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Category Archives: Security Matters

AVZ: Heuristics without false positives to combat future threats.

How can you locate and destroy ALL the maliciousness hiding in the sleeping jungles of your computer?

In particular, the extra nasty maliciousness that’s never ever been seen before, which also happens to have a mega-high malevolent-IQ (and is often state sponsored)?

Easy. The answer’s simple: you can’t.

Well, you can at least have a good go at it; but to find the proverbial black malware cat in a pitch black room you need a handful of top-notch pros to do the task manually: expensive. But to do it automatically with a boxed antivirus product – that’s a whole different matter altogether: you normally just get as far as getting on to the scent of super sophisticated infections, but that’s about it. That is, at least, using the old-school AV approach that uses classic antivirus signatures and file scanners.

So what’s the solution?

Again, simple: put some mega brains to hard work – to automate sophisticated-infection seek-and-destroy functions in an AV product.

Read on: So how we do that?…

Top-10 tips for fighting patent trolls.

Increasingly of late – particularly since our recent much publicized triumph in court against a patent troll – I keep getting asked for advice on how to combat patent parasites. So… here they are: our top-10 tips for fighting back against and conquering patent bloodsuckers.

First, your applause please for the KL guys behind the tips (and our fight against patent trolls):

  • Nadya Kashchenko, Chief IP Counsel
  • Dmitry Polyakov, Head of IP Protection & Defense
  • Nikolay Borovikov, Head of IP Research & Analysis
  • Sergey Vasilyev, Senior IP Counsel

From our various battles over the years with patent piranhas in different countries, we’ve come to a number of conclusions about patent trollism. Of course, every country has its own particular economic and socio-political features, plus its own unique patent legislation, but still, on the whole the pattern pretty much stays the same when it comes to trollism – with just a few minor differences. For both clarity and practicality here I’ll concentrate on specifically the US patent environment, since trollism there is currently the most out of control and problematic for innovative companies.

10 tips for fighting against patent trolls

Read on: rule #1 – don’t panic!…

Holy Java, not holey Java.

Woo-hoo! One more torpedo released by the cyber-delinquents against Microsoft Office has been thwarted by our cunningly tenacious cyber-protection.

Recently a new but fairly common-or-garden attack was discovered: When opening Word documents malicious code was unnoticeably injected into the computer. This wouldn’t have made it into the headlines but for one circumstance: this was a zero-day attack, i.e., one that used a previously unknown vulnerability in MS Office for which there weren’t any remedying patches, and which most antiviruses let slip through their nets. You guessed it – our AV grabbed it with its tightly thatched net in one fell swoop!

What happened was our Automatic Exploit Prevention (AEP) technology detected anomalous behavior and proactively blocked the corresponding attacks. No updates, no waiting, no messing. Zapped immediately.

Zero-days represent a real serious threat these days.

They need to be tackled head on with full force. However, many AVs are fairly useless against the future risk zero-days pose, as they work based mostly on signatures, with ‘protection from future threats’ only ‘provided’ on paper/the box (albeit very pretty paper/a very glossy box:). But of course! After all, genuine – effective! – protection from future threats requires whopping doses of both brain power and development resources. Not every vendor has the former, while even if a vendor has the latter – that doesn’t always clinch it. And this is sooooo not copyable tech we’re talking here…

Unlike what Buddha and new-agers say is a good idea for individuals, we’ve always believed that in IT security you can’t live for today – in the moment. IT Security needs to constantly look to the future and foresee what will be going on in the minds of the cyber-felons – before events occur. A bit like in Minority Report. That’s why ‘proactive’ was on our agenda as far back as the early 90s – back then we cut a dash from the rest of the IT Sec crowd by, among other things, developing heuristics and our emulator. Forward thinking runs in KL blood!

Since then the tech was reinvented, fine-tuned and souped-up, and then around two and a half years ago all the features for protection from exploitation of known and unknown vulnerabilities were all brought together under the umbrella of AEP. And just in time too. For with its help we’ve been able to proactively uncover a whole hodge-podge of targeted attacks, including Red October, MiniDuke and Icefog.

Then came a sudden surge of unhealthy interest in Oracle’s Java, but AEP was ready once again: it did its stuff in combatting all the unhealthiness. Leading AEP into battle was its Java2SW module – specially designed for detecting attacks via Java.

And it’s this module I’ll be telling you about here in the rest of this post.

