Researchers at security firm Perception Point have uncovered a flaw in Linux that leaves "tens of millions" of computers around the world vulnerable to criminals. As a quick refresher, Linux is a free, open-source operating system that powers everything from Internet backbone servers, to computer operating systems like Linux Mint, and even underpins Google's Android.
Linux is generally very secure, but nothing is totally secure as a recently discovered Linux Trojan virus and a silly "backspace" hack have shown. The latest flaw affects Linux with kernel version 3.8 and higher. That covers just about any version of Linux released since 2013 and every Android gadget running Android 4.4 and up. So, what does this doomsday flaw do?
Linux allows apps and programs to store encrypted passwords in the kernel or the core of the operating system. Unfortunately, a flaw in the storage system lets anyone sneak code into the kernel the same way and have the kernel run it. The upshot is that anyone with even limited access to a Linux computer, or a malicious app on Android, can take full control.
While security researchers haven't seen anyone actually exploiting this flaw, it's still a huge worry. There are ways to reduce the risk, but they're very technical. Fortunately, the major companies that make Linux operating systems are releasing fixes today that should take care of the flaw. If you're running Linux, make sure you install any updates that come through this week.
Unfortunately for Android users, security updates like this can be slow in coming, if you even get them at all. That means millions of Android gadgets are going to be vulnerable to this flaw. Your best bet for staying safe is to avoid installing malicious apps.
As long as you only install apps from Google Play, this shouldn't be too hard. Although you can get malicious apps there too sometimes.
Of course, this Linux flaw isn't the only danger to your mobile gadget, whether Android or Apple. Learn six steps you need to take now to secure your smartphone.