Dec 30, 2010

Network Intrusion Prevention Group Test Released

The security analysts at NSS Labs tested 13 different network IPS products, including stand-alone IPS and multi-function gateways, and one unified threat management product. If your organization is evaluating IPS solutions, or is looking to benchmark your current vendor, then this is the definitive report to read. Data and analysis are based on multiple man-years of complex, real-world testing that mimics how cyber-criminals are working to penetrate corporate defenses (see methodology). No surveys, interviews or soft trends. This is the hard test data upon which organizations base critical, big-dollar decisions.

The report includes valuable information not available anywhere else:
• Total cost of ownership analysis – are you getting the most security for your budget?
• Security effectiveness – how much effort is required to protect all your assets?
• Real-world performance benchmarks – can the device handle your traffic?
• Management and usability insights – how much time is really required to achieve results?

While the full breadth and depth of the research is available only to our subscribers, we are making a summary available to non-clients. Next week/year I will blog more about the key findings and what they mean for IT buyers in 2011.

Tested Products include (alphabetically):
2. CISCO IPS 4260
8. MCAFEE M-8000
11. SOURCEFIRE 3D 4500

Dec 19, 2010

Stopping malware with a browser

This week we released another report on socially-engineered malware protections delivered by browsers. While most articles and blogs seemed to interpret the results properly, there were some inaccuracies that we wish to address. Security is a complex field and the terminology can sometimes be misinterpreted. This can be compounded when vendors who did poorly add their spin, or when the data challenges one’s own beliefs.

Stopping Malware vs. Security:
Some of the key security terms are clarified in a previous post, especially relating to “most secure” browser. Some articles incorrectly stated that we found IE to be the “most secure” browser. What we tested was browser effectiveness at stopping malware from reaching a user or their PCs, not the security of the browser itself or its plug-ins. Modern browsers are a wonderful, free additional layer of protection. They work well with your favorite antivirus software. Browsers however will not stop malware coming via email or USB drives.

The Malware threat:
Malware is arguably the largest security threat facing users today – with more than 60,000 unique, new samples entering circulation each day (source: McAfee). There’s a $14B industry addressing the problem of malware. These test results challenge the comfortable status quo of many of the vendors. The notion that a free product adds so much protection can easily upset the industry apple cart. The assertion that the focus of the test was narrow (made by Google and some others) flies in the face of all generally accepted data. To say one’s browser was “built with security in mind” is nice, but marketing speak. What we’ve offered is hard data about malware protection. The exploitability of the browser is also a very important topic. But, even in this case, data doesn’t support Chrome being ‘more secure’ (i.e. less vulnerable) than other browsers (see CVEs, Secunia disclosures, etc.). We do sincerely applaud the innovations and bug bounties though, and encourage all vendors to build more security in.

Versions tested:
The claim that we tested an “old” version of Chrome is patently false. As stated in the report, the test was run in late September, when version 6 was the current browser. Since then Google has released two other so-called “major” releases, none of which have claimed improvements to the tested SafeBrowsing functionality. Here is the Timeline for Chrome Version Release:
Stable Version Release Date
5.0.375      2010-05-25
6.0.472      2010-09-02
7.0.517      2010-10-21
8.0.552      2010-12-02
Furthermore, Chrome’s sandboxing is designed for exploits protection; it does not protect against socially-engineered malware. You click it, it runs.

At the time of the test, Opera’s website marketed protection from malware as a feature, yet our results showed no protection was available. AVG officials have separately acknowledged that the integration of its technology was not yet complete, confirming our results. Features should only be marketed after they are actually in the product.

Application Reputation:
In a world of dizzying information, there’s much rush to a sound bite of who “won”. The most significant technological message of this test may have been overlooked. This test benchmarked the world’s first implementation of an application reputation system within free web browsers that goes beyond simple black lists. Nascent stand-alone security products such as SolidCore (acquired by McAfee), Bit9 and CoreTrace utilize what is commonly referred to as white listing, and commercial endpoint security products are starting to include some form of this as well. Apple uses a “walled garden” approach to limit exposure to malware on its tightly controlled platforms by pre-approving apps.

