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6 Best (REALLY FREE) Antivirus Programs for Linux 2019

6 Best (REALLY FREE) Antivirus Programs for Linux 2019
Aviva Zacks
Posted: December 12, 2018

Even Linux machines are vulnerable to ransomware, rootkits, email phishing attempts, and spoof URL addresses. The big question is whether a free antivirus offers robust protection for Linux?

We looked at 37 antivirus programs and closely examined free plan limitations and overall performance. Here’s our list of the best free Linux antivirus programs that offer some of the features available with paid antivirus software for Linux.

Note: While Eset is the only one of the six free antivirus programs we mention below that isn’t technically free, it is available as a free trial version, so you can try before you buy.

Quick Links: 6 Best Free Antivirus for Linux

  1. Avast Core Security
  2. ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4
  3. ClamAV
  4. Sophos
  5. Comodo
  6. F-PROT

Does a Linux Device Really Need an Antivirus?

You may be surprised to know that there are in fact Linux antivirus programs out there, but they are few and far between. It’s probably highly unlikely that you will be one of the rare few to be hit by a virus, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

In order to keep safe, you should do the same as Windows users and make sure your software programs are up to date (Java and Flash especially), be aware of the latest phishing scams, and never run any commands from untrusted sources.

While Linux is undoubtedly better protected than Windows when it comes to mainstream viruses and malware, no device is 100 percent fool-proof, so installing at least a free Linux antivirus won’t do any harm.

How We Tested Them

In order to decide on the best antivirus for Linux, we tested each antivirus on the same device according to the length of the installation and setup, its ease of use, user-friendliness of the interface, malware detection ability, feature list, and its impact on the device performance.

In order to create a benchmark from which to measure each antivirus, we installed each Linux antivirus on the same device to answer the following questions:

  • Does running the antivirus slow the device down?
  • How long does setup take?
  • How easy is the interface to use?
  • How long does each scan take – and what is each one’s impact on performance?
  • How often does the antivirus push ads and pop-ups?
  • Does it pick up all or any new types of malware?

The below free Linux antivirus programs were the best performing in our tests.

1. Avast Core Security – Free Antivirus – Best for Real-Time Protection

Avast Core Security – Free Antivirus – Best for Real-Time Protection

Avast is a solid free antivirus for Linux users as well as Windows.  Both versions share the same malware database and offer excellent anti-malware and anti-spyware protection with several useful security features at no cost to the user.

Features

  • Real-time protection
  • On-demand and scheduled scanning
  • Web and email protection
  • Wi-Fi and network security
  • File server protection
  • Can be run from the command-line

What We Like

  • Supports both 32-bit and 64-bit systems
  • Supports various operating systems like Red Hat, Debian, and Ubuntu
  • Can find malware on dual-booted systems with other operating systems
  • Constantly being developed and updated

What We Don’t Like

  • Some bonus features may require a separate purchase

What It Does Best

Avast’s impressive list of features makes it perfect for file servers. The antivirus’ ability to detect Windows malware also makes it great for dual-booters.

Try Avast free antivirus >>>


2. ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4Free Trial – Best for Business Use

ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4 – Free Trial – Best for Business Use

ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4 was built exclusively for Linux and while it isn’t technically free, it does offer a trial period of 30 days

What makes it worth paying for past the free trial is handy features like the option to scan https traffic for threats before they reach your hard drive and a SysInspector tool that evaluates running programs, Registry keys, files, and other parts your system for risks.

Features

  • Virus and Trojan detection
  • Network scanning
  • Remote management
  • SysInspector tool
  • Automatic updates
  • Home and business options

What We Like

  • Exceptionally strong malware detection
  • Excellent at picking up rootkits
  • Compatible with multiple operating systems of Linux, such as RedHat, Fedora and Ubuntu, as well as Windows and Mac

What We Don’t Like

  • You have to pay for the program after the trial expires
  • Not as good as competitors at blocking malware with signatures

What It Does Best

ESET is popular with server managers. With a great compatibility rate and the ability to work remotely, it can run multiple servers using different operating systems around the world at the same time. 

Try ESET free trial version >>>


4. ClamAVFree Antivirus – Best for Securing Sensitive Data

ClamAV – Free Antivirus – Best for Securing Sensitive Data

ClamAV is one of the most widely known and widely trusted antivirus solutions for a variety of operating systems, including Linux.

Its a completely free open-source antivirus – the same product for Linux users as ClamWin is for Windows users – that’s installed to the main repository. Its a particularly good option if you work with sensitive data or you dual boot with Windows machines.

