How Much Malware Do You Have?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Brent Huston

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Touchdown Task #2: Our last Touchdown task was how to Identify and Remove All Network, System and Application Access that does not Require Secure Authentication Credentials or Mechanisms. This time, it is “Detection”.

When we say “detection” we are talking about detecting attackers and malware on your network.

The best and least expensive method for detecting attackers on your network is system monitoring. This is also the most labor intensive method of detection. If you are a home user or just have a small network to manage, then this is not much of a problem.

However, if your network has even a dozen servers and is complex at all, monitoring can become a daunting task. There are tools and techniques available to help in this task, though. There are log aggregators and parsers, for example.

These tools take logging information from all of the entities on your system and combine them and/or perform primary analysis of system logs. But they do cost money, so on a large network some expense does creep in.

And then there are signature-based intruder detection, intruder prevention and anti-virus systems. Signature-based means that these systems work by recognizing the code patterns or “signatures” of malware types that have been seen before and are included in their databases. But there are problems with these systems.

First, they have to be constantly updated with new malware patterns that emerge literally every day. Secondly, a truly new or “zero day” bit of Malware code goes unrecognized by these systems.

Finally, with intruder detection and prevention systems, there are always lots of “false positives”. These systems typically produce so many “hits” that people get tired of monitoring them. And if you don’t go through their results and winnow out the grain from the chaff, they are pretty much useless.

Finally there are anomaly detection systems. Some of these are SEIM or security event and incident management systems. These systems can work very well, but they must be tuned to your network and can be difficult to implement. Another type of anomaly detection system uses “honey pots”.

A honey pot is a fake system that sits on your network and appears to be real. An attacker “foot printing” your system or running an exploit cannot tell them from the real thing. Honey pots can emulate file servers, web servers, desk tops or any other system on your network.

These are particularly effective because there are virtually no false positives associated with these systems. If someone is messing with a honey pot, you know you have an attacker! Which is exactly what our HoneyPoint Security Server does: identify real threats!

Undertaking this Touchdown Task is relatively easy and will prove to be truly valuable in protecting your network from attack. Give us a call if you’d like us to partner with you for intrusion detection!

Cross-posted from State of Security

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