Feeds

Security patch approach is failing

If MS Web admins can't keep up to date

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

A noted security expert has said current security practices are too reliant on expecting users to apply patches and has suggested better monitoring might lead to more robust security.

Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security, said the outbreak of the Code Red Worm, which targets vulnerable IIS Web servers, shows that "the patch treadmill doesn't work".

Schneier argues that when even Microsoft's Web admins can't keep up to date with patches (one of the many sites defaced by the worm was the Windows Update page) it shows the approach is failing. He said the patching approach doesn't take into account human weaknesses or that patches sometimes break other parts of a network or sometimes require for critical systems to be taken offline in order to be applied.

These are good points, but can the defenders of networks come up with a better approach (and preferably one that doesn't blame the victim for security breaches)?

Schneier certainly thinks so and advocates wider use of security monitoring as a means to fill the security gaps.

"If you are monitoring your network carefully enough, you'll catch a hacker regardless of what vulnerability he exploited to gain access," said Schneier.

"Monitoring makes a network less dependent on keeping patches up to date; it's a process that provides security even in the face of ever-present vulnerabilities, uninstalled patches, and imperfect products."

Schneier admitted that vigilant monitoring does not "solve" computer security, but his argument that is a much realistic way of providing resilient security is worth considering.

The reactive nature of monitoring can give attackers time to do some serious damage, so we can't see the approach will take us away from the need to apply security patches altogether, but it has the potential to reduce risk.

Firewalls alone don't provide adequate defences, particularly against something like Code Red, which is a pre-programmed worm that unleashes a distributed attack against a predetermined target, and intrusion detection systems are generally only as good as their latest attack signatures.

We can't see that monitoring would be much good in isolation but it might well be successful at picking up problems more effectively and making Internet security less fragile. After all, it can hardly hurt... ®

External Links

CERT advisory on Code Red with links to Microsoft's patches

Related Stories

Internet survives Code Red
Code Red bug hits Microsoft security update site
IIS worm made to packet Whitehouse.gov
IIS buffer-overrun attack has been scripted
MS confronts another IIS system-level hole
Yet another IIS exploit reported
Microsoft IIS hole gives System-level access
Security patch distribution - it's Trojan time

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.