In web browsers, so far we’ve seen just black listing. A URL or application is either known to be bad, or unknown. What’s unique about Microsoft’s approach in the IE9 browser is that applications have 3 states: known good (white), known bad (black) and unknown (grey). The combination of good and bad indicators is clearly powerful, stopping 99% of malware via the web download vector. The use of application reputation to identify good applications and bad ones is unique to IE, for now. Will other vendors follow Microsoft’s lead?

Methodology and Open Invitations:
No vendor has influence over what/how we test or where we get malware from. We constantly run our Live Test network with a variety of security products - antivirus, browsers, and other network devices.
Over the past 2 years we’ve been running these tests, NSS has discussed results and methodology (which is included in the report) with all of the browser vendors; even providing sample URLs for validation to them in past tests. Some had even privately acknowledged issues.

Our past invitations to become more involved in the ongoing testing and review of results still stands.

Dec 16, 2010

Threat Types and Terminology

Terminology used to describe attacks is often misunderstood by the broader public. Thus, we are providing this brief explanation of threat types and the terms we use in our reports.

End users and their computers face a number of different attack types. At a high level there are two: 1) Socially-engineered attacks target the user, and work only when the user is tricked into performing an action; running a malicious file or giving up personal data to a fraudulent site. 2) Other attacks target vulnerabilities in systems and applications. The following chart gives a rough breakdown of common threats against end user systems.

Layers of Security
These types of security threats can be mitigated by a range of security products; including IPS, UTM, SWG appliances, and on the endpoint: Internet security suites, most anti-malware products, and even web browsers. Modern browsers have implemented an additional layer of security to help users differentiate between good and bad web sites and downloads.

When selecting security products, either for home or business environments, it's often hard to tell from the marketing literature which products actually stop threats. And protection levels offered by products in the different categories can vary greatly. The above taxonomy should help you ask more specific questions of vendors. It also acts as a guide to terminology used in NSS Labs test reports.

Security products protecting users and their computers
When someone says “Product X stops more malware, exploits etc.” or “Product X offers better malware or exploit protection”, what they mean is that Product X inspects traffic passing through it and stops these attacks from reaching and/or affecting the end user or the operating system.

Security products themselves susceptible to threats
In addition, security suites and browsers (and their plug-ins) can be susceptible to exploits if the software has vulnerabilities in them. When someone says “browser X is more secure” what they are trying to say is that browser X has fewer vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, most software, and all browsers have vulnerabilities. For example in the first 9 months of 2010, Microsoft Internet Explorer had 43 new published vulnerabilities, while Google Chrome had 106, according to Secunia research.

For more exhaustive treatments on threat types including product test results, consult our research services at

Nov 10, 2010

Tales from the Trenches of IPS Testing

An update on our current 2010 IPS group test.

Those of you following network IPS know that the last NSS Labs IPS group test in Q4 2009 made quite an impact in the marketplace. The testing soundly destroyed the notion that an organization could buy one of the ‘leading products’ and rest easy
- Vendors with leading market share and analyst accolades were shown to have mixed to poor results on our robust exploit testing;
- Over half the vendors lacking coverage for well-known evasion techniques
- Many put performance ahead of security effectiveness

We were pleased to work collaboratively with many of the vendors in ensuing months to further identify and rectify issues in advance of our next group test. In the process, several vendors released new hardware and software. Excited as we were to test drive the new improved models, we were disappointed in more than a few situations to discover the latest and greatest versions had show-stopper level flaws that could cost their customers a great deal of money and time. A number of vendors requested additional time to remediate flaws, and it was clear that much would change very quickly.

