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Risk

3/13/2010
10:06 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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More Anti-Virus Fail

By focusing on threats, rather than vulnerabilities, those who rely on anti-virus software to stop rapidly evolving attacks are simply asking for their systems to be owned.

By focusing on threats, rather than vulnerabilities, those who rely on anti-virus software to stop rapidly evolving attacks are simply asking for their systems to be owned.If you're looking for a nail to drive into the coffin of traditional anti-virus software, you need to look no further than the latest report from NSS Labs which found that only one anti-virus application out of seven the independent testing firm evaluated caught multiple exploits and payloads that targeted the vulnerability used to attack Google late last year in the so-called "Operation Aurora" incidents. The vulnerability in those attacks was a flaw in Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer known as CVE-2010-0249.

For its testing NSS Labs created variants of the Operation Aurora attack and tested the anti-malware software to see which of the seven products stopped the exploits and malicious code payloads.

The tested applications include AVG Internet Security, version 9.0.733; ESET Smart Security 4, version 4.0.474.0; Kaspersky Internet Security 2010, version 9.0.0.736; McAfee Internet Security 2010 with SecurityCenter, version 9.15.160; Norton Internet Security 2010, version 17.0.0.136 (Symantec); Sophos Endpoint Protection for Enterprise - Anti-Virus version 9.0.0; and Trend Micro Internet Security 2010, version 17.50.1366.0000.

The only anti-malware application to catch multiple attacks aimed at the vulnerability was the McAfee product. Here's what NSS Labs had to say about their results in their statement:

Given the level of visibility of the attack and the time that has passed since its initial discovery, it was thought that most, if not all, of the products would cover the vulnerability. However, only one out of seven tested products correctly thwarted multiple exploits and payloads, demonstrating vulnerability-based protection (McAfee).

This afternoon, Vikram Phatak, CTO at NSS Labs discussed the testing and demonstrated the Operation Aurora exploit during the BSidesAustin event held at the Norris Conference Centers. "There are many ways to possibly exploit a vulnerability, and rather than focusing on every attack method, vendors need to focus on [shielding] the vulnerability itself," he said.

Makes sense, whenever possible, doesn't it? Why create specific shields to block every attack variant when it's possible to create one shield that blankets a vulnerability from all attack variants aimed at it.

NSS Labs full report and test results is available here.

For my security and technology observations throughout the day, follow me on Twitter.

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