged in gets a scan with out me doing anything both on Linux and MS.
    Avira still rank highest over all for my self.

  18. Lott11
    November 3, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    I have used this combination for the past few years on my MS 64 bit OS.
    Comodo Firewall, Avira Anti-virus, Emsisoft A2 Square Mal-ware & A2HiJackFree, and Spy-bot..
    Since I put this combination I never had any problem and it is free.
    Even Dow this is not needed for Linux, I do like Avira best of all it is quick and is a real time scan.
    Any USB, flash memory, external drive, what ever gets plugged in gets a scan with out me doing anything both on Linux and MS.
    Avira still rank highest over all for my self.

  19. Mohammad Elsheimy
    November 1, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    I love Avira and I think it's one of the best anti-virus programs ever. :)

    • Anarimus
      January 4, 2011 at 1:34 am

      You are correct sir. I've used all of these and i always return to Avira.

  20. pdecort
    November 1, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    I am relatively new to Linux having bought an QNAP TS-219P. It has an embeded version of Linux so I'm not certain whether I would be able to use any of these on the embeded version... or how to go about installing them.
    I use the NAS from my windows based PCs so I think the virus protection would be wise.

    also, it's not an intel processor - which seems to rule out Avast.

    Any assistance would be appreciated!

    P de Cort

    • Imakayaker
      November 3, 2010 at 6:37 pm

      Try the ClamAV. It was included on my version of Ubuntu and it seems to work pretty well. I am looking for another AV just in case.

  21. pdecort
    November 1, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    I am relatively new to Linux having bought an QNAP TS-219P. It has an embeded version of Linux so I'm not certain whether I would be able to use any of these on the embeded version... or how to go about installing them.
    I use the NAS from my windows based PCs so I think the virus protection would be wise.

    also, it's not an intel processor - which seems to rule out Avast.

    Any assistance would be appreciated!

    P de Cort

  22. dana theteacher
    November 1, 2010 at 1:18 am

    Makeuseof has to be my favorite blog. This is just another great example of why! Thank you for the reviews.

  23. Srinivas G
    November 1, 2010 at 1:12 am

    Hey, nice article Justin. I use BitDefender because Avast doesn't have a 64-bit version (we have to force the architecture to install the 32 bit one) and always throws an initialization error at me (there's a fix, though). Clam AV misses a lot. I haven't tried AVG yet and maybe I won't need to, with BitDefender performing well.

    BTW, BitDefender offers us a "1 year" license for "personal use". Here's the link > http://www.bitdefender.com/world/Products/ScannerLicense/ Instead of filling in the 'evaluation version' page, you can directly request a free license and that along with the download link will be e-mailed to you.

  24. Srinivas G
    November 1, 2010 at 2:12 am

    Hey, nice article Justin. I use BitDefender because Avast doesn't have a 64-bit version (we have to force the architecture to install the 32 bit one) and always throws an initialization error at me (there's a fix, though). Clam AV misses a lot. I haven't tried AVG yet and maybe I won't need to, with BitDefender performing well.

    BTW, BitDefender offers us a "1 year" license for "personal use". Here's the link > http://www.bitdefender.com/wor... Instead of filling in the 'evaluation version' page, you can directly request a free license and that along with the download link will be e-mailed to you.

  25. 67GTA
    October 31, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    F-Prot and Avira also are free for home use, and have Linux versions available.

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