Meanwhile, the size of the NSS Labs 2010 IPS group test has also grown in number of participants and complexity, making this by far the largest, most in-depth group test of its kind.
- We’ve added several new vendor products;
- We’ve refreshed the exploits used, changing and upgrading a third of the content;
- Added additional HTML evasions;

Determined to not let further delays keep our much awaited group test off the streets any longer, we decided to take a phased approach, releasing the test in two parts; Part I will contain five vendors, and Part II will contain the remaining vendors. While this phased release provides enterprises with much needed information on some of the top vendors, it arguably leaves them waiting to see the rest. This may be more or less relevant depending on one’s situation, and which products are under consideration. Certainly some vendor sales teams maybe playing catch up. In the meantime, NSS clients can utilize analyst advisory sessions to receive additional guidance and help fill in the gaps.

So, look for part one of the NSS Labs IPS group test to arrive middle of next week here, and part two in the middle of December. Clients will automatically be notified when it is posted via email alert. If you’re not a client, register for free here, or contact our advisory services group to learn more.

Sep 9, 2010

Happy Testers Day!

We have secretary's day, presidents day, mothers day, fathers day, etc. But I never suspected there would be a 'software developers day' or other professional recognition day in our field. Twitter educated me otherwise, so I'm going with it. Our profession could certainly use a little recognition and attention. The auspicious occasion as this blog explains is the discovery of the first (literal) bug in a computer system on Sept 9, 1947.
Since then, we've had a meager few decades to hone our software development skills, and our bug-finding skills are not far behind. To that end, a short homage to the hard-working testers and QA professionals who often hear these responses from developers.

24. "It works fine on MY computer"
23. "Who did you login as ?"
22. "It's a feature"
21. "It's WAD (Working As Designed)"
20. "That's weird..."
19. "It's never done that before."
18. "It worked yesterday."
17. "How is that possible?"
16. "It must be a hardware problem."
15. "What did you type in wrong to get it to crash?"
14. "There is something funky in your data."
13. "I haven't touched that module in weeks!"
12. "You must have the wrong version."
11. "It's just some unlucky coincidence."
10. "I can't test everything!"

For the top 9, see this site for a familiar chuckle...

Aug 23, 2010

Client-side expoit demonstration videos

NSS has been testing exploits and exploit-detection/protection products for the last 10 years or so, dating back to the early days of IDS and IPS . It's arguably one of our specialties. And we have written before about the differences between malware, exploits and vulnerabilities. Yet, as these pernicious threats are elevated into mainstream consumer and enterprise awareness, we are seeing quite a bit of terminology confusion. So, for our latest Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS) test of enterprise anti-malware products, we created some demonstration videos of client-side exploits used in the test.



Video Demonstration













Aug 18, 2010

Client-side exploits

Client-side exploits are aggressive weapons used by cybercriminals that allow them to silently take control of computers that visit a web site. The infected widgets on nearly 5 million Network Solutions sites are a prime example (see Krebs' report on Armorize discovery). And NSS Labs' Q2 2010 test of 10 endpoint protection products for HIPS evaluates protection against client-side exploits.

In recent discussions with clients and journalists we've found the need to clarify some definitions of how these attacks work, and how they're different from typical socially-engineered malware campaigns. So, the following definitions and analogies are provided in an effort to provide clarification, as well as to bridge an ongoing communication gap between security vendors and their customers.


Like a locked door that can be opened with the right key or combination, a vulnerability is a bug in software code that allows a product to be exploited. An example of a software vulnerability is improperly-defined memory usage within a function that enables content sent to a specific memory location to be run with privileged rights.


An exploit is a specially crafted code sequence which can ”trigger” or ”unlock” a vulnerability within an application, such as a heap spray, buffer overflow attack, etc. An exploit can be hiding in an infected website (client-side attack) where it ambushes visiting computers or be launched from an another computer (remote attack).


The payload is the content that gets delivered once the vulnerable application has been exploited. Payloads are the actions that are performed on the compromised target computer, such as command execution, writing a file to disk, returning a reverse shell, etc. This may be malware, but does not have to be.

