Feeds

Zero-day WMF flaw underscores patch problems

Countdown to what?

High performance access to file storage

The survey also found that Microsoft has apparently been successful in convincing security researchers to disclose vulnerability information to the software giant first. In 2003, the company learned about eight critical vulnerabilities through public disclosure, but that happened only half as many times in 2005, according to the Washington Post analysis.

Yet, those numbers may miss a critical trend in who is finding vulnerabilities. Increasingly, zero-day vulnerabilities are not being disclosed at all by those who find them, generally attackers bent on using the flaw to compromise a small number of high-value targets, said Mike Puterbaugh, senior director of product marketing with network protection firm eEye Digital Security.

"Anyone with a zero-day is going to use it for a specific purpose," Puterbaugh said. "They are not going to go after my grandmother. They are going to use it to go after Citigroup, a government contractor or a university."

That means that companies will increasingly have to worry - not about the potential zero-day attacks that make the headlines - but the ones that are targeted at small groups, a situation that makes patching an ineffectual defense, Puterbaugh said.

It's a threat that worries many companies, so much so that "zero-day defenses" has become a buzzword for the industry and new companies have sprung up to meet the need for new technology.

One such company, network security firm CounterStorm, has found that security managers are eager to find solutions to the zero-day issue.

"We have yet to meet the chief information security officer who is not worried about zero-day attacks and companies are freeing up the budget to deal with the problems," CounterStorm CEO Gil Arbel said in a recent interview.

Other companies see zero-day defenses as a way to free themselves from the chaos of emergency patches. A major benefit of deploying security technologies to defend against zero-day attacks is that firms can patch on a regular schedule. Continental Airlines, a client of eEye, has moved from patching multiple times a month to once a quarter, said Andre Gold, the director of information security for Continental.

Reducing the amount of time spent patching is as much a benefit as protecting against zero-day attacks, Gold said. Patching is not a security activity, but a system administration activity - playing continual catch-up with the legion of black-hat attackers is not good security, Gold said. Even Microsoft's monthly patches are too frequent for the company, he said.

"The ad-hoc scenario kept us in chaos around here," Gold said. "The monthly frequency allows us to schedule resources, but that is still too frequent for us because it does not allow us to do regression testing."

Zero-day attacks will not go away, according to Tom Liston, a handler with the SANS Institute, an education and training organization. Liston had recommended that people deploy the unofficial patch from Guilfanov as an emergency measure.

No operating system will be free from flaws, but the fact that Microsoft has to retain potentially insecure code to support backwards compatibility makes it more likely that the security community may face a similar situation to the vulnerability in the Windows Meta File format, he said.

"The whole issue here is caused by backwards compatibility issues," Liston said. "Not only does Microsoft have to support code for Windows, but also code that goes back 15 years and that is not going to change."

This article originally appeared in SecurityFocus

Copyright © 2006, SecurityFocus

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
NSA denies it knew about and USED Heartbleed encryption flaw for TWO YEARS
Agency forgets it exists to protect communications, not just spy on them
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.