Best of Linux

Best Antivirus Software for Linux in 2021

Are you looking for the best antivirus software for Linux in 2021? This overview of the best solutions currently available can help you find the right antivirus for your needs so that you can detect and neutralize all viruses that manage to find their way into your Linux machine, regardless of whether it’s a personal computer or public server.

Isn’t Linux Itself the Best Antivirus?

You might have heard that the Linux operating system is the best antivirus out there since very few viruses and other types of malware target it.

To a large extend, that statement is true, and most users don’t need antivirus software if they’re using Linux as their main operating system, regardless of which distribution they use.

However, Linux is a highly versatile operating system that fits a number of different use cases—from home computing to running the world’s largest servers. Here are some situations when installing antivirus software on Linux makes sense:

  • You have a Linux server that receives and sends files to and from other devices, including Windows computers. By installing antivirus software on the server, you can protect not only the server itself but, most importantly, all of its users.
  • You’re a cybersecurity researcher, and analyzing malware in a securely enclosed environment is something you do on a daily basis. A reliable Linux antivirus software tool can act as an extra layer of protection if you encounter a particularly sophisticated strain of malware capable of escaping the enclosed testing environment.
  • You have two operating systems installed side-by-side on your computer in a dual-boot configuration, with one system being Linux and the other system being Windows. Antivirus software can give you extra peace of mind by preventing viruses and other malware from reaching the Windows partition.
  • You’re aware that the way you use your computer puts you at a greater risk of encountering Linux-specific malware, which does exist in many different forms, including traditional viruses and Trojan horses, worms, web scripts, rootkits, and buffer overruns.
  • You just want to rest assured, knowing your Linux computer is protected by more than just your common sense and the fact that it’s running an operating system that’s not an attractive target for malware-creators due to its lower popularity.
  • Your business or organization is required by law to implement certain cybersecurity controls for compliance purposes, and having antivirus software installed on all devices is one of them.

As you can see, there are many different reasons to use Linux antivirus software and real-world examples of situations where antivirus software would have made a huge difference.
For example, in 2017, South Korean web provider Nayana hosted was forced to pay a ransom worth $1.62 million to regain access to its server after they became infected with the Erabus ransomware, which targets Linux servers for attacks.

Since 2017, ransomware attacks have only become more common, and cybercriminals have come up with many other sophisticated cyber threats that are anything but easy to keep at bay. By making a Linux antivirus part of your cyber defenses, alongside an ad-blocker, firewall, and other pieces of the cybersecurity puzzle, you can avoid potentially expensive incidents.

Top Antivirus Software for Linux (Free & Paid)

Because cybercriminals don’t commonly target Linux computers, the number of available antivirus software solutions is quite low. Still, there are several great options that we can wholeheartedly recommend to home and business users alike.

1. ClamAV

ClamAV is the grandfather of Linux antivirus software. It’s developed by Cisco Systems as an open-source project, and it runs on all major operating systems.

Installing ClamAV is a matter of downloading the right package from your distribution’s repositories. You can also run ClamAV using Docker, build it from the source, or use the official universal installer.

At the core of ClamAV is a multi-threaded scanner daemon capable of detecting viruses, trojans, and other malicious software. Included with ClamAV is a set of command-line utilities for on-demand scanning and signature updates.

ClamAV is used mainly as a mail gateway scanner in the real world, but nothing is stopping you from using it for other purposes. The performance of ClamAV isn’t the best, which probably has something to do with the fact that it’s not developed by a company that focuses exclusively on cybersecurity.

If you decide to give ClamAV a try, then we highly recommend you check out ClamTk, a graphical front-end for ClamAV.

2. Bitdefender GravityZone Business Security

Bitdefender GravityZone Business Security is a comprehensive security solution designed to protect all workstations and servers against viruses, ransomware, and other malware.

The exhaustive list of supported operating systems includes Ubuntu 14.04 LTS or higher, Red Hat Enterprise Linux / CentOS 6.0 or higher, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP4 or higher, OpenSUSE Leap 42.x, Fedora 25 or higher, Debian 8.0 or higher, Oracle Linux 6.3 or higher, and Amazon Linux AMI 2016.09 or higher.

Besides malware prevention and mitigation, Bitdefender GravityZone Business Security also takes care of application behavior monitoring, endpoint risk management, and other key links in any cybersecurity chain.

3. Dr.Web Security Space (for Linux)

If you’re looking for a reliable Linux antivirus software application that won’t kill your budget, then the Linux version of Dr.Web Security Space is a solid choice.

While not as polished as some of its competitors, especially those aimed at enterprise customers, it does provide dependable protection for malware thanks to its high-speed scanning engine that won’t drain your system resources.

Included with the Linux version of Dr.Web Security Space is a website monitoring component whose purpose is to scan web pages and block access to those that seem to contain malware and other threats.

4. Avast Business Antivirus for Linux

Avast Business Antivirus for Linux is a pricy enterprise antivirus software solution aimed at businesses and organizations that depend on Linux servers and can’t afford to let malware infect them and potentially spread to other devices that connect to them, such as Windows workstations.