The Test

The test utilized 123 common and public vulnerabilities dating from 2006 to 2010. These vulnerabilities were exploited when a user visited an infected web page hosting the attack code. The attacks occurred in two stages:
1. The attacker caused a specially-crafted stream of data and code to be delivered to a precise location. This exploited the victim’s computer, gaining the attacker the ability to perform arbitrary code execution.
2. Malicious code was silently executed on the victim’s computer.

If the attack can be thwarted in Stage One (successful exploit), then it cannot progress to Stage Two, where a malicious payload can be delivered. As long as the exploit is not defeated, then installing malware is just one of many possible actions the attacker can take. And the choice of malicious code is nearly infinite. Since there are far fewer exploits than malware, it is imperative that attacks be defeated in the earliest possible stage. In other words, it is advantageous for AV suites to detect the exploit vs. chasing malware samples.

Results and Next Steps

Unfortunately, 75% of corporate users are under-protected, based on vendor market share and their respective scores, which ranged dramatically from 29% to 100%; and even worse for variants. Depending which product you have, you may have significant cause for concern. So, what's next?

For starters, if you're an organization with critical data behind any of these products, I suggest you buy and read the full report here. There has been a lot of press coverage of the report highlights, but not the details, generally reporting failure of AV suites in this area. While you may not be ripping out thousands of endpoint deployments, you may be asking your vendor some tough questions and setting expectations for improvement. Exploit detection & blocking is clearly an area that the security industry needs to focus on going forward. Got questions about other threat mitigation options, consult our other reports, or contact us.

Jun 18, 2010

Fragroute – Bug in 24-byte fragmentation

In our Q4 2009 IPS test, we tested Network Intrusion Prevention Systems on their ability to resist 60 different evasion techniques, IP Fragmentation (9), TCP Segmentation (11), RPC Fragmentation (16), URL Obfuscation (15), and FTP / Telnet evasions (9).

On May 19, 2010, TippingPoint brought to our attention a bug in fragroute, the de facto evasion tool for IP fragmentation. This flaw corrupts one of the evasion techniques – 24 byte fragments. Over the past few weeks, NSS Labs has retested all of the products from the Q4 2009 IPS Group Test with an alternate version of the tool that does not corrupt traffic when fragmenting into 24-byte segments.

We found that all of the devices that initially passed this test, continued to pass. In addition, we determined that TippingPoint does block the 24 byte fragmentation evasion with the non-corrupted attack. The findings for all other evasion tests remain unaltered.

The Q4 2009 IPS Group Test is being modified to reflect this update.

Jun 17, 2010

Approaches to Detecting Evasion

When an attacker uses an evasion technique, he is altering traffic so that it cannot be detected by a security product such as a Network IPS. To accomplish this, the traffic is run through a tool which manipulates the data stream and modifies it using a pre-determined pattern – similar to an encoder. Thus, to detect the attack, a network IPS needs to do the same in reverse – in essence, decode the data stream.

Alternatively, an IPS can drop traffic that appears to have been altered (e.g. fragmented or segmented) under the assumption that it is bad. Unfortunately, this is not the case much of the time since legitimate network traffic comes in all shapes and sizes. Thus, when vendors elect to drop such traffic instead of normalizing / decoding it and inspecting the content, they drop legitimate traffic. Knowing this, we have found that multiple vendors turn off those anti-evasion protections by default. This is a problem.

And this is why NSS Labs tests anti-evasion using vendor default settings.

Subsequent to our last IPS Group Test, NSS Labs found a loophole in our testing where multiple vendors enabled evasion detection that would block legitimate traffic. These evasion defenses would therefore never be deployed in the real world. We are therefore adding false positive testing for evasions to our upcoming IPS Group Test scheduled for Q3 2010.

May 27, 2010

Passions of an assessor: Donde esta corazon?

Michelle is a passionate infosec pro and assessor. She gets some kudos today for expressing on a personal level the frustrations of many infosec practitioners whose job it is to audit, assess and help improve their clients' defenses. PCI DSS forces those who would do little or nothing for security to do something more. It also encourages those who would do more to do less because it is just enough to deal with a clear and present threat: the audit.

