Feeds

Desktop search and malware: friend or foe?

Double-edged sword

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Anti-virus experts are experimenting with desktop search as a way of scanning for viral code. Both Google Search and Apple's Spotlight technology come with programming hooks (APIs) that allow their functions to be extended. Using these APIs, executable files might be scanned for malicious signatures.

Andy Payne and Oliver Oliver Schmelzle of security firm WholeSecurity have developed a prototype malware scanner based on Google Desktop Search. In a presentation at last week's Virus Bulletin conference in Dublin, the duo demonstrated the prototype. Admittedly, this is more of an experiment into what's possible than a serious product development project: a lack of full file indexing and kernel system access makes the approach impractical at present.

Conventional anti-virus scanning tools are much more thorough and faster. But as desktop search becomes a core operating system component the potential to use it for security applications increases. Payne said desktop search could be applied to other applications such as searching email inboxes for spam and filtering it automatically. It is unclear if this approach would prove any better than email plug-ins such as SpamBayes - this was beyond the scope of WholeSecurity's research - but it is an interesting idea. As desktop search becomes more pervasive it could be applied to more security functions such as auditing and compliance tools or within anti-phishing technology.

Desktop search also carries potential security risks. Search events might be used to trigger adware pop-ups or virus writers might create malicious indexer plug-ins, making it easier to harvest data from compromised machines, Payne warned. Sidebar user interface interference might also possible, as least theoretically. "Malware could be created that infects as it indexes. What's good for finding might be good for infecting too," he said.

The two sides of desktop search mirror the use of Google queries by both penetration testers and hackers to search for security holes in online systems. Google hacking, as it has become known, has been around for at least two years or more and security researchers are now beginning to grapple with the same sorts of issues on the desktop. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Shellshock over SMTP attacks mean you can now ignore your email
'But boss, the Internet Storm Centre says it's dangerous for me to reply to you'
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
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.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.