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.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

9/18/2013
04:30 PM
50%
50%

3 Steps To Secure Your Business In A Post-Signature World

From fully undetectable malware to low-volume targeted trojans, digital threats frequently do not have a signature, but companies can still prepare

While phishing, reconnaissance scans, social engineering, and other opportunistic attacks still comprise the lion's share of malicious activity seen by most companies, a growing proportion of attacks are able to evade signature-based defenses. Cybercriminals using fully undetectable (FUD) services can create variants that are unrecognizable to antivirus programs, and targeted attacks increasingly use custom-built malware designed to tiptoe past the target's defenses.

Click here for more articles from Dark Reading.
Click here to register to attend Interop.

To find advanced malware, companies have to look for indicators of compromise that might not initially appear to be connected to a malware infection or each other, says CP Morey, vice president of product marketing at security firm Sourcefire. For example, callbacks to unknown servers along with the installation of an unknown application and high utilization on a machine might not pass the threshold that requires investigation, but together they should set off an alert, he says.

"Traditional security technologies, or a signature-based approach, is like looking for a smoking gun -- it's pretty obvious when you find that at the scene of a crime," Morey says. "Advanced malware, and its indicators of compromise, are more like the Golden Gun from the Bond films: It was made up of a cigarette case, a lighter, a cuff link, a fountain pen, and some other stuff. By themselves, all seemed like no big deal, but when Bond assembled them, they became a gun."

At the Interop conference at the end of September, Morey will discuss approaches to detecting increasingly sophisticated malware, as well as the more run-of-the-mill malicious programs that are still able to escape detection. He and other security experts offered some first steps for firms.

1. Look for bad behavior
Companies should make sure they are looking for suspicious behaviors, both on employees' desktops and in how employees' systems are accessing network resources. Sandboxing, where new files and program are first opened in a virtual environment, essentially looks for bad behavior that could signal maliciousness.

"Behavioral analysis is a really critical piece in detecting that last 'X' percent," says Michael Sutton, vice president of security research for Zscaler, which provides security for endpoints through a cloud service. "There will always be a chunk of stuff that cannot be detected through signature-based approaches."

[Why some industries are staring down the barrel, but still don't know it, putting others at risk. See Advanced Threats, Imagination, And Perception.]

Yet signature-based security is necessary as well. Many threats -- such as purely social engineering or phishing attacks -- likely cannot be detected by behavioral software, he says. In addition, behavioral analysis can detect new threats, but unless it is tied to other information about what is happening across the network, companies may not know whether the attack was successful or how deeply it penetrated the network.

"It is not able to tell me what happened there after," Sutton says. "So it is important that behavioral analysis is not done in isolation."

2. Get fuzzy, but not cute
Companies can also make use of machine learning and techniques that take a page from the attacker's playbook: fuzzing.

With fuzzing, an attacker varies an input in random ways to see whether it impacts a specific system: Putting random files into Microsoft Word, for example, can produce crashes and illuminate exploitable vulnerabilities. Using a complementary technique, Sourcefire essentially fuzzes a signature to detect the offspring of known malware.

"We take a known fingerprint for a malware sample and vary it using mathematical algorithms," Sourcefire's Morey says.

3. Prepare for compromise
Finally, companies need to prepare for the inevitable compromise. While having good defenses can make attackers' jobs more difficult, it is nearly impossible to keep every attacker out.

Yet companies with a good defense in-depth approach focus on detecting and responding to successful attacks as well, says Michael Lloyd, chief technology officer for RedSeal Networks, a network management and security firm. Saudi Aramco is a good example of a company that -- through planning or luck -- succeeded against its attackers, he says.

"They were attacked with a very well-designed payload ,which did some damage, but it did not disrupt their ability to deliver oil," Lloyd says. "In those terms, Saudi Aramco really succeeded in defending their business; they kept operating as a business, even after someone threw a very malicious attack at them."

Companies should practice moving from the detection of suspicious activity to responding to the possible malicious attack, Morey agrees.

"What you do during and after an attack nowadays is just as important as what you do before," he says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET News.com, Dark Reading, MIT's Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Data Leak Week: Billions of Sensitive Files Exposed Online
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  12/10/2019
Intel Issues Fix for 'Plundervolt' SGX Flaw
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  12/11/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-5252
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-14
There is an improper authentication vulnerability in Huawei smartphones (Y9, Honor 8X, Honor 9 Lite, Honor 9i, Y6 Pro). The applock does not perform a sufficient authentication in a rare condition. Successful exploit could allow the attacker to use the application locked by applock in an instant.
CVE-2019-5235
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-14
Some Huawei smart phones have a null pointer dereference vulnerability. An attacker crafts specific packets and sends to the affected product to exploit this vulnerability. Successful exploitation may cause the affected phone to be abnormal.
CVE-2019-5264
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-13
There is an information disclosure vulnerability in certain Huawei smartphones (Mate 10;Mate 10 Pro;Honor V10;Changxiang 7S;P-smart;Changxiang 8 Plus;Y9 2018;Honor 9 Lite;Honor 9i;Mate 9). The software does not properly handle certain information of applications locked by applock in a rare condition...
CVE-2019-5277
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-13
Huawei CloudUSM-EUA V600R006C10;V600R019C00 have an information leak vulnerability. Due to improper configuration, the attacker may cause information leak by successful exploitation.
CVE-2019-5254
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-13
Certain Huawei products (AP2000;IPS Module;NGFW Module;NIP6300;NIP6600;NIP6800;S5700;SVN5600;SVN5800;SVN5800-C;SeMG9811;Secospace AntiDDoS8000;Secospace USG6300;Secospace USG6500;Secospace USG6600;USG6000V;eSpace U1981) have an out-of-bounds read vulnerability. An attacker who logs in to the board m...