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

11/5/2009
11:53 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Is Antivirus Software Dead?

Always-on Internet connectivity is keeping malware concerns alive and well. We examine whether antivirus software is up to the task, or whether it's a security solution of the past.

Limiting Privileges

The most significant system-protection change that's been made as of late is the limiting of user and program privileges. A program should not, by default, be able to change any aspect of the system at will; it should only do what's required of it. If it wants to modify system settings, it can only do so after explicit admin authorization.

Linux, OS X, and the NT-based editions of Windows (NT, 2000, XP, and up) have this sort of privilege segregation. Up until recently, though, Windows made it too easy not to use this feature: most people simply logged in and ran as administrator because it was too much of a hassle not to. Too many programs were still written under the assumption they could change everything, and would break unless they didn't have admin privileges. But by the time Vista and User Account Control rolled around, things had changed: Windows programmers were now in the habit of writing apps that didn't need root privileges to run. The burden of making computing safer fell to both the platform and application providers.

Several things are immediately noticeable when you run as a non-admin by default. For one, this stops the majority of "invisible" attacks committed by malicious programs that run silently in the background. Two, it's much harder to unthinkingly make systemwide changes. And three, the majority of security problems that used to silently pile up under users' noses and then explode without warning don't. This isn't to say that it's not possible to trick users into running malicious programs at all, but that most of the common ways to do this have become harder.

I'll cite a personal experience as proof that this approach is hugely useful. I encouraged friends who used to run under the bad old security model (run as root) to do the right thing and run as non-admin. They were running Windows XP or Windows 2000, and in every single case, the number of malware infections and other security-related issues dropped off to just about nothing.

So does that mean UAC and similar technologies let you do without antivirus altogether? The short answer is "Yes, but not without some risk."

Zero-day Attacks

If operating systems were perfectly bug-free environments, then limiting user privileges might be a fairly bulletproof way to keep things secure. Unfortunately, bugs do exist, and the creators of malware have turned to exploiting newly revealed and as-yet-unpatched vulnerabilities -- the infamous "zero-day attacks" -- as their next big thing. Recent word about an OS X kernel flaw underscores this all the more: a bug like this could allow someone to write directly into kernel space, and completely bypass mechanisms like limited privileges.

Previous
2 of 5
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
I 'Hacked' My Accounts Using My Mobile Number: Here's What I Learned
Nicole Sette, Director in the Cyber Risk practice of Kroll, a division of Duff & Phelps,  11/19/2019
DevSecOps: The Answer to the Cloud Security Skills Gap
Lamont Orange, Chief Information Security Officer at Netskope,  11/15/2019
Attackers' Costs Increasing as Businesses Focus on Security
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  11/15/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
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-2012-1001
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-21
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in Chyrp before 2.1.2 and before 2.5 Beta 2 allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the (1) content parameter to includes/ajax.php or (2) body parameter to includes/error.php.
CVE-2014-8356
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-21
The web administrative portal in Zhone zNID 2426A before S3.0.501 allows remote authenticated users to bypass intended access restrictions via a modified server response, related to an insecure direct object reference.
CVE-2015-3140
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-21
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in Synametrics Technologies SynaMan before 3.5 Build 1451, Syncrify before 3.7 Build 856, and SynTail before 1.5 Build 567
CVE-2019-19207
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-21
rConfig 3.9.2 allows devices.php?searchColumn= SQL injection.
CVE-2019-19203
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-21
An issue was discovered in Oniguruma 6.x before 6.9.4_rc2. In the function gb18030_mbc_enc_len in file gb18030.c, a UChar pointer is dereferenced without checking if it passed the end of the matched string. This leads to a heap-based buffer over-read.