Does Raspberry Pi Need Antivirus? (Definitive Solution)


Malware and other types of viruses are plaguing the Internet. Most of them are written for Windows operating systems, making people turn to other solutions as much as possible. Raspberry Pi is an incredible, small computer running on Linux. Some people think that there are no viruses for Linux, but that’s not true. It’s far less frequent, but they do exist, and they can harm your computer, steal your data, etc. So, does Raspberry Pi need antivirus?

It’s a great idea to install antivirus software on your Raspberry Pi computer. ClamAV is the most common solution that’s effective and easy to install. You can improve protection without antivirus too if you configure Raspberry Pi properly.

Through this article, you’ll learn what Raspberry Pi is and how it works, the most common security risks or issues, and eventually, what’s the best antivirus software for Raspberry Pi and how to install it.

What is a Raspberry Pi?

Raspberry Pi is a simple but powerful ID-card-sized computer with numerous possible uses. You can simply plug it into a TV or a monitor and use the computer with a regular mouse-and-keyboard setup. You can use it to learn to program in Python, Scratch, and other languages, browse the internet, play HD video, video games, etc.

Virtually, it’s capable of doing anything that a regular desktop computer can do. Of course, it’s not as powerful, but it will get you where you want, especially the newer versions like Raspberry Pi 3 or 4.

It has a great ability to interact with the outside world and has a wide usage range – from arcade gaming and browsing the web to music machines, weather stations, etc. Raspberry Pi is a great tool to learn about computing at a low cost, making it perfect for children and schools.

It uses Linux as its operating system, so there’s a lot less security risk when using it. However, the risk exists, so you should take preventive measures.

If you want to learn more and follow my advices to get started on Raspberry Pi, I highly recommend checking my Raspberry Pi bootcamp course here. It will guide you in your first step, to discover the Raspberry Pi and unlock its secrets. You’ll install your first operating system with me and achieve 5 projects with step-by-step explanations.

Does the Raspberry Pi need an antivirus?

Installing an antivirus on Raspberry Pi is a good idea – it costs nothing, and it keeps it safe. Also, even if there aren’t that many viruses that can attack a Raspberry Pi, it’s easier to tackle them with an antivirus rather than reconfiguring the system manually.

As there are far fewer users on Linux than on Windows (90% of users are on Windows, only 2% on Linux), virus are less frequent. Even those viruses and malware designed for Linux usually look to exploit Windows code passing through Linux systems. Therefore, there aren’t many viruses that can harm your Raspberry Pi.

That doesn’t mean that there are none – you can still get into harm’s way, and you should do everything in your power to protect yourself. As more and more users are opting for Linux systems, hackers started developing more malware and other security threats for this platform as well.

For instance, a cryptocurrency-mining malware recently attacked Raspberry Pi users, especially older version and non-updated devices, and those who haven’t changed their default username and password but are configured to allow outside SSH connections. It used the devices to mine cryptocurrency with its power.

It’s a simple trojan but works very effectively and can go unnoticed if you don’t know what to look for. It doesn’t mine BitCoin because it’s very hard to mine cost-effectively, but it mines several other currencies.

What antivirus to choose for Raspberry Pi?

There are several antivirus software options to install on your Raspberry Pi, but I’ll recommend only one.

ClamAV is a great antivirus specially designed for Unix-based systems. It gives you all the protection you need, and it’s incredibly easy to install.

After the installation you’ll have the ability to scan your device for malware, viruses, trojans, ISP tracking, and other security threats that can plague your Raspberry Pi. After the software finishes the installation, it will give you some configuration options and automatically set regular updates, so you don’t have to worry about updating anything manually.

How to Install ClamAV Antivirus on Raspberry Pi?

ClamAV is a free antivirus, available in the Raspberry Pi OS repositories, so the installation is straightforward:

  • Open a terminal or an SSH connection
  • Update the package information with:
    sudo apt update
  • Install ClamAV:
    sudo apt install clamav

That’s it. If you are on a desktop version, you can also use the Add / Remove software tool in the main menu > Preferences:

Once installed, there are a few commands to know to use ClamAV on your Raspberry Pi.
There is no GUI to manage all of this, only command lines.
You can install the “clamtk” package to have a basic interface made in Python, or use the following command that are easy to remember:

  • Run a scan in the current folder:
    clamscan
  • Scan a specific folder:
    clamscan -r /media/usb
    The -r option has to be used for a recursive scan.
    Also, I think it’s a good idea to use sudo for a whole system scan:
    sudo clamscan /
  • Automatically delete any suspicious file:
    clamscan --remove
  • Or just put them in quarantine somewhere:
    clamscan --move=/home/pi/suspicious_files/

ClamAV will automatically update its virus definitions, so there is nothing to do about this.
However, a good idea might be to create a task to run a scan at regular interval or even on boot.
You can find all the information in this tutorial about scheduling tasks, or this one about running programs on boot.

As you have seen in the Add/Remove software tool screenshot above, many additional packages are available for ClamAV. If you have a mail server on your Raspberry Pi, or want to control it with Python scripts, you can take a look at them. But for one user on a Raspberry Pi, the default “clamscan” command is probably enough.

Most common security threats on Raspberry Pi devices

Before I get into the examples, I have to highlight that virus and malware are not the only security issue on Raspberry Pi. Most security risks with Raspberry Pi devices occur if you forget to change your default username and password. On every device, the username is “pi” and the password “raspberry” by default.
Or even better, you can also create a new user and delete the default pi user after that.

The mining malware I mentioned earlier targeted those devices in particular, too, as it’s very easy to get into them and change code. Changing the default username and password is already a great start to secure your Raspberry Pi computer.

One of the most common uses for Raspberry Pi is running it as a Kodi media center. You can watch videos, listen to music, read the news, etc., but the risk comes from installing add-ons carrying malware. If you don’t use an antivirus on your device, it wouldn’t be the smartest move to install Kodi add-ons.

There are other risks when running Kodi media center, but you can solve every issue simply by installing an antivirus. By the way, using a VPN on Kodi (as explained here) is also a great idea to protect your data and bypass countries limitations.

If you are using Raspberry Pi as a web server, you’ll be exposed to various attacks, especially if you’re running WordPress. Its popularity warrants frequent hacker attacks. Regular updates and antivirus will protect you nicely, though, even better than it would on Windows systems.
Having a firewall and using an additional protection like Fail2ban to block malicious traffic is also a good practice to protect your system and network.

Just like any other game server, your Raspberry Pi server can be exposed to attacks constantly, too, even if you have an antivirus. Sometimes, the device can be used as an arcade game server, and if you don’t take the needed security steps, it will be vulnerable to attacks.

Finally, the biggest threat comes from hardware – devices you connect to your Raspberry Pi. If the device is infected or can “open a door” to your network, it might infect Pi as well.

If you want to learn more about the security threats with a Raspberry Pi, and especially how to avoid them, please check my article with 17 security tips to protect your Raspberry Pi.

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Patrick Fromaget

I'm the lead author and owner of RaspberryTips.com. My goal is to help you with your Raspberry Pi problems using detailed guides and tutorials. In real life, I'm a Linux system administrator with a web developer experience.

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