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will installing and using wine on my linux distr render machine susceptible to viruses. i have a lot of windows based program that i would like to use
On a perfect world, all your windows viruses should work on wine. However they often rely on obscure peculiarities of the Windows OS, so, some -most, I guess- will fail to run, but some others that are programmed more cleanly and in a smart way will work.
However, note that due to the nature of Linux, no virus will be able to infect your whole system, since no use can overwrite system files (I assume that you will never be running wine as root user). Viruses are programs, nothing magical on them, so, they will have access to the same set of files than any other windows program running under wine, that also means that as long as you are running wine as a given user (let's call it UserX), the virus will have write privileges on those files that are writable by UserX.
That is also why I advice to run windows stuff in an alternate user account, so your main account doesn't get trashed if a windows virus feels like deleting everything in your home directory or something like that.
amani, running a closed source program when there're alternatives might not be a good idea, but that's the whole point of wine. If we had the source then there'd be no point in developing such a complex product like wine is, even more if we consider that most work must be done via trial and error and reverse engineering, which is a pain in the arse.
PS.: I knew I had it somewhere, you can read this, old but entertaining
First thing you should do is eliminate as many of those "lots" of programs you want to run, in fact eliminate all of them if possible. Because there exist alternative for everything but games and a few rare programs.
They did a test a while ago with some viruses and they refused to run through wine, they malfunctioned and never really harmed the system. However, it was not an extensive test, so the possibility does exist.
That is old. How has the permission system used by wine changed since that?
Wine has no permissions system. It all comes down to linux itself. Linux will have the same permissions that the user you run it under, just like all the programs you run in linux. If you run it as root, it has god-like powers. That's why you shall never run wine as root. There's no reason to do so, either.
The only thing that you can configure in wine that could cause any harm is virtual drives. You can do that by running winecfg, and then removing all the drives except those strictly needed to run, so no sensitive information can be accessed even in read only mode. Wine will need at a minimum a virtual drive (c that will point to the wine fake windows dir ($HOME/.wine/drive_c or whatever it was called). You might also want to add drive letters for your cdroms and such, the rest can be removed.
PS.: As H_TeXMeX_H very well said, I'd try to reduce that "lot" of windows programs. The first reason is that there are alternatives for most things, the second reason is that if you are going to run only windows programs, then I wonder why the heck are you running linux at all. It's like buying a pc just to run mac games in an emulator. Buy a mac then.