Features

  • Command-line interface scanner
  • Open-source

What We Like

  • Easy installation and setup
  • Fast operation
  • Cross-compatibility with Linux, Windows and MacOS
  • Portable installation
  • Great for detecting Trojans

What We Don’t Like

  • No native Graphical User Interface (GUI), but you can download your own

What It Does Best

ClamAV works very well as a long-term, versatile antivirus, especially if you’ll also need to work with Windows and MacOS machines. It runs quietly from the command-line so this Linux antivirus is very private.

Try ClamAV free antivirus >>>


4. SophosFree Antivirus – Best for System Performance

Sophos – Free Antivirus – Best for System Performance

Another solid free antivirus for Linux, Sophos has minimal impact on your system performance.

It offers exactly the same protection as the paid version; the only difference is that you won’t get technical support or access to subscriptions, such as Preview or Previous etc.

Features

  • Heuristic-based malware detection
  • On-demand and real-time scanning
  • Terminal base

What We Like

  • Malware protection for other operating systems, such as Windows, Mac, and Android
  • Can be run through the terminal
  • Low system performance impact
  • Update files are small
  • Detects and removes threats
  • The option to exclude certain files from the scan

What We Don’t Like

  • Doesn’t come with a built-in Graphical User Interface (GUI)
  • You have to pay for anti-ransomware

What It Does Best

Sophos is perfect for file servers that interact with other operating systems. It is great for ensuring you don’t accidentally distribute malware to your clients.

Try Sophos free antivirus >>>


5. ComodoFree Antivirus – Best for Cross-Platform Use

Comodo – Free Antivirus – Best for Cross-Platform Use

Comodo is a feature-packed free antivirus that’s great for experts and beginners alike. It’s compatible with a lot of operating systems and hardware including Linux.

What it does best is that it can run browsers or other applications in the sandbox or even create a virtual desktop to keep you safe from any threats. It does have limitations when it comes to anti-malware though.

Features

  • Real-time protection
  • Email filtering
  • Supports Windows firewall
  • On-demand scanning
  • Regular virus definition updates
  • Server-side compatibility
  • Effective sandbox

What We Like

  • Easy to install and use
  • Supports both 32-bit and 64-bit systems, enabling backward compatibility with older hardware
  • Supports a variety of operating systems, including Ubuntu, Mint, Red Hat, and Fedora

What We Don’t Like

  • Threat detection is somewhat weaker than the competition
  • No web filtering or URL blocking

What It Does Best

Comodo sets itself apart from the rest with its broad compatibility range. That means it works with just about any operating system.

Try Comodo free antivirus >>>


6. F-PROT – Free Antivirus – Best for Comprehensive Virus Detection

F-PROT – Free Antivirus – Best for Comprehensive Virus Detection

F-PROT is one of the most well-known antivirus programs for Linux. It offers both Home and Enterprise editions of its antivirus which both offer strong protection and low impact on system performance.

However, only the home version, which we tested, is free.

Features

  • On-demand and scheduled scanning
  • Protection against Trojans and boot sector viruses
  • Scans internal drives and drivers
  • Home or business use
  • Portable
  • Scheduled scanning

What We Like

  • Supports both 32-bit and 64-bit systems
  • Comprehensive threat directory
  • Low impact on performance
  • Portable installation

What We Don’t Like

  • It has a cluttered user interface

What It Does Best

F-PROT is best for users looking for a no-frills antivirus that does the basics. Plus, it has one of the most comprehensive malware directories for extra protection.

Try F-Prot free antivirus >>>


Why it Pays to Pay for an Antivirus (Especially on Linux)

Linux devices are still at risk, but not from common threats as is the case with Windows. Linux viruses are fewer but the viruses and malware that do exist are much more sophisticated, and the hackers much more sophisticated.

Which is why a free Linux antivirus is necessary at the basic level, but a paid antivirus specific to Linux is your safest bet.


Free isn’t as good as paid, but one of the free options above should cover the basics

While Linux users may be less at risk than those using more commercial operating systems like Windows, no OS is completely threat-free, which is why Linux users should still use an antivirus.

Most if not all antivirus software (apart from open-source solutions like ClamAV) steer the user to upgrade the free trial version to a paid version in order to receive more advanced features. If you’re looking for full-scale antivirus solution, you may want to check out our best non-free antivirus programs for Linux.

But if you’re only looking for a basic level of security features, like scanning your Linux machine, then the free antivirus programs above will provide a partial solution.

About the Author

Aviva Zacks
Aviva Zacks

Aviva Zacks is a content manager, writer, editor, and really good baker. When she's not working, she enjoys reading on her porch swing with a cup of decaf.

Transparency and Trust – We pride ourselves on being the only site where users can freely contribute and share their reviews on any antivirus with other community members. When you visit an antivirus site we link to, we sometimes get affiliate commissions that support our work. Read more about how we operate.