The software landscape inside a typical computer is a bit like a very old patchwork quilt: loads of patches and as many holes! Vulnerabilities are regularly found in software (and the more popular the product, the more are found and more frequently) and the companies that make the software need to secure them by releasing patches…

…But No. 1: Software developers don’t release patches straight away; some sit on their hands for months!

But No. 2: Most users forget, or simply don’t care, about installing patches, and continue to work with holey software.

However No. 1: The vast majority of computers in the world have antivirus software installed!

So what’s to be done? Simple: Get Java2SW onto the stage. Why? Because it kills two birds with one stone in the Java domain.

Overall, from the standpoint of security Java architecture is rather advanced. Each program is executed in an isolated environment (JVM – Java Virtual Machine), under the supervision of a Security Manager. However, alas, Java became the victim of its own popularity – no matter how well protected the system was, soon enough (in direct proportion to its popularity) vulnerabilities were found. Vulnerabilities are always found sooner or later, and every software vendor needs to be prepared for that, in particular (i) by timely developing protective technologies, (ii) by being real quick in terms of reaction times, and (iii) by informing users how important updating with patches is.

Thing is, with regard to Java, Oracle didn’t make a great job of the just-mentioned prep. In fact they did such shoddy job of it that users en masse started to delete Java from their browsers – no matter how more cumbersome it made opening certain websites.

Judge for yourself: The number of vulnerabilities found in Java in 2010 – 52; in 2011 – 59; in 2012 – 60; in 2013 – 180 (and the year isn’t over yet)! While the number of attacks via vulnerabilities in Java grew in a similarly worrisome way:

Java attacks growing fast

Read on: So what’s so great about Java2SW?…

K-LOVE & KISSES 2014: REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL, PART 3.

“The person needs to be brought round to the idea that he has to part with his money. He needs to be morally disarmed, and his proprietary instincts need to be stifled.”

No, not Don Draper; this is a quote of Ostap Bender, a classic fictional hero from 1930s Russian literature. And no, there’s no relation to the other famous Bender!

Thus, it would appear that, curiously, Mr. Bender knew a thing or two about capitalism, despite being from a Communist country. Hmmm…

Anyway, what he knew is that it’s sometimes possible to make folks part with their hard-earned shekels if they are manipulated the right way – the folks, that is.

Fast-forward to today… and we find this kind of manipulation alive and well – in a modern, hi-tech, cyber kinda way: Today, folks gladly hand over their Benjamins to the crims behind blockers, aka ransomware, an especially sneaky form of computer malevolence. But have no fear, KL users: in the new version of KIS, we’ve got a nice surprise waiting for the blocking blockheads and their blockers.

Ransomware criminal market turnover made up more than $15 million, while the number of victims reached the tens of millions

The principle and tech behind blockers/ransomware are rather simple.

Using one of the various means available (for example, via a software vulnerability), a malicious program is sneaked into computer, which then displays an amusing (not) photo with scary (not – with KIS:) – text, and blocks the desktop and all other programs’ windows.

Unblocking is only possible (well, was possible – see below) by entering a unique code, which of course you can only get from the cyber-tricksters who infected the comp in the first place, and of course – for a fee, through premium SMS numbers or online payment systems. Until you pay the ransom, the comp remains kidnapped – no matter what you do (including Ctrl+Alt+Del), and no matter what programs you try to run (including antivirus); all you see is something like this:

ransomware1

The rise, the decline & the return of ransomware…

“To live is to war with trolls”*

The euphoria after our recent single-handed victory over a patent troll has died down – a little. It was real nice to read lots of different accounts of the good news (like this, this, this, this and this) and multiple encouraging  comments from users. However, the real struggle has only just begun – ahead lies a lot of hard work and hassle, albeit interesting hassle. So now’s probably a good time to sum up everything.

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Read on: The first and main thing – never let your guard down…

K-LOVE & KISSES 2014 – PART 2: ALPHA, BETA, ZETA.

Welcome back folks!

What else new and interesting is to be found under the hood of KIS 2014, missioned to save your data from the cyber-swine? Today’s guest star is ZETA Shield technology.

ZETA Shield I think might be best described as a high-tech antivirus microscope for the detection and elimination of the most cunning of malware, which hides deep in the bowels of the inner recesses of complicated files. In short, this is our unique defense technology against future threats, one which can track down unknown cyber-contagion in the most unexpected places.

To understand the concept better, let’s take a set of traditional Russian dolls.

