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Recently conducted research by Kaspersky indicates an alarming rise in cyberattacks using exploits against Linux systems. Data from Kaspersky Security Network indicates a nearly 130 percent spike in attacks targeting Linux users over the same timeframe last year compared with this quarter's timeframe. Furthermore, 65 percent more CVEs (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) were registered over four years, which indicates an increasing trend in Linux vulnerabilities.

These findings highlight the critical need for Linux admins to remain vigilant and prioritize system security, emphasizing proactive measures such as staying informed on potential vulnerabilities, installing patches promptly, and employing robust security solutions to protect their systems from vulnerabilities. To secure your systems from bugs in response to this alarming trend, let's explore some practical measures and tools you can employ. Let's begin by examining the threat that Linux vulnerabilities pose to system security for admins and organizations.

Why Are Unpatched Vulnerabilities Such a Serious Threat to Linux Systems?

Unpatched Linux vulnerabilities can have severe repercussions for organizations, from data theft and exposure to ransomware attacks. Cybercriminals may use unpatched vulnerabilities to gain persistent server access, potentially allowing them to breach entire networks and disrupt critical operations. Moreover, unpatched systems may serve as vectors for malware distribution, such as botnets or cryptocurrency miners. Unpatched Linux vulnerabilities can also lead to regulatory noncompliance that can incur significant penalties and harm an organization's reputation. 

For instance, CISA recently added a high-severity Linux kernel privilege elevation flaw in the netfilter: nf_tables component to its Known Exploited Vulnerabilities (KEV) catalog. Exploitation of this vulnerability (CVE-2024-1086) potentially enables a local attacker to gain root-level access on impacted systems.

Practical Advice and Best Practices for Protecting against Linux Bugs

Security VulnsWith an ever-increasing prevalence of Linux vulnerabilities, employing best practices is increasingly vital to safeguard systems. Proactively protecting your systems doesn't need to be hard. Here are some simple yet effective tips for increasing Linux security:

  • Make Use of Linux Kernel Lockdown: When enabled, Linux Kernel Lockdown restricts access to the kernel by preventing unprivileged access, loading unsigned kernel modules, and overriding secure boot restrictions, increasing system security significantly.
  • Regular Port Audits: Conducting port audits at regular intervals helps detect and close unintentionally or accidentally left open ports, thus reducing risks such as unauthorized access and cyberattacks.
  • Maintain Regular Security Audits: With the Linux Auditing System, administrators can conduct regular security audits on their network to capture vital system activity logs that provide valuable insight into its security and stability.
  • Make Timely Updates to OS and Software: Keeping your OS and third-party applications updated is critical for mitigating cybersecurity vulnerabilities, addressing kernel and third-party issues, and protecting yourself against them. Regular patching/updating is necessary for mitigating cybersecurity vulnerabilities and safeguarding against kernel/third-party issues.

Implementing best practices alone won't do it, though. An open-source vulnerability scanner is essential in detecting and mitigating vulnerabilities in Linux systems. Let's explore the advantages of vulnerability scanning and some tools we recommend to get you started!

How Can Vulnerability Scanners Mitigate the Risks Associated With Linux Vulnerabilities?

A vulnerability scanner is a software tool designed to identify, assess, and report potential security flaws within a network, infrastructure, or application. Linux administrators need a vulnerability scanner to proactively identify weaknesses or gaps in their system's security posture, including outdated software, misconfiguration, or known vulnerabilities. Administrators of Linux environments can use scanning to gain valuable insight into potential security risks, enabling them to prioritize and address them before malicious actors can exploit them. As vulnerability scanners often provide detailed reports and recommendations for remediation, Linux admins can take informed actions to bolster overall system security. This proactive approach can prevent cyberattacks and ensure compliance with security standards and regulations.

Our Top Open-Source Vulnerability Scanners & Assessment Tools for Linux

Pentesting Network SecurityRegarding vulnerability scanning in Linux environments, there are plenty of useful tools and scanners admins can utilize. Here are a few of our preferred choices:

  • Aircrack-ng is a widely recognized open-source vulnerability scanning tool for identifying Wi-Fi and wireless cybersecurity flaws. With speed, accuracy, and flexibility as its hallmark features, this scanning tool makes an invaluable asset to security professionals. Support for numerous wireless hardware/protocol combinations is offered; comprehensive coverage is provided across network security issues; it integrates easily with security toolkits or cloud frameworks can also be integrated.
  • Arachni is an open-source vulnerability scanner specialized in web application security vulnerabilities. It extensively covers SQL injection, cross-site scripting vulnerabilities, customized scanning options, and reports. Arachni also seamlessly integrates into other network security toolkits and cloud security frameworks, making it a versatile and useful asset for security professionals.
  • Burp Suite is an extensive network security toolkit and vulnerability scanner for web applications. It offers scanning, intercepting, and modifying HTTP requests to analyze responses and supporting multiple operating systems with powerful scanning capabilities to identify various web application security vulnerabilities. Furthermore, its user-friendly interface, extensive documentation, and integration with other network security frameworks make Burp Suite an invaluable security asset.
  • Clair is an API-based vulnerability scanner designed to monitor open-source container layers. It collects vulnerability metadata from various sources to help detect known cybersecurity risks within containerized environments and maintain secure container deployments. Clair focuses on web application security vulnerabilities while helping secure container deployments. 

Our Final Thoughts: Linux Administrators Need to Respond Proactively to This Troublesome Trend

With cyberattacks and vulnerabilities on Linux systems increasing alarmingly, administrators must remain vigilant and take preventive steps to combat them. Following best practices like employing Linux Kernel Lockdown, regularly auditing ports for openness, conducting security audits, and applying timely patches can all strengthen system security and protect against future breaches.

Utilizing vulnerability scanning tools is also critical to mitigating risks posed by Linux vulnerabilities. These tools allow administrators to identify weaknesses and gaps in a system's security posture, prioritize and address issues, and receive reports with recommendations for remediation. Their proactive nature protects against cyberattacks and ensures compliance with security standards and regulations.

By adopting best practices and employing the tools discussed, Linux administrators can bolster the security of their systems, safeguard against cyber threats, and preserve the integrity of their infrastructure.