Companies using the Linux open source operating system are relatively immune from online attacks, reports Evans Data Corp., a Santa Cruz, California-based research firm. In an Evans survey of more than 400 Linux developers, 94 percent of respondents said they have operated virus free, and 78 percent noted that they have never experienced an unwanted intrusion. "The security features of Linux are one of the best-kept secrets," says Jeff Child, Evans Data Linux analyst.

The relatively small number of breaches results in part from the hands-on technical knowledge of most Linux users, which makes it more difficult to hack their systems, he notes. Because there is a worldwide community of Linux users sharing applications, a large base of developers also are always working to improve software, he adds.

"Because of the much lower deployment of open source, there also are fewer viruses being created for the Linux system," Child notes. "It will be interesting to see if that remains the case as the Linux presence in enterprise deployments continues to grow."

More than 84 percent of respondents, meanwhile, indicated that Linux is inherently more secure than software not created in an open source software environment. The developers also ranked Linux security as roughly comparable to that of the Solaris and AIX operating systems and above any Windows platform, Evans says.

Other survey results reveal that the penetration of Linux in large organizations still is growing, and that the Web- services application model is spreading to the Linux community. More than 17 percent of the respondents were at firms with more than 10,000 employees, up from 10.2 percent six months ago. In addition, more than 70 percent of the developers said they intend to create Web services enabled applications within the next two years, the firm notes.

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