Feeds

Security patch distribution – it's trojan time

Crackers could turn cure into disease

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The way operating system vendors issue security patches is insecure, in many cases, and could let crackers exploit this to trick users into loading trojan horses onto their systems.

Security firm BindView, whose Razor team of security researchers completed the research, questioned 27 different vendors of commonly used products on whether patches are accompanied by digital signatures or other forms of cryptographic authentication. Its findings, available in full here, are a real eye-opener because they highlight glaring security gaps, not least that a minority of vendors, including Apple and Compaq, provide no authentication for their patches.

"A number of the vendors (including some Fortune 500 companies) do not offer patch authentication via any cryptographic method. This can make it very difficult for customers to verify that they have obtained a correct patch rather than a trojan horse," said Matt Power, of BindView's Razor security team.

"A trojan-horse patch might be stored on the vendor's server if that server were compromised by intruders," he added, a risk that has to be taken more seriously given the recent hack of Microsoft's network, and the defacement of web sites of security vendor Network Associates.

Power added that even if a vendor's server is not compromised, well-known weaknesses in Internet protocols can be exploited to deliver a trojan-horse patch to users.

Interestingly the research threw up an admission by Microsoft's Security Response Center that "no more than several thousand people have downloaded our PGP key". This means that only a very small number of users are checking the authenticity of bulletins.

Richard Stagg, senior security architect at Information Risk Management, said getting people to install trojan horses through deceiving people into believing they were security updates was "a standard hacking technique" which was "an extension of social engineering".

Attacks based on subverting security patches were not common, because they are difficult to arrange, but could potentially be "very bad" and extend into the inclusion of trojan horses into software available on CD-ROMs.

"Vendors have a duty to provide security patches, a pre-requisite to which is that there must be a straightforward method to validate the content. Its naive for vendors to expects users to automatically check patches," said Stagg.

"If it takes time to verify patches the instinct of most people will be to just grab a file and install it," he added. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Google+ goes TITSUP. But WHO knew? How long? Anyone ... Hello ...
Wobbly Gmail, Contacts, Calendar on the other hand ...
Preview redux: Microsoft ships new Windows 10 build with 7,000 changes
Latest bleeding-edge bits borrow Action Center from Windows Phone
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Google opens Inbox – email for people too stupid to use email
Print this article out and give it to someone techy if you get stuck
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.