Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Perimeter

10/15/2009
03:58 PM
John H. Sawyer
John H. Sawyer
Commentary
50%
50%

App Whitelisting Potentially More Effective Against Bots

Application whitelisting is beginning to look more and more appealing. Don't get me wrong. It has had its merits all along. But lately I've seen way too many failures of antivirus against bots, and that has me rethinking a few things.

Application whitelisting is beginning to look more and more appealing. Don't get me wrong. It has had its merits all along. But lately I've seen way too many failures of antivirus against bots, and that has me rethinking a few things.In fact, I'm almost getting to the point where I feel like I'm doing people a disservice when they ask me how they can protect themselves from malware, and I spill out my standard response: "Oh, you want to protect yourself from viruses. It's simple. Patch your operating system and software. Update your antivirus. And, don't run as an admin."

That was great advice for a while, but it is becoming less effective given the malware we are seeing these days. Patching once took care of a lot of the exploitable issues; however, this year we are seeing a record number of zero-day vulnerabilities in client-side software so that even keeping software patched isn't enough.

Antivirus has been fighting a losing battle for years because blacklisting is just not feasible in light of the amount of malware being released on a daily basis. Some interesting efforts are under way to make antivirus more effective; the one I saw most recently was the new MX-V behavioral detection within Sunbelt Software's VIPRE antivirus. Sunbelt's VP of threat research and technology gave a talk about MX-V last week at the University of Florida ITSA Day event. The video is posted here, and a recent blog entry about MX-V and Zbot is here.

Patching is ineffective when zero-days are involved. Antivirus can't keep up. So that leaves restricting users so they don't have administrative rights. Without admin rights, they can't run malware that takes control of the entire system. I know I've mentioned this before, but that's not the case anymore. Malware just wants a foothold in your system, and if it's only within one user profile, so be it. That's where application whitelisting comes into play.

If the user can't run it, then they can't get infected, right? Almost entirely true. There still has to be protections in place to prevent exploits from taking advantage of the latest vulnerability in Adobe Acrobat and injecting a malicious payload into memory. But coupled with memory protections, whitelisting is looking pretty good. Yesterday, I was brainstorming about ways to make it better with cloud-based functionality so there was reputation-based scoring that could be done for new executables in an environment. Turns out it has already being done by Bit9 as of April.

We all know a silver bullet doesn't exist when trying to protect our users, but some security solutions are certainly more effective than others and can sometimes replace multiple layers of protection that were once in place. It looks like application whitelisting could be one of those rare instances. Time to hit up those vendors that keep e-mailing me to see if they'll provide me with a few evaluation copies so I can see for myself.

John H. Sawyer is a senior security engineer on the IT Security Team at the University of Florida. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent the views and opinions of the UF IT Security Team or the University of Florida. When John's not fighting flaming, malware-infested machines or performing autopsies on blitzed boxes, he can usually be found hanging with his family, bouncing a baby on one knee and balancing a laptop on the other. Special to Dark Reading.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Commentary
Ransomware Is Not the Problem
Adam Shostack, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Technologist, Game Designer,  6/9/2021
Edge-DRsplash-11-edge-ask-the-experts
How Can I Test the Security of My Home-Office Employees' Routers?
John Bock, Senior Research Scientist,  6/7/2021
News
New Ransomware Group Claiming Connection to REvil Gang Surfaces
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  6/10/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Zero Trust doesn't have to break your budget!
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-31476
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
This vulnerability allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code on affected installations of Foxit PhantomPDF 10.1.3.37598. User interaction is required to exploit this vulnerability in that the target must visit a malicious page or open a malicious file. The specific flaw exists within the han...
CVE-2021-31477
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
This vulnerability allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code on affected installations of GE Reason RPV311 14A03. Authentication is not required to exploit this vulnerability. The specific flaw exists within the firmware and filesystem of the device. The firmware and filesystem contain hard-...
CVE-2021-32690
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
Helm is a tool for managing Charts (packages of pre-configured Kubernetes resources). In versions of helm prior to 3.6.1, a vulnerability exists where the username and password credentials associated with a Helm repository could be passed on to another domain referenced by that Helm repository. This...
CVE-2021-32691
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
Apollos Apps is an open source platform for launching church-related apps. In Apollos Apps versions prior to 2.20.0, new user registrations are able to access anyone's account by only knowing their basic profile information (name, birthday, gender, etc). This includes all app functionality within th...
CVE-2021-32243
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
FOGProject v1.5.9 is affected by a File Upload RCE (Authenticated).