As Josh Corman at the 451 Group likes to say: “Why focus on compliance instead of security? I might be hacked, but I will be fined.” (if you handle cardholder data). Given the amount of client-side attacks and botnet infection data we see, the case could be made otherwise. Corporations are getting attacked daily. They might not be aware of it though, due to the holes in their security defenses, logs, and even alerting practices.

After all, security products can only alert and report on what they have detections for. Based on our testing, that leaves a significant gap with every vendor, between 12 and 83%. Do you know which holes matter on your network and where they are? Want to hear ideas on how to improve and not just pass?

I'm happy to echo Michelle's call for more heart and less check box.


May 13, 2010

Thanks for breaking it!

People hire us to break stuff (and lately we're pretty good at it). Well not just, but breaking is part of testing, as is validating You'd think folks wouldn't want to hire us for that, and a lot of times you'd be right. But, this week, we had a large networking vendor in the lab testing their product. On day 2 we discovered a significant vulnerability that we were able to exploit. We replicated it before their eyes. What did the vendor do? He gave our lead engineer a high five!

Why? because, after having visited several labs with this same product, we were the first to find something and not simply give it the 'rubber stamp.' This is why you test. Not just to validate features, but so you can find out what you still need to do to improve it. Good product developers like this one "get it." He just got tremendous value out of the engagement, and has already put in proposals on the spot for additional testing with us. And maybe his competitors have similar issues (which is often the case), so now this vendor is ahead of the game and will likely have it fixed very shortly.

IT Buyers: This is the attitude you want to see in your vendors.

May 7, 2010

Measuring Security

Vik Phatak, CTO participated on a panel discussion at SourceBoston conference titled "Measuring Security". This discussion explored the ins and outs of testing endpoint protection products, otherwise known as anti-virus/antimalware. Hosted by Andrew Jacquith of Forrester, and also with Peter Stelzhammer of AV-Comparatives, and Mario Vuksan of Reversing Labs. Watch the video link.

May 3, 2010

AV Testing double standards and independence

NSS Labs’ innovative tests are designed to inform end-users about how products truly perform against today’s motivated attackers. We perform a test or gap analysis on security products, so organizations can understand what is and isn’t being protected, and accurately assess the risk and take steps to mitigate it. While enterprises and government organizations appreciate this valuable, independent analysis, many of the AV vendors do not.

When NSS Labs published its uncensored, real-world results of endpoint protection products (AV), some vendors used the anti-malware testing standards organization (AMTSO) to try to discredit the test. One of their objections was that we recommend against buying products that scored on the bottom third of our test. Sorry, we unabashedly believe malware protection should indeed be the key purchasing criteria for an AV product. And for vendors who claim their anti-spam on the corporate desktop will improve their protection against socially-engineered malware hosted on web sites, that’s just stretching it.

Rather than shoot the messenger, vendors with their customer’s best interests in mind should seek to learn from tests like these in order to improve their products. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case in the AV world after too many years of self-congratulatory testing and certification.

AMTSO is an AV vendor-driven consortium, and while it can be a useful information sharing organization for AV insiders, it has demonstrated its utter failure as a credible independent organization. Throughout the 3-year history of this organization, AMTSO has failed to evaluate the tests and certifications that most of its vendor members sponsor and fund; e.g. VB100% awards, ICSA Labs and West Coast Labs certifications. These validations are important sales material in the $9B market place, but they wouldn't pass the same AMTSO guidelines that were supposedly applied to the NSS Labs test.

