Security holes in Adobe’s Flash and Oracle’s Java have become so commonplace, it’s actually helped to raise awareness about the necessity of keeping these platforms updated, but there’s a third platform that many of you probably use everyday without ever realizing that it too needs to be patched. Would it surprise you to know that it’s a Microsoft product? Microsoft’s Silverlight technology was originally built to compete with Flash, but it’s probably best known as the platform that delivers Netflix’s streaming content to your computer. Hackers, unfortunately, are very much aware of how widespread Silverlight is, and are currently pressing their attacks on older versions of Silverlight, seeing as their usual punching bags, Java and Flash, are now firmly in the security spotlight.
What this means for you:
If you’ve ever watched Netflix streaming content on your computer, you have Silverlight installed. Even if you don’t use Netflix streaming, there is a high probability Silverlight is installed on your computer, even if it’s a Mac. Depending on how long ago it was initially installed, it might be out of date, especially if you disallowed automatic updates of the software. The latest version of Silverlight is 5, and to make sure you are up to date, you can use this link here. While you are at it, double check to make sure Java and Flash are both up to date as well, but be careful of the “optional software” both companies push when you update their platforms. Oracle variously pushes the Ask toolbar or McAfee Security Scan, the former a very annoying adware-spawning toolbar, and the latter may be redundant if you already have a decent antimalware app installed. Adobe is a little less obnoxious, but it does offer to automatically install Google Chrome (and the Google Toolbar), which may be redundant if you already have it installed, or possibly very confusing to a less savvy computer user who thinks Internet Explorer is the web browser.
A recently published whitepaper from Redwood, CA security firm Imperva reports a disturbing trend that many technology professionals already suspected: current anti-malware manufacturers can’t keep up with the pace of virus development now that malware has moved from the realm of mischief to big-time criminal enterprise. Researchers from Imperva and students from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology put together a study that pitted 80 new viruses against over 40 of the top commercial antivirus products on the market, including Symantec, McAfee and Kaspersky and found that they were only able to detect 5% of the new malware infections.
It’s important to note that the sponsor of this study, Imperva, has a material stake in future anti-malware development, as their focus has been on developing a method of protection that differs from the traditional signature detection approach used by the mainstream antivirus developers. Signature detection relies on antivirus manufacturers being able to “capture” and reverse-engineer a computer virus strain to develop ways to combat infection, a process that is entirely reactive and time-consuming. As you might have guessed, new viruses can do their damage in minutes on a vast scale thanks to the internet, so relying on protection developed after the virus has been in the wild is of no help to those already infected. Cybercriminals realize they have the advantage of surprise on their side, and are investing heavily in staying ahead of signature detection algorithms.
What this means for you:
Future security is going to rely heavily on a combination of methods: signature detection, heuristic analysis (watching for anomalous behavior), virtualization/compartmentalization and good old fashioned paranoia/preparedness. The public at large has been lulled into a false sense of security in thinking that purchasing a product off the shelf will absolve them of the need to remain vigilant. As some of my clients can personally attest, you can have the best antimalware products on the market and still get infected. Technology security is more than purchasing software and hardware – it’s a process and state of mind that must constantly be maintained. If you are uncertain how to evolve your business practices to step up your state of readiness, give C2 Technology a call – we can help!
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