Tag Archives: features

Safe Money: A Virtual Safe for Virtual Money – that Actually Works.

Apart from petty cash carried on the person, where in general does money mostly get stored?

Sure, gangsters still prefer cash stashed in a grubby cubby hole, while grandma still resorts to the trusty in-a-stocking-under-the-matrass option. But in most other cases the sensible move is to have cash converted into non-cash funds – or virtual money – ASAP, and put in banks and the like, where it can at least earn a bit of interest. And banks tend to keep cash in big safes. With this sensible option today come various useful knick-knacks like online banking, online shopping, and online just about whatever.

Of course, wherever lots of money and the Internet are closely connected there’ll always be plenty of cyber-scoundrels close by trying to get at that money – be it in folks’ current, savings or credit card accounts. And we’re not talking here about an occasional threat posed by a pair of unwashed, long-haired marginals from da cyber-underground either. It’s a real serious problem on a worldwide scale. A well-organized and smoothly running criminal industry with a multi-billion dollar turnover. It’s no wonder then that the security of financial transactions on the Internet has become the No. 1 problem (pdf) in the world for the majority of users.

Now, just like with banks with safes for paper money, this virtual money accessed via the Internet could also do with a safe – a virtual one, but one no less secure than a high-tensile steel armor-plated one. So let me tell you about our new Safe Money technology, which will be appearing in the next version of KIS towards the end of August/the beginning of September (depending on the country).

Before going through the details and advantages of Safe Money, it’s probably best first to look at how the cyber-swine try to get their grubby mitts into your virtual pockets. Or, less figuratively, to get at your user logins and passwords to access your online banking and other ‘monied’ accounts.

So, three ways how the cyber-baddies tend to break in:

  • Infecting the computer of a victim with a Trojan to thieve data, take screenshots, and log keyboard strikes. Infection frequently occurs via a vulnerability in popular software;
  • Phishing and social engineering: imitating genuine online stores, bank websites, dialog boxes, even telephone calls, etc.; and
  • Different high-profile attacks like sniffing, DNS/Proxy server substitution, fraudulent certificate use, etc. to intercept traffic using man-in-the-middle attacks, and also man-in-the-browser threats, wardriving, etc.

And now – another threesome: the three main problems in terms of security against financial cyber-fraud:

  • a lack of reliable site identification;
  • a lack of trusted connections via the Internet between online services and clients; and
  • a lack of guarantees that software installed on a computer doesn’t contain vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malware.

Luckily (for some), many aspects of this problem are comfortably dealt with by the latest Internet Security-class protection products. Only the most slothful of IT Security vendors these days don’t offer built-in protection against phishing; however, the quality of protection is another matter. But this is in no way enough to be safe in real life scenarios (about scenarios – see below). Still, the majority of products don’t have all the necessary features to provide fully comprehensive protection. What’s worse, the features they do have don’t work together harmoniously in solving specific problems, even though what’s really needed here is a multi-faceted, wide-spectrum “medicine”.

And so, if you’ll please now welcome onto the stage… Safe Money technology!

Safe Money resides in the upcoming version of KIS. What you do is enter the address of an online service that needs to be protected that uses money (a bank, store, auction system, payment system, etc.). Or you can choose a site from the built-in database, which includes 1500 different banks and 84 domains. On entering the site you need to choose the “Run the protected browser automatically” option, and from then on all sessions with that site are automatically launched in a special protected browser mode.

Kaspersky Internet Security

More: So what does this here protected browser mode do then? …

Doing The Homework.

Any software vendor sometimes makes unfortunate mistakes. We are human like everybody else and we make mistakes sometimes, too. What’s important in such cases is to publicly admit the error as soon as possible, correct it, notify users and make the right changes to ensure the mistake doesn’t happen again (which is exactly what we do at KL). In a nutshell, it’s rather easy – all you have to do is minimize damage to users.

But there is a problem. Since time immemorial (or rather memorial), antivirus solutions have had a peculiarity known as false positives or false detections. As you have no doubt guessed, this is when a clean file or site is detected as infected. Alas, nobody has been able to resolve this issue completely.

Technically, the issue involves such things as the much-talked-about human factor, technical flaws, and the actions of third-party software developers and web programmers. Here’s a very simple example: an analyst makes a mistake when analyzing a sample of malicious code and includes in the detection a piece of a library the malware uses. The problem is the library is used by some 10,000 other programs, including perfectly legitimate ones. As a result, about 20 minutes after the release of an update containing the faulty detection, technical support goes under due to a deluge of messages from frightened users, the analyst has to re-release the database in a rush and the social networks begin to surface angry, disparaging stories. And this is not the worst-case scenario by far: imagine what would happen if Explorer, svchost or Whitehouse.gov were falsely detected :)

More: How to evade detecting Whitehouse.gov as a phishing site …

Flickr photostream

Instagram photostream

The Dangers of Exploits and Zero-Days, and Their Prevention.

You don’t need to hear it from me that the Internet is a really interesting phenomenon, and mega-useful for all those who use it. But at the same time its openness and uncontrollability mean that a ton of unpleasantness can also await users – not only on dubious porno/warez sites, but also completely legitimate, goody-two-shoes, butter- wouldn’t-melt-in-mouth sites. And for several years already the Internet has been a firm fixture on the list of the main sources of cyber-infections: according to our figures, in 2012 33% of users have at least once been attacked via the web.

