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Websense boosts defenses against spear-phishing, data theft

Also improves email security

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Websense has added a slew of new defenses with the launched of Triton v7.7, which it says are designed to prevent the advanced data-theft attacks that have emerged as spear-phishing becomes more sophisticated.

Of particular interest to security managers will be a focus on detecting the more patient attacks (in industry parlance, “low and slow” attacks), exemplified by Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame. Alison Higginss-Miller, the company’s APAC vice-president, told The Register such attacks have been around for many years, but only recently begun to get the attention they deserve.

“If you park malicious software inside an organization, but drip-feed information slowly, it might not raise any red flags,” she said.

If a single customer record leaving an organization doesn’t trip a security trigger, then “the drip feed” can become an open door, Higgins-Miller claimed. To address such threats, Websense’s Triton platform now looks for slower patterns, such as a small number of records leaving an organization on a regular basis.

Triton has also been equipped with OCR capabilities, to look for information leaving organisations in non-document format, such as an insider using screen shots rather than text files to pass information to outsiders.

Another attack vector observed by the company’s labs is to implant an innocuous HTML link in emails, allow it to be classified as harmless by security software, and then change it to a malicious link later.

“Email security evasion is becoming more common,” Higgins-Miller told The Register. “The approach is this: the attacker takes control of a Website, but doesn’t change the destination immediately. That way, the URL [in the email] gets analyzed and okayed.”

If the email is sent at the right time – for example, on a Friday night – there’s plenty of time to activate malicious code on the target. “Then the recipient comes in on Monday morning, clicks on the link, and is infected.

“We’re trying to anticipate those behaviours, so we now have the ability to mark emails for real-time URL sandbox analysis.”

That sandbox has been moved into the company’s cloud, Websense says, so that mobile users get the same protection regardless of location.

To protect against the kind of password-theft that has hit the headlines over the last year or so (courtesy of attacks on Sony, Stratfor, e-Harmony, LinkedIn and others), Triton v7.7 is now analyzing the kind of encryption applied to data exiting an organization. If the platform spots a file using encryption that’s previously unknown on the network (that is, if the attacker’s code is using its own encryption engine), then a high-severity alert is raised to the dashboard. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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