Perimeter
9/24/2010
05:15 AM
Commentary
Commentary
Commentary
50%
50%

'Here You Have' A Lesson

It's been interchangeably called spam, or a targeted attack that spun out of control, or a form of cyber-jihad with alleged geopolitical implications. But regardless of what you call it, the "Here You Have" email worm is an excellent example of just how well today's security can work. Here are a few justifications for that optimism.

It's been interchangeably called spam, or a targeted attack that spun out of control, or a form of cyber-jihad with alleged geopolitical implications. But regardless of what you call it, the "Here You Have" email worm is an excellent example of just how well today's security can work. Here are a few justifications for that optimism.1. The security community is nimble. The server hosting the malicious download was shut down within just a few hours of the worm's initial spread. With no ability to infect new victim machines, the email component quickly self-destructed. As a result, 79% of the attempted click-throughs happened within the first three hours of the worm's initial propagation.

2. Proper heuristics do work. Some vendors -- including Cisco -- successfully identified and blocked the worm from the very beginning, no signatures required.

3. The majority of users have learned not to click on unexpected links. In the end, the "Here You Have" email accounted for only 0.3% of Web-delivered malware during a 30-day period. And from a vertical perspective, all industry employees clicked through at the same median rate. Indeed, month over month message-driven social engineering attacks collectively account for only 3% of Web-delivered malware; "Here You Have" didn't nudge this volume.

Despite this, many failed to accurately contextualize the threat posed by the "Here You Have" email and made it seem bigger than it was. As a result, reports of the worm far surpassed the actual spread of the worm itself --- even making national news broadcasts in the U.S.

So why is overstating the risk posed by a particular bit of malware a bad idea? After all, if it promotes security awareness, that's a good thing, right? Maybe not. One problem is that it causes many to equate all malware with something that is highly visible and garners massive amounts of attention. Yet it's the down-and-low, under-the-radar threats that are far more insidious.

Perhaps worse, positioning a threat as more widespread than it really is lends the impression that none of our security controls are working. And that's unfortunate. Because as we can see from the "Here You Have" example, the proper security controls do work -- even for that 99.7% of attacks that don't make the 6 o'clock news.

Mary Landesman is an antivirus professional and senior security researcher for ScanSafe, now part of Cisco. In 2009 she was awarded a Microsoft MVP for her work in consumer security.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Considering how prevalent third-party attacks are, we need to ask hard questions about how partners and suppliers are safeguarding systems and data.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-4440
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 generates weak non-tty passwords, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the password via a brute-force attack.

CVE-2013-4442
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 uses weak pseudo generated numbers when /dev/urandom is unavailable, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the numbers.

CVE-2013-7401
Published: 2014-12-19
The parse_request function in request.c in c-icap 0.2.x allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a URI without a " " or "?" character in an ICAP request, as demonstrated by use of the OPTIONS method.

CVE-2014-2026
Published: 2014-12-19
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the search functionality in United Planet Intrexx Professional before 5.2 Online Update 0905 and 6.x before 6.0 Online Update 10 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the request parameter.

CVE-2014-2716
Published: 2014-12-19
Ekahau B4 staff badge tag 5.7 with firmware 1.4.52, Real-Time Location System (RTLS) Controller 6.0.5-FINAL, and Activator 3 reuses the RC4 cipher stream, which makes it easier for remote attackers to obtain plaintext messages via an XOR operation on two ciphertexts.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.