If you dig deeper into the structure of net-based unpleasantness, you always come across three principle categories of threats: Trojans, exploits, and malicious tools. According to data from our cloud-based KSN (video, details), the break-down is as follows:

Threats on the Web

The ten-percenter in the above pie chart as you can see belongs to so-called exploits (their share will actually be greater in reality, since a lot of Trojans have a weakness for exploiting… exploits). Exploits are mostly exotic peculiarities to non-professionals – while a real headache for security specialists. Those of you more in the latter category than the former can go straight here. For the rest of you – a micro-lesson in exploits…

More: A breakthough in fighting exploits …

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog

In Updates We Trust.

Remember my recent post on Application Control?

Well, after its publication I was flooded with all sorts of e-mails with comments thereon. Of particular interest were several cynical messages claiming something like, “The application control idea is sooo simple, there’s no need for any highfalutin special “Application Control” feature. It can be dealt with on-the-fly as applications are installed and updated.”

Yeah, right. The devil’s always in the details, my cynical friends! Try it on the fly – and you’ll only fail. To get application control done properly – with by far the best results – you need three things besides that “it’s easy” attitude: lots of time, lots of resources, and lots of work going into implementation of a practical solution. Let me show you why they’re needed…

On the surface, it’s true, it could seem Application Control was a cakewalk to develop. We create a domain, populate it with users, establish a policy of limited access to programs, create an MD5 database of trusted/forbidden applications, and that appears to be it. But “appears” here is exactly the right word: the first time some software updates itself (and ooohhh how software today loves to update itself often – you noticed?) the sysadmin has to write the database all over again! And only when that’s completed will the updated programs work. Can you imagine the number of angry calls and e-mails in the meantime? The number of irate bosses? And so it would continue, with every update into the future…

To the rescue here comes running a mostly unnoticeable but mega-useful feature of our Application Control – the Trusted Updater. It not only (1) automatically updates installed programs while simultaneously bringing the database of trusted software up to date, it also (2) keeps track of inheritances of “powers of attorney” attracted to the updating process. The former is fairly straightforward and clear, I think. The second… let me explain it a bit.

Let’s take an example. While performing an update, some software launches, let’s say, a browser (for example in order to show the user’s agreement), and transfers to it its access rights. But what happens when the update is completed? Are you twigging what I’m getting at here?… Yes – in some products the browser keeps the inherited rights until it’s restarted! So until then it could perform an action that is actually forbidden according to the security policy – for example, to download something from the Internet, and, more importantly – to run it. What’s more, the browser gets the ability to call on other programs and give them the enhanced rights of the updater. Oht-Oh!

Turns out a single update could bring down the whole security system through incorrect access rights’ management during the update process. Scariest of all is that this isn’t a bug, it’s a feature!

Anyway, back to our Trusted Updater. What it does is take full control over the update: as soon as the process has finished, it restores the rights back to what they were before the update – for the whole chain of affected programs. Another handy trick is its knowing beforehand which updaters can be trusted – there’s a special category for them in our Whitelist database. And should a sysadmin want to, he or she can add other updaters to this category with minimal effort but with a good addition to the level of the network’s overall protection from all sorts of sly backdoors.

Application Control

More: The four scenarios of implementing for controlling software updates…

The World’s Gone Virtual – So Have We.

Why and How We Decided to Protect the Virtual Environment.

Over the last dozen years in the IT industry all sorts has gone on, but in the main what happened was the blowing up, bursting, and blowing up again of bubbles. Thankfully, against this depressing backdrop there are several examples of how things should be done – stories of technologies passing through all the stages from conception to industrial mainstream. One of the most interesting examples of this is virtualization.

Virtualize Cartoon

To start, as per tradition in these tech-themed posts, let me go over the basics. For those who already know the basics of the topic, you can skip this by clicking here.

More: Agent-less malware protection vs Disadvantages of virtualization security…

Wham, Spam, Thank You Ma’am: The Quick Rise and Fall of Image Spam.

Here it is, the original Spam! Hmmm, yummy… but healthy? Is anything in a tin? Ok, will leave off the foodie lecturing just for today…

Spam

// It’ll be interesting to see if this post with the above pic in it will get through the anti-spam filters of those who subscribe to my mail-outs.

So here we are once again on a subject that it seems will never go away – spam, this time about a particular kind thereof – “image spam” – and the protective technologies that fight it.

I’ll start with a brief bit of historical background.

More: Detect in … 10 ms! …

Emulation: A Headache to Develop – But Oh-So Worth It.

What’s an ideal antivirus? Something that would feature the following:

  • 100% protection from malware;
  • 0% false positives;
  • 0% load on system resources;
  • No questions asked of the user; and
  • Lasts forever and is for free!

Like anything ideal though, this is of course a fantasy – quite unattainable in real life. But it’s nevertheless still worthwhile contemplating since it provides a fixed reference point for security developers: every company can then try to get as close to the ideal as it can within the limits of its financial and professional resources.

More: An important but unheard instrument to combat unknown threats …

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 …

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 …