Feeds

Security patch approach is failing

If MS Web admins can't keep up to date

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Webcam hacker pervs in MASS HOME INVASION
You thought you were all alone? Nope – change your password, says ICO
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
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?
Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management
How using vulnerability assessments to identify exploitable weaknesses and take corrective action can reduce the risk of hackers finding your site and attacking it.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.