Antivirus should unpack the nested essence of malware like a Russian doll. But it’s not quite as simple as just that.

Open one and you find another inside, and nested inside that one – another, and so on and so on. And in terms of where troublesome programs hide, this is a pretty good analogy. Malware tries its hardest to embed itself into the very essence of its surroundings, and even uses digital ‘plastic surgery’ to change its appearance and hide from antivirus programs. It puts itself into archives, crypto-containers, multimedia files, office documents, scripts etc., etc. – the possibilities are endless. The task of the antivirus program is to delve into the actual essence of all these different objects, probe the interior, and extract the malware.

So that’s it? Well… no, it’s not quite as simple as just that.

Antivirus programs have long been able to take apart complicated files. For example, ever since the early 90s other companies have been licensing our antivirus engine in particular because of its ability to unpack archived and packed files. But unpacking is only half the job. You need an instrument that’s clever enough to not only take apart complicated files but that can also analyze these ‘Russian dolls’, understand what’s doing what in there, build connections between different events, and finally diagnose; importantly, to do that proactively – without classic signatures and updates. It’s a bit like the detective work that goes into locating potential binary weapons. Such weapons are made up of individual components which on their own are harmless, but when mixed create a deadly weapon.

And this is where ZETA Shield comes in.

And just in time too, as the number and perversity of both targeted and zero-day attacks are on the up and up. These are the very things ZETA is designed to deal with (ZETA = Zero-day Exploits & Targeted Attacks).

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More: KIS 2014 can withstand serious assaults from tomorrow’s malware. Now you too…

Magdeburg: AVant garde.

There’s a Russian saying that translates roughly something like ‘live a century, you’ll be amazed for a century’. Meaning, I reckon, that when you think you’ve seen it all, you in fact won’t have. For me, this applied to the trip I made to the city of Magdeburg recently, for it did just that – amazed.

On the whole the place is a little dull and provincial (in my opinion, that is; but then again – I do live in Moscow most of the year :). There’s the river (the Elbe, but here it’s still quite meager), the impressive banks thereof, the equally impressive walls of the castle (restored) and the gothic cathedral. There’s not a great deal besides that. Apart from one feature that makes up for all that dullness…

In the center of the city there’s a totally incongruent large residential/commercial building known as the Green Citadel of Magdeburg. Just check out the colors, shapes and patterns! You seen anything quite like it?

The artist responsible for this architectural aberration is Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a Gaudi for the late 20th century. This is just one of the many buildings he transformed into a masterpiece across central Europe – in his totally original and mind-blowing style.

This Austrian was a true maverick, so I’m a fan for sure. He believed that folks shouldn’t live in box-like houses that are all the same, and that inhabitants should be encouraged to paint or in some other way change the walls around them. And that meant interior walls too. He was also into converting disused factories into avant garde pieces of art.

Enough words. Now for some pix:

magdeburg-1

More: What were we doing here in the first place?

K-LOVE & KISSES 2014 – PART 1.

Hip, hip, hurray! Yee ha! Woo hoo! The latest incarnation of KIS has landed – everywhere (almost)!

As per our long held tradition of launching new kit during the summer months – we’ve now managed to get KIS 2014 officially released in all the main regions of the world and in all the most widely spoken languages. For those interested in KIS itself, go here to download the new version. Upgrade guidelines are here.

And as is also becoming a bit of a tradition early fall, the time has come for me to tell you all what’s in this here new version…

There’s plenty of new stuff in KIS 2014 – with a special emphasis on protection against future threats.

First thing I can say: new stuff – there’s plenty of it. So much so that there’ll be several posts covering the key new features separately, as the low-down on all of them won’t fit into one bite-sized blogpost that won’t send you to sleep…

So, here we go… with post No. 1:

Basically, KIS 2014 packs yet more punch than its already punchy predecessor – KIS 2013 – which even without all this year’s additions was unlucky for no one. The protection provided is harder, better, faster, stronger. KIS has gone under the knife for a nip and tuck complete face-lift of its interface, and the logic of its main operations has been overhauled too.

There are new features to ensure secure online money operations (we’ve beefed up Safe Money); there are new features in Parental Control; there’s integrated protection against malicious blockers; and there are various new performance accelerators and optimizers to make the protection even more invisible and unobtrusive.

