install antivirus on raspberry pi

Do Raspberry Pis Need Antivirus? Expert Insights

Malware and other types of viruses are everywhere, but they are mostly written for Windows computers. The Raspberry Pi runs on Linux, and people think that there are no viruses for Linux. Is this really true, and does Raspberry Pi need an 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.

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

What is a Raspberry Pi?

A 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 everything that a regular desktop computer can do. Of course, it’s not as powerful, but it will get you where you want, especially the recent models.

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 advice 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.

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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), viruses 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 aren’t any – 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.

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For instance, cryptocurrency-mining malware recently attacked Raspberry Pi users, especially older versions, 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.

Related: 17 Security Tips To Protect Your Raspberry Pi Like A Pro

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.

Once the initial configuration is completed, it will give you some additional options and automatically set regular updates, so you don’t have to worry about updating anything manually.

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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 commands that are easy to remember:

  • Run a scan in the current folder:
  • 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 intervals 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.

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Other security threats on Raspberry Pi devices

Before I get into the examples, I have to highlight that viruses and malware are not the only security threats on Raspberry Pi.

Most security risks with Raspberry Pi devices occur if you don’t change your default username and password, or use something too obvious.

For a while, the username “pi” and the password “raspberry” were used by default on all devices. This was a major security risk.

It has been changed on the recent installations, and you need to set a custom user and password on the first boot. You can also create a new user and delete the default user at any time if you want.

The mining malware I mentioned earlier targeted those default installations in particular, as it was 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.

A popular use of the 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 the Kodi media center, but you can prevent most of them 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 country 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 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.

Whenever you’re ready, here are other ways I can help you:

The RaspberryTips Community: If you want to hang out with me and other Raspberry Pi fans, you can join the community. I share exclusive tutorials and behind-the-scenes content there. Premium members can also visit the website without ads.

Master your Raspberry Pi in 30 days: If you are looking for the best tips to become an expert on Raspberry Pi, this book is for you. Learn useful Linux skills and practice multiple projects with step-by-step guides.

The Raspberry Pi Bootcamp: Understand everything about the Raspberry Pi, stop searching for help all the time, and finally enjoy completing your projects.

Master Python on Raspberry Pi: Create, understand, and improve any Python script for your Raspberry Pi. Learn the essentials step-by-step without losing time understanding useless concepts.

You can also find all my recommendations for tools and hardware on this page.

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One Comment

  1. I do agree with all of the ideas you have presented in your post. They are really convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are very short for beginners. Could you please extend them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.

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