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Can An XP Partition "Infect" A Linux Partition?

     
10:32 pm on Dec 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Hey everyone:

Is it possible that malware on an infected partition of Win Xp could "infect" a linux partition?

My son's friend has a computer with an original install of WinXp on it.

Needless to say, that install of XP has viruses up the ying yang...

They are computer Ludites and the chances of them installing a new operating system themselves / buying a new computer are Nero (somewhere between none and zero).

I would like to help them out, and I am thinking of installing a partition with Linux mint on there to make it a dual boot machine. So at least they could get online and watch youtube videos and stuff without their browsers being hijacked.

I just would like to make sure that malware writers haven't found a way for malware on one windows partition to "migrate" to a linux partition.

Thanks in advance.

(And yes, they should just kill that computer with fire, but I don't think they are going to do that.)
10:54 pm on Dec 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The answer is to all intents and purposes ..
No..even if they were to click on a virus file ( usually type exe or pif etc ) in the windows partition, having navigated to it from the linux partition..It would not infect the linux partition..

A way that a quasi "jump" could happen is if they right clicked and chose open with wine ( if wine is installed ) , they could then infect the sort of virtual C drive* that wine creates , even then it is very easy to "wipe" the infected area ( via un-install and reinstall wine )..

But, as linux will not react to malware aimed at windows, it is possible to "carry" malware ( in downloaded files meant for win OS ) from a linux partition to a windows partition or another win OS via USB key etc..

That said..there are some cross platform malware..( as there are viruses etc for linux and Mac ) but unless they really were to go looking for them, they are highly unlikely to run into them..

*"virtual C drive" is not exactly how it works..but is a good enough explanation for jazz ( and without getting into how wine works )..as is all of this post ;)

You may find that if the box has original XP then it has an old CPU and not much RAM ( with limited RAM upgrade ability )..if this is the case then the latest Mint may not install , or may run very slowly, if this happens you might want to look at installing older Mint versions , or look at other lighter weight distros..
11:18 pm on Dec 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Tangential question: Does the unused partition already exist? If not, it seems like it would be well-nigh impossible to partition the HD without wiping and reinstalling everything on it ... at which point you might as well just clean up the original problem. There's something heartbreaking in the thought of faithfully copying and preserving a diskful of viruses :(
11:25 pm on Dec 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Does the unused partition already exist? If not, it seems like it would be well-nigh impossible to partition the HD without wiping and reinstalling everything on it

Linux can do a "side by side" install from a live disk..it will preserve the existing OS and set up the linux OS whilst making the additional partitions required to do so..Gparted is your friend ;)

You can then use the new linux OS to explore the XP OS and fix it ( remove infections and replace corrupted files, rescue data etc )..or use a live linux disc to fix ( rescue, recover, replace corrupt files / data ) the XP ( or any other win ? ) install..

A win ( whatever ) install will however trash an existing Linux ( or any other OS ) set up..

Multiboot has to be win first and the others afterwards..multi win installs have to be oldest version(s) first..

Personally I'd use a live linux disc to recover data to USB ( data might be infected but you can deal with that later if needs be )..and then reinstall winXP from original disc ( if version SP3 )..add an AV ( look at eset ) and reinstall programs one by one ( leaving out the cracked ones )..then reinstall data..

Then install linux as a "side by side" OS to the XP ..via Gparted..
12:36 am on Dec 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Thank you both very much, Leosghost and Lucy24.

"You may find that if the box has original XP then it has an old CPU and not much RAM ( with limited RAM upgrade ability ).."

Yeah, I was sitting there thinking, "How do you check system resources in XP again?" Couldn't remember. So I literally have NO IDEA what's inside the case. But if it is an original install of XP (and I am pretty sure it is), then yeah, it is probably a P4 with a gig of ram max.

the thing is, I don't really want to sink a lot of time into this. I am feeling pretty lazy as of late (Probably because I only get around 4 hours sleep a night since I am working on far too many projects at once.) While I like the plan outlined (boot linux from CD, save data to USB, Wipe HD, reinstall WinXp, add ESAT, then add a linux distro as a dual boot just in case), I am totally unmotivated to do that.

