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I was under the impression that an antivirus for Linux makes sense only for installing in business computers. Checking Norton/BitDefender/Karpesky I don't see any Linux option for the first or any non business specific solution for the other two. This is consistent with what I was thinking that an AV for any other users is useless.
But then I read this from Ubuntu

If you want to be extra-safe, or if you want to check for viruses in files that you are passing between yourself and people using Windows and Mac OS, you can still install anti-virus software. Check in the software installer or search online; a number of applications are available.

I am confused with this. If we get a file from a Windows machine that is infected e.g. pdf/movie/word doc how can the infection that is targeting Windows be a threat to the linux computer/laptop? If there is a very frequent exchange of files or usb sticks that are used in Windows also used in a linux installation e.g. Kubuntu, does that mean that an AV is mandatory?

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  • WRT 'If we get a file from a Windows machine that is infected e.g. pdf/movie/word doc how can the infection that is targeting Windows be a threat to the linux computer/laptop?' - it is possible that the threat could be in the form of an interpreted script (for example, python). Nowadays, it is not uncommon to have interpreters for python and other scripting languages on many platforms (e.g. windows, mac, linux, etc).
    – mti2935
    Feb 11 at 12:25
  • @mti2935:1)Will that script be somehow embedded to the pdf/movie? How will it be executed? 2) That means that script will have explicit checks for underlying OS right? E.g. if Windows Version X do Y if Linux version A do Z etc?
    – Jim
    Feb 11 at 12:47
  • The script does not need to be embedded in some other file, and it may contain logic based on the OS. Delivering the script and executing the script are two different problems. In the past, OS's were riddled with remote code execution, and similar types of vulnerabilities that enabled attackers to execute code on victims' machines without any action by the victim. But, these days that's far less common. Most attacks nowadays typically employ some sort of social engineering attck to dupe the victim into running the script.
    – mti2935
    Feb 11 at 13:58

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Whether an anti-virus is needed is a matter of your own risk analysis. Some points to consider:

Viruses for Windows do not automatically spread via or to Linux systems. The same goes for Mac OS viruses and for vice-versa. Cross-platform malware is rare, but it exists. Also, interpretative languages (like Acrobat Javascript in PDFs) enable this cross-platform capability more and more.

It depends also a lot on the circumstances.

You may be very vigilant not to click on shady links, not opening unknown attachments, not having a large Internet footprint etc. and therefore be less likely to be victim of viruses. If the Windows instances are controlled by yourself, that may be fine. But if one of the Windows instances is controlled by someone who clicks on everything and who has multiple virus warnings from the antivirus per day, then I would suggest some additional measures.

Under Linux it is possible to create a specific user with low privileges (e.g. no sudo authorization) and use that user for the imported files. But that may not be workable for you.

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  • How do I know if a PDF contains javascript? Does ClamAV detect this kind of threats? Seems is the only option
    – Jim
    Feb 11 at 12:48

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