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Protecting against web application threats using SSL

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Advanced worms, or so-called hybrid and blended threats like Nimda and Code Red, continue to pose the greatest online risk according to investigations carried out by Internet Security Systems Inc, but the company rates multiple vulnerabilities uncovered in the SNMP v.1 Simple Network Management Protocol "the largest multi-vendor security flaw ever discovered to date."

In its Internet Risk Impact Summary Report for the first quarter of 2002, the Atlanta, Georgia-based security vendor traces a profile of the most significant internet threats and vulnerabilities. The company counted 7,665,000 hybrid related attacks during the quarter, which eclipsed the number denial-of-service attacks tracked by the ISS X-Force Internet Threat Intelligence service. ISS aggregates data from over 400 managed firewalls and some 350 network and server-based intrusion detection sensors used to monitor multinational networks of some of its clients. Information is collated through five ISS security operations centers on three continents.

Recent alerts issued by the service include details of two variants of the MyLife worm and of a new exploit for the telnet daemon circulating on Linux platforms. During the last quarter new vulnerabilities have also been uncovered in the PHP scripting language mostly commonly used in the Apache web server. The data provides evidence that enterprise security provisions look far from steel-plated.

ISS says that as much as 70% of malicious traffic comes in via port 80, a port that is commonly devoted to web traffic and frequently left open in firewalls because so much business is done via the web protocol. Access control lists on gateways and internal routers will mitigate risk, but many organizations find the upkeep of access lists can be prohibitively resource intensive, and it is a procedure that is frequently overlooked.

Virtual private networks (VPNs) are also vulnerable to blended threats, the company says. Once a VPN is compromised by a blended threat, it can still be regarded as trusted by the corporate network. Malicious traffic from the worm itself can actually be encrypted and transmitted inside the corporate perimeter.

And although it is highly likely that intrusion detection systems will detect a hybrid threat, they have limited ability to prevent malicious activity in the first place and generally do nothing in helping clean up an infected network. Most organizations still do not have a standard approach for vulnerability assessment and routine scans.

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