Halt! Who Goes There? Or Remedy #3.

Security people, sysadmins and, generally, all those who by virtue of their employment take loving care of corporate networks – all these people have plenty of headaches. Indeed, a veritable cornucopia of headaches. And, of course, the main source of trouble is… you guessed it, users. Tens, hundreds, even thousands of users (depending on your good fortune) who have problems 24/7. As for us, we try to help these ‘frontline soldiers’ get to grips with their headaches, using the full extent of our resources in our field of competence. Below, we discuss one very helpful remedy that fits this combat strategy to perfection.

There are, in fact, three separate remedies. But they all tackle one problem – keeping users under control. And there are helpful side effects – enforcing a centralized IT security policy, fool-proofing, and automating the ‘donkey work’. That’s right, I’m talking of three new features included in the new version of our corporate solution, Endpoint Security 8: application control, device control and web control. This post is about application control (or simply AC without the DC).

Most of the time it’s a struggle to keep computers clean. Users are given to downloading questionable “cool warez”, installing them, trying them out and forgetting all about them. As a result, in half a year the computer normally turns into an unmanageable software zoo, becoming unbelievably error-prone and slow. And, of course, the abovementioned “cool warez” can easily be virus-ridden, pirated, or at best counterproductive.

There are different ways of getting out of this predicament. Some companies wag their finger at users and strictly forbid them to install software on their computers (without actually enforcing a ban). Others simply make installing software impossible in one way or another. AC is, in fact, an elegant compromise between the two.

Read more: So how does it work and who’s the best?

Features You’d Normally Never Hear About – Part Four.

Hi all,

Once again, the subject is spam.

Depending on the “stars” and the time of year, the proportion of spam can range from anywhere between 70 and 90% of all email traffic.

Sounds like a lot, eh? But when you take all Internet traffic into consideration, it’s not actually that much – email traffic accounts for around just 1%. On the other hand, you can’t just forget about spam. Here is a bit more about spam’s role in the cybercrime ecosystem. Combating this particular evil is part of the massive war we are waging on cybercriminals. It’s no exaggeration to say that if we fail on this front, the rest of our efforts will amount to nothing.

In other words, we love anti-spam technologies and promote them as much as possible. There is, however, a subtle difference from anti-malware technologies. More precisely, there are different criteria for evaluating the quality of protection for anti-spam and anti-malware technologies. For malware it’s fairly easy: the higher the detection level, the better. For spam it’s more important to have no false positives. This is quite reasonable: it’s much better for the user to take a couple of seconds to delete a spam message that sneaks through the filter than miss important business correspondence. So, protection against spam is, in a way, a more complicated task, literally trying to kill two birds with one stone. In this difficult task, cloud technologies are a great help.

As I wrote earlier, we’ve been using cloud technologies for a while, and with considerable success. But one interesting detail has amazingly been overlooked, and unfairly so. In the cloud-based Kaspersky Security Network (KSN), (video, details) there’s a rather impressive anti-spam cloud. It started from the Urgent Detection System (UDS). The link to similar anti-malware technology is no coincidence: both are based on similar principles.

This is how the traditional anti-spam technology works.

Let’s say an email arrives at a computer. It is immediately assailed by various anti-spam technologies, both local and cloud-based, which test the message and give verdicts. Based on these, the system decides whether this message lives or dies.

And this is what happens in the UDS.

The system takes a micro-signature from the email message and sends it to the cloud to check it against a dedicated spam database. Earlier we used 16-byte hashes; in 2011 we started the UDS2 (UDS 2nd generation) procedure involving 4-byte fuzzy hashes, which are more effective against obfuscated texts and are therefore better at filtering out spam. Importantly, these hashes do not create extra work for the analyst, since the system creates them automatically based on collected spam samples.

Read more: Serious ambitions for the elite 100/0 club …

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The Black Box.

Filtering out spam may not seem such a big deal – after all, even a kid knows the difference between a Viagra advert and a normal message! In the security world things are much more complicated as we have to create something akin to artificial intelligence that is capable of doing the job automatically, on the fly.

That’s no easy task and entails all sorts of demands in terms of efficiency, reliability, compatibility and so on. And you no doubt know where things stand with AI – there are plenty who claim to have got it figured, but there’s nothing really to show for it (or if there is, they’re doing a good job of keeping it a secret).

Anti-spam security is no easier a task than anti-malware protection. And may even be more difficult (or maybe I just understand more about viruses…). The spam industry is a multi-billion dollar business and tens of thousands of skilled bloodsuckers are behind the huge variety of junk that is sent out. And these parasites show great ingenuity when it comes to linguistics and other stuff to make spam reach your inbox.

