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Perimeter

10/6/2010
04:34 PM
John H. Sawyer
John H. Sawyer
Commentary
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Blocking Zero Days With EMET 2.0

Few security products I've used over the years are ones I would run on a Windows system on a daily basis. Of course, that would require me to run Windows on a daily basis, but if I did and I used it for daily activities like Web browsing, e-mail, etc., I wouldn't do so without the Microsoft Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET).

Few security products I've used over the years are ones I would run on a Windows system on a daily basis. Of course, that would require me to run Windows on a daily basis, but if I did and I used it for daily activities like Web browsing, e-mail, etc., I wouldn't do so without the Microsoft Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET).EMET is a little-known tool released by Microsoft. It has garnered a buzz in a few small circles of security geeks but hasn't seen much mainstream exposure and testing -- most likely because "EMET 2.0.0 is not currently an officially supported Microsoft Product." But let me tell you something...EMET rocks!

A month ago, version 2.0 of EMET was released along with an announcement on the Microsoft Security Research and Defense blog. According to the blog:

EMET provides users with the ability to deploy security mitigation technologies to arbitrary applications. This helps prevent vulnerabilities in those applications (especially line of business and 3rd party apps) from successfully being exploited.

Sounds a little too good to be true, right? It's not. It does a nice job of protecting vulnerable application from exploitation, even zero-day attacks. In fact, Adobe made a recommendation for using EMET as a mitigation against the vulnerabilities announced in an earlier version of its own security advisory released for CVE-2010-2883.

I've spent some time testing EMET in a virtual machine with numerous vulnerable versions of Adobe Acrobat, Flash, and Java installed. I then tested exploits against each app that were considered zero-day exploits and were available publicly for download from various sites and within the Metasploit framework. With EMET configured for maximum protection, it was able to prevent exploitation of each vulnerable app.

Since EMET is not officially supported, don't expect there to be any way to jump on the EMET bandwagon and deploy it enterprisewide. I've heard of some things that do not work under EMET (e.g., some drivers), and there is no neat packaging for management and deployment in something like a Microsoft Active Directory environment.

I definitely suggest you take a look at it, though, and run it on your own Windows systems to get a feel for how it works. Then, as more and more interest gathers around EMET, maybe Microsoft will begin to officially support it and consider adding it in as a protective add-on for Windows systems that can be centrally managed. (Fingers crossed!)

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.

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