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But the best feature of all in this version is what we put most effort into: providing protection from future threats, having added to the product – much to the chagrin of cyberswine – several specialized avant-garde technologies (none of which appears to be included in competitors’ products). No, we haven’t used a time machine; nor did we track down cyberpigs and do a Jack Bauer interrogation on them to get to know about their planned mischief. We shamanized, looked into the future, came up with rough calculations of the logic of the development of cyber-maliciousness, and transferred that logic into practice in our new technologies of preventative protection.

Among the preventative measures against future threats I’d like to emphasize the souped-up Automatic Exploit Prevention – two special technologies from our corporate solutions that have been adapted for our home products – ZETA Shield and Trusted Applications mode, plus a built-in proactive anti-blocker.

So how do all these fancy sounding features actually help in daily computer hygiene? Let me start by telling you first about Trusted Applications mode – the world’s first for such technology being featured in a home product providing complex security.

More: Fighting the parcel in ‘pass the parcel’ syndrome…

The phantom of the boot sector.

My power over you
grows stronger yet
(с) Andrew Lloyd Webber – Phantom Of The Opera

In the ongoing battle between malware and anti-malware technologies, there’s an interesting game that keeps getting played over and over – king of the castle.

The rules are simple: the winner is the one who loads itself into the computer memory first, seizes control of the ‘levers’, and protects itself from other applications. And from the top of the castle you can calmly survey all around and guard the order in the system (or, if you’re malicious, on the contrary – you can cause chaos, which goes both unnoticed and unpunished).

In short, the winner takes all, i.e., control over the computer.

Cybercriminals have long taken an unhealthy interest in boot sector – the ideal way to hide the fact that the computer is infected. And they use a special strain of malware – bootkits.

And the list of applications wanting to do the boot process first begins with (as the name might suggest) the boot sector – a special section of the disk that stores all the instructions for what, when and where to load. And, terror of terrors, even the operating system sticks to this list! No wonder cybercriminals have long taken an unhealthy interest in this sector, since abusing it is the ideal way to get first out of the blocks while completely hiding the fact that the computer is infected. And the cybercriminals are helped in this by a particular class of malware – bootkits.

How your computer loads

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To find out what bootkits are and how we protect you against them – read on…

More: the prosperity, the fall and the return of bootkits…

Emulate to exterminate.

First, a bit of rewind/intro…:

100% guaranteed protection doesn’t exist. You probably know that perfectly well by now. Indeed, even the most reliable antivirus sometimes gets bypassed in professional attacks. That’s bad news enough already. What’s even worse news is that inferior antiviruses get bypassed a lot more frequently.

If they want, highly professional criminals can hack into anything; thankfully, such cyber-Moriatys are few and far between. For the most part, cyber-outrages are carried out by common-or-garden programmers who seem to get their right and wrong all mixed up – seduced by greed and thinking they can get away with it (ha!). These chancers usually don’t have sufficient criminal cyber-skills to pull off hacking the most advanced mega-defenses out there, but they are more than capable of getting into computers that are either not protected at all or which have colander-protection installed. And, alas, such comps in the world are twenty a penny.

The basic logic of it all is rather straightforward:

The stronger the protection – the stronger the defenses, obviously. At the same time, the more professional the attack – the stronger the defenses it can break.

Now, with 2.5 billion Internet users potential victims out there, this logic leads to the following economics:

Criminals don’t need to go to all the bother of coming up with super-mega skeleton keys for breaking into super-mega secure vaults (especially when what is often saved in such super-mega secure vaults can be some real creepy/weird/dangerous stuff it’s best not to know about). It’s much simpler – cheaper – to break into something more down-to-earth, like a neighbor’s network, since their defenses are bound to be much, much lighter, and their stashes more realizable.

So you get the picture: for the average hacker, there’s no point going to the trouble of preparing for and carrying out mega-professional attacks. Nor is there much sense in switching their criminal focus from Windows to Mac. It’s much more effective to ‘carpet-bomb’ – affecting as many victims as possible with non-pinpointed attacks that don’t take a lot of hassle or brains to carry out.

The better the protection – the less interesting it is for the bad guys. They won’t bother going to the trouble of breaking it, they’ll just find other – more vulnerable – victims elsewhere.

Now, let me tell you more about a feature that puts cybercrims off attacking particularly your comp, and has them decide to go elsewhere where the feature doesn’t reside. Yep, it’s time for another eye-opening excursion under the hood of our antivirus and to let you know more about how the letter K in your taskbar makes you a big turn-off to the cyber-trespassers – through protection from future threats with emulation.

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More: The nearly-perfect testing tube…