Such market validations are a part of the industry, but can be dangerous when they convey a false sense of security to buyers as they do now. Meanwhile, end-users can stay well informed about what products do - and more importantly - what they DO NOT do, by reading our subscriber-funded research and test reports. If a vendor is complaining about our test, chances are they did poorly on an important metric. Learn what some vendors don’t want you to see by reading our independent anti-malware test reports or the Google Aurora protection analysis report in particular (free to non-clients).

caveat emptor

Mar 15, 2010

Questionable Questions (And Some Answers)

Normally, NSS Labs does not engage in public disputes over our test results. However, AVG’s recent blog post about our recent Operation Aurora test grossly misrepresents the facts in an apparent attempt to discredit the results and testers. We have chosen to respond:

The important fact for AVG’s 110 million users is: AVG Internet Security 9 did not stop the Aurora exploit. This was true when we tested on January 29, 2010. And it was still true when we re-tested with their latest version on March 12, 2010—nearly two months after the initial attack became public. See for yourself in this video (the exploit executes calc.exe as proof).

On AVG’s blog, they claim the following:

This is a screenshot of AVG blocking the Aurora 0-day attack from the AVG Labs.”

  • However if you look closely, the screenshot AVG presented shows they were using Firefox, not Internet Explorer. CVE-2010-0249 was a vulnerability in Internet Explorer, not Firefox. Showing Firefox being "protected" displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the Aurora attack.

"In fact, the exploit is blocked separately by three different security rules of AVG’s product"

  • We don’t dispute that AVG has rules, but they did not prevent the exploit. This is why proper testing & QA is important. Further, as you can see in the video (using Internet Explorer), we found that AVG’s warning appears after the exploit successfully gained control of the computer and performed remote code execution (calc.exe).

AVG has failed to provide any credible evidence that our test results are incorrect.

From the moment that AVG contacted us with concerns, we sought to share the information required for them to reproduce the attack themselves. The Operation Aurora code was included within the report itself. We have since posted a video on YouTube, and we made it clear that the easiest way to reproduce the test was to use the Metasploit Framework's built-in (free) Aurora exploit and embed a payload of their choice (such as calc.exe). With this free, publicly available information, AVG engineers should have been able to reproduce this attack, as their peers at other vendors have.

However, AVG wanted us to do more…

During our years of testing, we have found that some vendors have abused the time and trust of testers by not doing their homework before making claims that test results are incorrect. We stand by our results. And in cases where vendors insist we have made a mistake, we will work with them to resolve any ambiguities. If it turns out that the vendor is incorrect, we expect to be compensated for our (consulting) time. If we made a mistake, we will publicly correct the error and the vendor bears no cost.

Under these conditions, AVG had nothing to lose if they were confident in their product. That they have chosen a different path speaks volumes.

Mar 12, 2010

Vulnerabilities, Exploits & Payloads, Oh My!

Over the past few years at NSS Labs we have interacted with some very smart people and been able to observe which technologies and approaches work better than others. And being immersed in information security product testing, it is easy to forget that not everyone has the same vantage point that we do.

I was having a conversation recently with a very smart Intel Hardware/Software Engineer when the Google / Aurora attack came up. He said that based upon the explanations from AV community, he assumed that the attack was not stoppable… I assured him that was not the case, and that there is a technical solution that can protect against attacks like Aurora. Host Intrusion Prevention technology exists and works by preventing the vulnerability (in this case CVE-2010-0249) from being exploited. If the vulnerability cannot be exploited, the payload (malware) cannot be delivered.

So the question is whether it is easier and better to protect against:

- One (1) vulnerability
- Six (6) exploits
- 55,000+ viruses, Trojans, rootkits and other malware PER DAY

I then shared that in our recent study of seven Endpoint Security (AV) products, only one product (McAfee) protected against Aurora and exploit variants. And that the AV industry as a whole is still focused on chasing malware and, as such, is ill equipped to deal with exploit-based attacks like Operation Aurora.

So the discussion turned to ways in which someone can be infected with malware from the web. Basically, there are two methods:

  1. An attack on the User – i.e. tricking someone to download software that contains malware – video codecs, pirated software, fake AV, etc.
  2. An attack on the computer – i.e. exploits containing malicious payloads (aka “drive-by” exploits).

