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ClamAV: A Workable Linux Anti-Virus Scanner

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Yes, Linux has virus scanners. Internet consultant A. Lizard tells you why you need one — to protect yourself and to protect Windows users to whom you send e-mail. You’ll also learn how to use a good Linux AV program called ClamAV and install it in a Debian environment.

While Linux AV is unfashionable, I’ve used it for years. While purists will say that it’s unnecessary due to the separation between user and admin accounts in Linux, I see this as merely raising the barrier for malware entry. There was a time when running an AV on DOS or the original MacOS was seen as a sign of paranoia.

The other point of running a Linux AV is so when you pass along file attachments collected online to Windows-using associates, you aren't passing along any virus contamination found in the original documents.

Other Linux AV programs include:

  • AVG: It's a nice GUI, but I never could get the update AV database feature to work.
  • F-Prot: F-Prot is no longer a top-ranking Linux AV product (subscriber-only).
  • avast!: I just discovered this recently. It's not available via repository, but binaries can be found at the avast! website.


Installation and use of ClamAV is not recommended for Ubuntu; the most current AV and database versions for ClamAV are in the Debian-Volatile repositories, which are incompatible with Ubuntu due to different dependencies. Ubuntu users might want to look at avast!.

  1. First, install debian-volatile; signing key and repository information (see Why Add 'Volatile' to Your Repositories?).
    # curl http://www.debian.org/volatile/etch-volatile.asc | apt-key add -
    # nano /etc/apt/sources.list
    add: deb http://volatile.debian.org/debian-volatile etch/volatile main contrib non-free
    # apt-get update
  2. Then install the virus scanner and automatic updater:
    # aptitude install clamav freshclam
  3. Substitute the locations in which your mail client keeps its embedded and attached files for the locations listed below. The following is a single command line:
    $ clamscan -i -l clamscan1.txt --move=virus /home/username/win/Eudora1/attach-3 ; clamscan -i -l clamscan1.txt --move=virus /home/win/Eudora1/Embedded
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