On the face of it, a spammer’s work looks fairly easy – write a spam message, test it against several of the most popular anti-spam filters and spawn via a botnet.  But few customers realize that a spam message’s lifecycle is just half an hour to an hour long. 90% of a mass mailing will never reach its intended recipients – spam filters, activated with an update or triggered by statistics, will intercept it.

And it’s that black box – the thing that withstands the worst things that email traffic throws at it and keeps your inbox clean – that I want to discuss here.

First of all, a bit of background. Since 2002 our anti-spam solution (KAS) has got through four generations of engine and we’re now developing a fifth. A single blog post would hardly suffice to recount everything. Basically, KAS has acquired lots of bits and bobs over the last 10 years. It boasts over 10 methods of spam analysis alone. That’s why I’ll start with our new ‘Möbius‘ technology – just in time for its debut in the latest version of KAS for Exchange Server.

Kaspersky Security 8.0 for Microsoft Exchange Servers

Read more: Anti-spam bottleneck and how we solved it …

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DDoS – a Nasty SOB, but Curable – with KDP.

Hi everyone!

The Russian parliamentary elections late last year and the ensuing mass protests against their alleged falsification have brought about a sharp increase in the level of polarization of viewpoints being bandied about on Russian-language social networks and online media.

Simultaneously with all this, plenty of the Russian online media were visited by a ghost – the ghost of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service Attack) – in early December 2011. This led to brazen hacker attacks, with one after another Russian website going down, and several attacks occurring simultaneously. Some were organized using traditional criminal bot networks, but behind them, it sure seems to me, stood marginal political groups, since the victims of the attacks were the sites both of opposition groups (including the Communist Party) and also of the ruling United Russia party.

A second DDoS attack – in mid-December – was more sophisticated. To date we still don’t have any reliable information about its origin – that is, not technically (how they actually pulled off the DDoS), and not the people who ordered it. And I’m not sure we’ll ever get to the bottom of it.

But I won’t get bogged down here with theory.

Read more: Let me get straight to DDoS in action …

A Nasty Little Thing Called Spam.

So, what do you think happens 250 billion times a day? Well, OK, it’s a rhetorical question, especially if you paid attention to the title.  But every day, in total, 250 billion spam e-mails are sent to inboxes all over the world. It sounds like a lot, but let’s be honest, does that number really shock you?

Next, try to define what you think of as spam. Most people assume it’s about Viagra, Nigerian letters and other pathetic, lame scams which jam up your inbox and slow down your daily business. But here’s the thing: spam is far more than just unsolicited ads. That Viagra offer is just the tip of the iceberg, while spam as a phenomenon is a crucial part of a huge cybercrime ecosystem. And the apparent “innocence” of spam is the illusion that I will be debunking here.

The technical foundations of the cybercrime ecosystem are botnets. These are huge clusters of computers infected with special Trojans (bots) that allow cyber crooks to remotely control these computers without their owners even knowing about it. That’s why experts also call botnets zombie networks – the computers are modified to obey cyber criminals’ commands as if they are zombies. Sometimes botnets can consist of millions of computers. For example, the notorious Kido (Conficker) botnet contained 7 million bots while TDSS had around 4.5 million bots.

How do they make money from botnets? The economics is quite simple here. Cyber crooks monetize the botnets in several ways including DDoS attacks, advertising services, phishing, data theft, etc. The picture looks something like this:

Spam moneitizing through botnet

Read more: So, what is the big deal about spam?

Cyber-Thriller, ver. 2011

Costin Raiu, one of our top generals in the war against malware, recently published an interesting post on the ten most significant events in the security field in 2011. I liked it; and the idea of a top-ten; so much so I decided to come up with my own. It mostly matches Costin’s report, but somehow this is a slightly different view. It’s not just regarding the past year – it’s a little broader: tendencies in the security market and about security in general. An “unofficial”, non-hoity-toity view of the important stuff – both that’s with us now, or that will be soon…

And so here’s my top-ten:

1. Hacktivism
2. Militarization of the Internet and Cyber Weapons
3. Social Networks and Politics
4. The Duqu Cyber-Bomb
5. Widely Publicized Hacks and Industrial Espionage
6. Certification Authorities: the Beginning of the End
7. Cybercrime: as Romantic as Sewage
8. Android Malware
9. Mac Malware
10. Intel Taking Over McAfee – Intel-ligent Move or Epic McFail?

Read More: And now in detail…

2011 – Review; 2012 – Forecast.