The first is solved by a combination of user education and reputation systems like those provided in Internet Explorer 8, Firefox, Chrome, etc., which warn people that the software they are about to download is infected. Some AV products have this as well. The second is solved by HIPS. Not AV. Why HIPS? Because true HIPS products protect the vulnerability from exploit. They do this by operating in memory and inspecting data as it streams onto a computer as well as inspecting processes before allowing them to run. Traditional AV products do not do this; which is why AV vendors have purchased HIPS technology over the past few years (McAfee bought Entercept, TrendMicro bought ThirdBrigade, Cisco bought Okena, etc.).

But, in general, no vendor seems to have uniform integration of HIPS into their endpoint products either on the consumer or corporate side. It clearly takes some time to integrate these technologies. Unfortunately, the marketing message of “proactive protection” has gotten ahead of the technical reality. This is what we found in our Aurora test:

The bottom line is that the best way to solve the “drive-by” problem is for AV vendors to implement true HIPS which prevents a vulnerability from being exploited, and thus a malware payload cannot be delivered.


However, nearly two weeks after the attack was made public, one product still does not stop the original exploit, and 85% failed to stop additional exploit variants. Few cyber-security attacks were better publicized than this one. It is concerning that such shallow coverage was delivered. Are lesser publicized but equally dangerous vulnerabilities better protected? Probably not.

In lieu of applying patches to thousands of machines, IT professionals rely on network and endpoint security products to provide a virtual shield for these vulnerabilities. Patching is usually prioritized and scheduled monthly. Deferring patching without good vulnerability coverage increases risk. When faced with these test results, organizations would be advised to install the Microsoft patch(es) as soon as possible.

AVG & The Aurora Exploit

Unfortunately, we have observed that some products rely heavily on file-based detection (of malware). These products are scanning for payloads once they hit the disk. The problem with this approach is that exploits occur in memory (e.g. Aurora) and might never touch the disk.

We do not know why AVG failed to prevent the Aurora exploit (which operates in memory). But we know that it did. We observed the exploit successfully gain control of the PC and perform arbitrary remote code execution (the exploit ran Calc.exe as proof). And we did observe AVG detect the attack in Internet Explorer's cache - after the fact.

This video was captured on March 11, 2010. We turned off automatic updates to preserve the version in time, which of course caused multiple red blinky warnings to be issued. We tested again (see 2nd video below) after updating to put to rest any FUD.

To be fair, AVG may have protection for other exploits.

However, as of today, nearly 2 months after the story of the attack first broke, a fully updated AVG still does not provide protection from the the original Aurora exploit. What is additionally concerning is that the product issues a pop-up message telling the user that the threat was detected and quarantined. See for yourself.

This video was captured on March 12, 2010. We turned on automatic updates, plus manually updated to ensure the latest protection was installed.

Mar 4, 2010

GroupThink and InfoSec - SecurityBSidesSF

At about 1:45h into the video, Vik Phatak begins his talk about group think in infosec. It is a well-reasoned argument for more aggressive testing in order to improve our defenses. We present methodologies and results from our testing of IPS and Anti-malware products to make the case that we have much work to do and must stay vigilant and innovative.

Jan 24, 2010

Protecting vulnerability CVE 2010-0249

On Thursday, 1/21 Microsoft released an out of band patch for CVE-2010-0249; this was the vulnerability that was exploited during the 'aurora operation' against Google and 30+ other companies over the last month. The press coverage and political context makes this a high profile attack, and a story rife with confusion and concern amongst CISOs.

So, we performed some initial testing. On Friday, 1/22 NSS Labs validated that the patch was effective on IE6 on Windows XP, SP2 and IE8 on Windows 7 against multiple variants of the exploit. This means, that the patch appears to cover the vulnerability and multiple variants, and should be applied as soon as possible. The downside is that if you have thousands of PCs, this will take a while, including your own test cycle. Many organizations schedule monthly updates to desktops and servers, so you could be waiting a while.

And in the mean time? That's what security products like Network IPS and endpoint protection (which should include Host IPS) are for. But depending on your vendor's release schedule, and your acceptance/deployment schedule, some waiting/exposure could be involved as well.