Feeds

Shrinking patch windows hit by automated attacks

Quick and dirty exploit peril

Boost IT visibility and business value

The length of time between the development of security patches and the development of exploits targeting the security holes they address has been dropping for some time.

Hackers exploit this period of time - the so-called patch window - to launch attacks against unpatched machines. Typically, exploits are developed by skilled hackers versed in the arcane intricacies of reverse engineering.

However, hackers have now begun using off-the-shelf tools to at least partially automate this process, a development that might lead to exploits coming out hours instead of days after the publication of patches.

Security researchers at Berkeley, the University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon have launched a research project investigating the approach (pdf.), which relies on comparing the configuration of patched and unpatched machines.

In some cases hackers are able to develop an exploit just minutes after receiving a patch. Fortunately, for now, the technique is rather hit and miss. More often than not the semi-automated process creates tools that only crash vulnerable applications, rather than creating a means to inject hostile code onto vulnerable machines.

Over time the technique is only likely to get more reliable.

The researchers suggest that secure distribution of patches might mitigate against the approach by keeping patches out of the hands of hackers. But, as security watchers at the Internet Storm Centre (ISC) point out, such an approach would take away the benefits of automated patching.

The application of temporary workarounds may be useful in setting up defences against the evolution of automated exploit generation, ISC handler John Bambenek writes. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft: We plan to CLEAN UP this here Windows Store town
Paid-for apps that provide free downloads? Really
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
Who needs hackers? 'Password1' opens a third of all biz doors
GPU-powered pen test yields more bad news about defences and passwords
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Hear ye, young cyber warriors of the realm: GCHQ wants you
Get involved, get a job and then never discuss work ever again
Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report
Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
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?