You can use Avast Business Antivirus for Linux on all major Linux distributions, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Debian, and Ubuntu (both 32-bit and 64-bit systems are supported). To install this antivirus software, you need to add the Avast repository to the system repositories and get the desired packages from the repository.

Once installed, you can then start individual services included with Avast Business Antivirus for Linux, such as the real-time file scanner that scans files written to any of the monitored mount points, using convenient init scripts.

5. Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Linux

Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Linux is a powerful endpoint protection solution with support for virtually all major Linux distributions, including CentOS, Debian, Linux Mint, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu, and others.

The solution provides multi-layered protection against a cornucopia of cyber threats. Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Linux is designed with performance in mind to deliver optimal security while impacting other applications as little as possible.

You can purchase Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Linux as a subscription service with flexible monthly licensing that ensures you always have access to the latest version.

6. Trend Micro ServerProtect for Linux

Trend Micro ServerProtect for Linux addresses the threat of malware spreading from a Linux server to Windows clients by providing real-time protection for enterprise web servers and file servers.

The management of Trend Micro ServerProtect for Linux is done from an intuitive web-based console. The console makes it easy to configure how the software operates, view event logs, monitor automatic component updates, and more.

Thanks to the option to adjust the software’s CPU utilization during the virus scan process, the performance impact of Trend Micro ServerProtect for Linux can be greatly reduced so that end-users are not affected by its activity.

7. McAfee VirusScan Enterprise for Linux

McAfee VirusScan Enterprise for Linux provides cross-platform protection to stop Windows malware from being transmitted through Linux servers and spreading uncontrollably from one device to the next one.

This enterprise-grade antivirus software blocks viruses and other threats by comparing file signatures against known threats and applying heuristic scanning to identify new malware variants before their signatures are known.

Because McAfee VirusScan Enterprise for Linux works even without kernel hooks, organizations that use it can quickly and easily deploy new kernels, avoiding costly downtime.

Bonus: Online Virus Scanners

If you consider yourself a regular Linux user, you almost certainly don’t need antivirus software running on your computer all the time. That said, the ability to check if a file is infected with malware is certainly useful, which is where online virus scanners come in.

Scanners like VirusTotal let you upload a suspicious file to verify if it contains malicious code. The most obvious downside is that you need an internet connection for online virus scanners to work. You may also be rightfully reluctant to submit your personal files for an online check, especially if they’re highly sensitive.

Honorable Mentions

Three antivirus software solutions deserve to be mentioned even though they don’t deserve our recommendation anymore:

  • Sophos Anti-Virus for Linux: stable and reliable antivirus software capable of detecting and eradicating all kinds of malware from Linux machines. Unfortunately, it has been retired and will soon stop receiving updates.
  • Comodo Antivirus for Linux (CAVL): This antivirus software used to have many fans because of its set-and-forget nature. The problem is that it hasn’t been updated for some time. As a result, it still depends on a deprecated library (libsssl0.9.8), whose presence on your system is much worse than having no antivirus software installed.
  • ESET NOD32 Antivirus for Linux Desktop: This antivirus software would be one of our top picks if it weren’t for the fact that its support will end in the third quarter of 2022. If that doesn’t bother you, you can use it without any limitations until then. Just make sure to switch to a different antivirus solution in time.

FAQ

What other steps should I take to protect my Linux computer from viruses?
The most important thing is to use common sense when browsing the web, downloading stuff from the internet, reading email messages, and exploring interesting software. Always think before you click, and make sure to ask yourself if the desire to satisfy your curiosity is worth risking your security.

Does free Linux antivirus software exist?
Yes, there are several free antivirus software solutions available for Linux. The one you should know about is ClamAV, an open-source antivirus engine capable of detecting all kinds of digital nasties.

What is the best antivirus for Ubuntu?
All antivirus software solutions described in this article are compatible with Ubuntu and its derivatives. ClamAV is a solid choice that’s completely free and open-source, but its scanning performance leaves something desired. ESET NOD32 Antivirus for Linux offers solid performance, but its support is nearing its end. Business users should consider Bitdefender GravityZone Business Security, which offers comprehensive protection for both desktop computers and servers.

Do I really need to install an antivirus tool on Linux?
That depends entirely on how you use your Linux machine. If you use it for basic office and multimedia tasks, then you can most certainly omit antivirus software. But if we’re talking about a server that’s used to handle files belonging to Windows users, then antivirus software is guaranteed to come in handy.

Is Linux antivirus software as good as Windows antivirus software?
Linux antivirus software solutions from leading computer security software companies typically use the same threat detection components as their Windows counterparts, making them equally capable of detecting and neutralizing viruses and other threats.

Conclusion

It’s true that the risk of experiencing a virus infection is very low for Linux users, but it does exist, and real-world examples of home users and businesses suffering its consequences are not difficult to find. The best Linux antivirus software solutions listed in this article can provide a useful extra layer of protection against viruses and other kinds of malware, making them well worth exploring.

About the author

David Morelo

David Morelo is a professional content writer in the technology niche, covering everything from consumer products to emerging technologies and their cross-industry application