[Op-Ed] Breaking Down a Dangerously Misleading Article on Linux
A couple of days ago, an article titled “Here’s another really great reason to never touch Linux” rolled through my Apple News feed. I clicked on it, expecting to see a breakdown of some massive vulnerability or maybe just a good rant about someone not being able to find drivers for their AMD graphics card. However, as I started reading, I found myself in the middle of one of the most dangerously misleading clickbait articles I’ve read this entire year.
If you haven’t seen the article I would encourage you to go read it, if only for context, and then come back here to see what makes it so dangerously inaccurate.
The author starts off with a cheap shot at Linus Torvalds, dismisses the massive Linux community as “geeks”, and then reveals that the article is actually about the recent hack of Canonical’s highly popular Ubuntu Forums, which really has nothing to do with Linux at all. The Ubuntu Forums are a community-driven space to discuss Ubuntu, a popular distribution of Linux. I’m not sure whether or not the author understands the difference between Ubuntu, a distribution, and Linux, the open-source operating system started by Linus Torvalds in 1991, but the distinction is important. Linux is different from MacOS or Windows in that anyone can use the Linux kernel and build their own distribution. A distribution is just a collection of different bits – software utilities, graphical user interfaces, and more – that add user functionality. Ubuntu is just one popular, open-source distribution.
Regardless, the forums hack has nothing to do with Ubuntu, much less Linux as a whole, aside from the fact that the forums are for discussing Ubuntu. In fact, the security flaw that allowed a hacker to access the Ubuntu Forums database exists in an old version of a piece of software called Forumrunner, an add-on that powers parts of the forums. Just to be clear: absolutely nothing related to the Linux kernel or any part of the Linux OS was breached or exploited in any way. Canonical explains this in a blog post. The hack of the Ubuntu Forums is solely a commentary on Canonical’s security practices, and Canonical is just a company and is in no way in charge of the Linux project.
Despite these facts, the author of the above mentioned article seems to consider the hack of an isolated Linux forum to be some valid reason not to use Linux. That’s a bit like saying the LinkedIn password leak is “another really great reason not to have a job”.
There are other inaccuracies and irrelevant comments in the article as well, but mainly it’s just downright misleading. As a system administrator and a long-time Linux user, it’s easy to spot the article as being clickbait, but someone unfamiliar with Linux could easily get the wrong impression. If you’re going to scare people away from Linux, at least write about graphics drivers.