BTW: You should have seen the expressions on their faces when I told them their machine was infected - they couldn't boot at all for a few days and they said that everytime they used the windows update in the task bar, it just took them to spam sites.

It's kind of funny / sad, because the mother said, "I guess I will have to take it into a shop to be looked at." And I was like, "What? You would have somebody look at your computer instead of fixing it yourself? I don't understand..."

I guess for some people, their lives DON'T revolve around installing and updating software. Must be nice...
1:06 am on Dec 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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"How do you check system resources in XP again?"

When system boots ( and before "XP splash" )..press "pause" button on keyboard..
Before OS is loaded the system shows what hardware it has..some win installs are set to not* show this ( stupid idea )..or it goes by at near light speed..you need to be quick on the pause button..

*You can change this in the BIOS settings..

CPU and RAM and attached drive details etc are shown..

They are also shown in the BIOS screens..

In XP..Click"My computer">click"system information"

If in live Linux disc..go to "system monitor" >"system"..

Again as linux is booting you will see hardware info on black screen the same as with windows ..

Ps..I would advise not looking at the "history" in IE unless you are on your own..Most people ( and kids ) think that browsing is like "secret"..and that only they and G will know what they were looking at..

You could also install them a copy of CCleaner on the XP side..run it once or twice..

One last thing..If you install a linux distro that has Thunderbird..at first launch it will offer to "import" all account details from the win side..it actually does this very well..let it do so..and they'll have a safe email client with all their old emails etc on the linux side ..and any "nasty attachments" will not run..they are probably the sort of people who click on any thing , open any file or attachment, exchange files with others, and who surf the "wrong side of the tracks" from time to time..without being equipped to do so..


Install sumatra on the win side..( make it "default" ) then they won't have to worry about acrobat reader vectored malware..switch off "autoplay" on drives and USBs..
I guess for some people, their lives DON'T revolve around installing and updating software. Must be nice...
painless with linux..:)
3:22 am on Dec 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Thanks again, LG:

And thanks for reminding me that it is best NOT to look at the browsing history... Some things are better left NOT known. And CCleaner is a good suggestion.

Good to know that thunderbird for linux is set to "take over" the files from the Win side.

"..they are probably the sort of people who click on any thing , open any file or attachment, exchange files with others, and who surf the "wrong side of the tracks" from time to time..without being equipped to do so.. "

When I realized they were still running XP, i asked them: do you have any anti-virus softwre? And they said, "Uh.. we don't know... we have System Mechanic".

Ugh...
3:34 am on Dec 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I would advise not looking at the "history" in IE unless ...

Ouch. You mean that somewhere in the bowels of the OS, your browsing history is still there even when you've cleared history, emptied cache and done all the browser-specific stuff? Gosh, I'm glad nobody but me and the cat uses this computer. (And the cat just sleeps behind the warm monitor.)
5:13 am on Dec 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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If the computer is really old maybe you should consider a light weight distro like Peppermint or Lubuntu?

Boot sector malware may affect both OSes, but AFAIK should be removed when the Linux installer installs a new boot loader.

It's kind of funny / sad, because the mother said, "I guess I will have to take it into a shop to be looked at."


Reminds me of people who say that they cannot use Linux because the computer shops where they live do not know it. Of course the reason they need to take the computer into a shop for software to be fixed is a virus....

You mean that somewhere in the bowels of the OS, your browsing history is still there even when you've cleared history, emptied cache and done all the browser-specific stuff?


I have not heard of this before, but there are ways your browsing history does get saved. Skype appears to phone home with it (on Linux, I suggest using AppArmor to lock Skype down).
4:51 pm on Dec 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Reminds me of people who say that they cannot use Linux because the computer shops where they live do not know it. Of course the reason they need to take the computer into a shop for software to be fixed is a virus....


Exactly.

If only photoshop and lightroom worked on Linux, I would not be using windows at all. Unfortunately, they don't work on wine...
5:08 pm on Dec 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Photoshop CS2* will work on wine..( you could always use Gimp ) and mint has "darktable" available via "software manager"..which works just like lightroom ( non destructive ) ..

