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A Day In The Antivirus World

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Wireless Security

Research by McAfee showed that, on average, 60% of all wireless networks were deployed insecurely (many without even the use of WEP keys)

The research was conducted by war driving with a laptop running net stumbler in London and Reading (United Kingdom) and Amsterdam (Netherlands). The research also found that in many locations in major metropolitan areas there was often an overlap of several wireless networks of sufficient strength to attempt a connection.

AV product developments

AV companies are developing and distributing AV products for Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and smart phones. For example, F-secure, a Finnish AV firm, is providing AV software for Nokia (which, not surprisingly is based in Finland).

We were told that standard desktop AV products are limited to being reactive in many instances, as they cannot detect a virus until it is written to hard disk. Therefore in a Windows environment - Instant Messaging, Outlook Express and web surfing with Internet Explorer, the user is exposed, as web content is not necessarily written to hard disk.

This is where the concept of desktop firewalls or buffer overflow protection is important. McAfee's newest desktop product, VirusScan 8.0i, offers access protection that is designed to prevent undesired remote connections; it also offers buffer overflow protection. However it is also suggested that a firewall would be useful to stop network worms.

An interesting program that the speaker mentioned (obviously out of earshot of the sales department) was the Proxomitron. The way it was explained to me was that Proxomitron is a local web proxy. It means that web content is written to the hard disk and then the web browser retrieves the web content from the proxy. Because the web content has been written to hard disk your standard desktop AV product can scan for malicious content.

I should clarify at this point that core enterprise/server AV solutions like firewall/web filtering and email AV products are designed to scan in memory as well as the hard disk.

I guess it is to minimise the footprint and performance impact that the desktop AV doesn't scan memory. No doubt marketing is another factor – why kill off your corporate market when it generates substantial income?

AV vendors forming partnerships with Network infrastructure vendors

From my own current reading it is clear that AV vendors and network infrastructure vendors are partnering, for example Trend and Cisco or TippingPoint and 3Com So AV is becoming incorporated at a deeper level in the network.

Daily AV definition file releases

McAfee is moving daily definition releases in an attempt to minimise the window of opportunity for infection.

Malicious activity naming

A consistent naming convention that is vendor independent is run by CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures). McAfee will be including the CVE reference to malicious activity that is ranked by McAfee as being of medium threat or higher.

Other vendors may use a different approach but I feel the use of a common reference method will help people in the IT industry to correlate information data about malicious activity form different sources rather than the often painful (for me at least) hunting exercise we engage in to get material from different vendors or sources about malicious activity.


AV products moving from reactive detection to proactive blocking of suspect behaviour

New AV products from McAfee (for example VirusScan 8.0i) are including suspect behaviour detection and blocking as well as virus signature detection. This acknowledges that virus detection by a virus signature is a reactive action. So by blocking suspicious behaviour you can prevent potential virus activity before a virus signature has been developed. For example port blocking can be used to stop a mydoom style virus from opening ports for backdoor access.

A personal observation is that Windows XP Service Pack 2 does offer a Firewall but this is a limited firewall as it provides port blocking only for traffic attempting to connect to the host. Therefore it would not stop a network worm searching for vulnerable targets.

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