For quite a while now we’ve had a bit of an annual tradition in the run-up to the New Year festivities – every December we summarize all the security goings-on of the last 12 months, and then prophesize a bit about what’s in store in the coming year. This year we did our roundup and predictions – covering all sorts of, regrettably, frightening stuff – at a press conference in Moscow last Monday. It was a pretty stylish event – with a hospital theme as you can see from the pic below. But I won’t go over all that again here. Here’s the original text used at the press conference, and here’s a link to the pdf summary.

Kaspersky Lab hospital themed press conference

Here, let me outline the main points in our review/prognosis.

More: Internet access from workplace and Internet passportization …

Call for Action: Internet Should Become a Military-Free Zone.

What is the difference between a nuclear missile and malware?

It’s not a trick question – malware can seize control of a missile, but a missile can’t be used to destroy malware. With the right tools a missile can be diverted by malware, but no amount of firepower can divert rogue software once it is active.

Unlike traditional weaponry, malware can replicate itself ad infinitum. And while a missile can often be controlled in some way, malware tends to attack indiscriminately: nobody knows who it will harm, which corners it will worm its way into. On the inscrutable trajectories of the web, as soon as some black hat launches a malicious program to make some quick cash anything can happen. It’s impossible to calculate what effect it will have, what might be affected by accident and how it could even boomerang back to harm its creators. People tend to make mistakes in everything they do – and writing code, malicious or otherwise, is no exception. There are numerous examples of this kind of “collateral damage” – read my previous post about the fortunes of the Internet .

At least we are now seeing some joint efforts to combat cybercriminals.

The security industry is tightening the screws on them, and the big boys like Microsoft are getting involved. Other different non-commercial and intergovernmental organizations are joining in as well. Governments are beginning to understand that the Internet can be a highway to hell, and are waking up to the need to do something about it. So we are seeing some progress.

However, I’m more concerned about another side of Internet security. The tricks of a cybercriminal will seem trifling compared to a large-scale cyberwar on the web. Yes, you read it correctly – a web cyberwar! This is where things start getting much more complicated and murky.

These are the facts.

More > The military is gradually turning the Internet into one big minefield

It’s the End of the Net as We Know It.

Hi everybody!

Time to tell you about a bunch of really exciting events I’ve been to over the past few weeks. It’s been a fairly crazy mini-tour covering Geneva, Dublin and London non-stop. Two or three days in each city and each time talking to some very interesting people on all sorts of hot topics.

It all started with the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Unit (ITU) meetings in Switzerland. The organization is showing great progress towards developing a common approach to fighting cybercrime on an international level. However, I’m afraid I can’t tell you any further details. It was a very hush-hush private meeting behind closed doors where we discussed some issues I can’t share with you at the moment. Nevertheless – stay tuned and soon I’ll be able to uncover some details…

Next up was Dublin and the F.ounders 2011 conference, which we’ve already mentioned here.

Last stop – the London Conference on Cyberspace. This was quite something – in fact, it unexpectedly turned out to be this year’s best event I was involved in!

The conference, organized by the British Foreign Office, took place on November 1-2 in the Borough of Westminster. I would like to thank the British Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State William Hague for his personal invitation to me to take part in the event. I must say it was a surprise to find myself as the only “boss” from the IT security industry to address the audience. But then on the other hand I think the Foreign Office made the right choice – big-wigs from competitors would only have given the audience the same old BBB (Boring Business Blah blah blah) and spoiled the event!

Eugene Kaspersky at the London Conference on Cyberspace

More > Saving the Internet in London …

Rooting out Rootkits.

As you might guess from the title, today we’ll be talking about rootkits. At heart this is an interesting topic, but often that ‘heart’ is out of sight: in the press rootkits are rarely covered at all, and if they are the articles are filled with nothing but horror stories that have nothing in common with reality. There are of course many technical articles, but these don’t help the wider audience – the general public.

But the problem exists.

The majority of anti-virus software is making great strides towards protection from rootkits. But this isn’t necessarily a good thing, since not all of it does it properly. The ability to fight them first depends on, and is indicative of, the technological progressiveness and overall level of anti-malware expertise of the developer. And not all ‘developers’ are technologically progressive – so their so-called anti-rookit technologies aren’t up to scratch, leaving overall protection against rootkits around the world  lower than it could and should be. And let’s not forget that many botnets use rootkit technologies, and the ability to draw out this contagion is the best protection there is from cybercriminals.

So let’s go through all the salient points about rootkits in order.

More > The basics, the threat and the remedy …