*IIRC Adobe made Photoshop CS2 freeware ..you can download it from directly them and get the license code from them free ..
8:57 pm on Dec 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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> they used the windows update in the task bar

Not a lot of point since XP is no longer supported by MS, except via a highly unrecommended and dangerous route. If the machine is trying to update and spending along time on it, chances are it's being redirected to a malware site to pick up (even more) viruses. :(

My nephew now runs linux. His XP got a virus and in any case was running slow. I installed Mint for him and he took to it like a duck to that wet stuff in the pond. And he's certainly not technical in any way.

My suggestion? Tell them the OS is not recoverable and install Mint Mate (without compiz!). And remember to tell them the REAL cost of upgrading to the lastest Windows OS, including an immense learning curve! :)
6:45 am on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Thanks, dstiles:

Yeah, I have mint 13 mate on a usb stick I keep with me "just in case", although I think mint 13 is only going to be supported through middle of 2015 (it is one of their LTS releases, the newest one being mint 17).

If it really IS only used by the son, then probably all he cares about is running games on it, and I know he has a Steam account. Will have to see what steam games run on Linux though. From what I understand, not all do. (And to be honest, I am a it clueless about the whole "steam os" thing. Isn't there just a steam client for Linux now?)
6:48 am on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Photoshop CS2* will work on wine..( you could always use Gimp ) and mint has "darktable" available via "software manager"..which works just like lightroom ( non destructive ) ...


Yes, I could use the alternatives.

Just the ONLY thing with that is that there are so many online tutorials / forums / support for photoshop and lightroom that it helps out a hack like myself in figuring things out.

The one real downside to open source is that there is often just not the support that the paid software has.
7:18 am on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@Planet13, If you are familiar with photoshop and use it heavily switching could be painful, but there are quite a lot of tutorials for GIMP.

There is a steam client for Linux, but I think only for some distros. Steam OS is steam's Linux distro which includes the steam client.

@dstiles, you can get support contracts for XP at a price. Not for consumer use, but the British govt and some US govt departments have paid huge amounts for continued XP support. What is the "dangerous route" to support?
7:34 pm on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Thanks, Graeme.

Looks like Steam client is SUPPORTED only on Ubuntu, but that people on Mint have gotten it to work.

Looks like Steam OS is based on Debian. Probably a good thing for those of us who use debian-based distros like ubuntu and mint.
8:17 pm on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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There is a debian mint that doesn't go through the "ubuntu filter"..

[linuxmint.com...]

not quite as user friendly as the usual mint..But maybe steam would install better on it..

I'm doing a steam install for my son on mint in the next 10 days..tell you how it goes..
9:05 pm on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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planet13: Mint 13 is "Long term support release (LTS), supported until April 2017." Which is why I'm still running it, putting off the evil day when I have to virtually rebuild in order to install 17 (supported only until 2017!). :(

After 17 it is supposed to be an automatic update. I intend to keep the Mate version when I do upgrade.

graeme: you sort of named the "dangerous route". From zdnet...

"...you can hack the registry in Windows XP and trick Windows Update into continuing to send you security updates. The basis of it is that Microsoft has an embedded variant of Windows XP and support doesn't end on that until April 2016. The hack makes XP look like the embedded version."

Full article at www.zdnet.com/article/hacked-windows-xp-still-updates-still-a-bad-idea/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

Apropos graphics editors: I (still-ish) run an old version of Corel Paint under an old Windows 2000 box. The box is used off-line for a few other things but I have yet to find a linux conversion tool for the native Corel file formats, in which I used to save layered work files. Haven't needed to refer back to them for two or three years now but there is still the possibility.
9:55 pm on Dec 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I have yet to find a linux conversion tool for the native Corel file formats, in which I used to save layered work files.

Try irfan view ( run the portable version in linux via wine ) it should be able to convert the Corel files that you have..
9:33 pm on Dec 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I should have mentioned I'm also trying to avoid wine. :)

I should be able to run corel paint in wine but for now it's easier to use the 2000, since it has other (very limited) uses. :)

But thanks for the idea. It may come in useful when the 2000 finally keels over.