Application Isolation and Control – A Modern Defense for New Threats

By Fraser Kyne, EMEA CTO, Bromium

The detection method for preventing malware is fundamentally flawed, yet it is still the de facto standard in cybersecurity. Day after day, organizations scramble to protect against a growing number of threats, but all it takes is one piece of malware to go undetected to wreak havoc on IT systems.

Ironically, this was predicted by Alan Turing more than 80 years ago. His work proved no standard algorithm could ever predict an outcome for every possibility without falling into a logical paradox because of the halting problem. The halting problem proves that an algorithm cannot predict from a general description of a program and an input whether the program will finish running or execute forever.

The same logic applies to malware detection. A standard algorithm cannot be relied on to correctly identify every single threat that comes knocking because the volume of threats is large and varied, with previously unseen threats emerging every day.

A detection-based approach deployed by IT teams is akin to casting out a net, where the net will either be so large that it tangles itself, or it won’t be cast wide enough and will invariably allow some things to be missed. IT teams are trying to solve this problem by adding more layers to their detection solutions, but all this is doing is casting more nets plagued by the same problems.

Detection-based solutions can Over-complicate security landscapes

Hackers are resourceful, utilizing new tactics – such as polymorphic malware and zero-day exploits – to bypass detection-based software and break into critical IT systems. For example, in the Locky ransomware campaign, hackers customized the malware to execute after the fake document was closed, making it much harder to spot and bypassing the majority of detection-based AV solutions.

Instead of focusing on detection, organizations that are serious about security are starting to rely on segmentation. By segmenting networks and applications, businesses are seeing that they can prevent malware from causing harm and keep data and networks safe.

Segmentation offers businesses protection, but it relies on PCs or applications only having access to limited areas on the network. Early iterations failed to achieve a great uptake because adding new PCs to this system can be incredibly expensive and time-consuming during deployment.

Segmenting IP and sensitive data could also still leave users at risk if they don’t isolate the applications that are being used to access this data. Without a solution to these problems, network segmentation has largely failed to get off the ground and detection has persisted as the leading cybersecurity approach.

By focusing on isolation, security Is simplified and end users are protected

Everybody wants to be able to use technology to do more with less. In this instance, it means deploying more effective and reliable cybersecurity solutions. However, detection involves the complex process of “preventing, detecting, and responding”, where multiple layers of security are deployed to identify malware before it hits. However, these layers simply aren’t sufficient to protect against the volume and sophistication of the ransomware and targeted phishing attacks that are prevalent today. As you might expect, it also creates a tremendous expense.

While there are a few choices available that provide isolation, solutions that do this using virtualization are effectively bullet-proof. While no one can promise 100% protection, virtualization that starts on the chip, stops Meltdown, dramatically limits Spectre and works online or offline, can protect what’s targeted the most: endpoints.

Real solutions with a virtual defense

Isolation through virtualization works by allowing applications to open and carry out each task in its own self-contained virtual environment. This means that every tab that is opened in a browser, every Office or PDF document attached to an email, or any file that runs an untrusted executable, will be opened in an entirely isolated virtual environment that’s running on the hardware itself. The result is that any threat caused by an action in this environment won’t have access to anywhere else on the system and can be easily removed by simply destroying the virtual environment.

This allows users the freedom to download files and open documents, safely, knowing that they are no longer the last line of defense – giving users the ability to click with confidence. In fact, end users can let the malware run, because it doesn’t do any damage, and it allows IT teams to get detailed threat analysis. Users can get back to work; recruiters and HR teams can open emailed CVs, marketers can carry out research even if they click on a phishing link, and R&D teams can share downloaded resources without the fear of being stung by malicious files or links.

For organizations using this new approach, there is less worry. Virtualization-based security is being adopted by the giants: HP and Microsoft now use virtualization-based security to protect users. This is just the tip of the iceberg and marks the beginning of a virtualization revolution in security, where users no longer fear opening links and attachments and organizations can let their teams focus on innovation without worrying about making a security mistake.

About the Author

By Fraser Kyne, EMEA CTO, Bromium Fraser’s role has encompassed a wide range of both engineering and customer-facing activity. Prior to joining Bromium Fraser was a Technical Specialist and Business Development Manager at Citrix Systems. He has been a speaker at various industry events on topics such as virtualization, security, desktop transformation, and cloud computing.

Source: Cyber Defense Magazine
http://www.cyberdefensemagazine.com/application-isolation-and-control-a-modern-defense-for-new-threats/

Read more from Fraser:

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Watch our on demand webinar and take a dive into today’s data and cyber security threat landscape with our Principle Technology Strategist; Malcolm Orekoya and hear about:

  • The evolution of ransomware
  • How to boost cyber security awareness within your organisation
  • Data portability in your organisation
  • The importance of encrypted data visibility
  • How to prepare for the impact these cyber threats will have on your organisation

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10 Things You Need to Know About Ransomware

Some cyber security experts call ransomware attacks an epidemic.

In 2016, the FBI estimated that ransomware attacks resulted in over $1 billion in income for cybercriminals*. Experts attribute the ransomware epidemic to people’s carelessness in clicking on phishing emails and infected advertisements.

Here are 10 things organisations should know about ransomware:

  1. Ransomware was first reported in 1989
  2. Ransomware doesn’t discriminate when it comes to platforms and devices
  3. Ransomware can be distributed through various channels
  4. Ransomware often goes undetected
  5. Organisations should change their mindset from a reactive-based model to a prevention-oriented one
  6. Organisations should develop a prevention and response plan
  7. Organisations should identify a prevention and response team
  8. Organisations should perform a compromise assessment
  9. Organisations should complete a security tools assessment
  10. Organisations should respond and future-proof

Download the full infographic here – Infographic courtesy of Cylance Consulting

As threatening as ransomware sounds, damage can be avoided with increased user awareness coupled with the right security practices. Businesses need to be aware of the risks and take adequate precautions to minimize the impact in the event of an attack.

See Cylance in action for yourself? Register here to join our workshop at The Metal Box Factory in London on the 25th May and see the capabilities for yourself.

*Source: CNN

 

Phishing attacks are evolving – what you need to know to stay one step ahead

Guest blog by Greg Atkins, InfoGuardian

Views expressed in this post are original thoughts posted by Greg Atkins. These views are his own and in no way do they represent the views of the company.

Over the past 3 to 4 years, there has been a shift in focus by cybercriminals away from reasonably basic, generic phishing attacks designed to get individuals to part with a relatively small amount of money to today’s more targeted attacks aimed at specific individuals or groups of individuals within specific organisations, designed to earn the cybercriminal much more money.

In its report “The evolution of phishing attacks 2011-2013“, Kasperksy identified an 87% increase between 2012 and 2013 in the number of attacks, with over 37 million individuals targeted.

These types of attack, which some call spear-phishing and others call targeted attacks, have seen a number of high profile victims, including Microsoft, Google and RSA. However, please do not be misled; this could happen to any organisation as the following story demonstrates.

At the end of last year members of the finance department of a small manufacturing company, with fewer than 200 staff, in the North West of England, received what they believed to be a legitimate email from a respectable authority. But as the content of the email seemed to be more relevant to another department, the email was forwarded to HR and 2 members of that team, who, unaware of the hidden threat, opened the attachment. Clicking on the attachment resulted in both members of staff installing the Cryptolocker Ransomware. This proceeded to encrypt files on their machines using different 256-bit RSA keys, then on network drives and finally on other machines connected to those network drives. Compared to the remediation costs and loss in productivity for the company, the ransom figure demanded for supplying the keys to decrypt the data was relatively small. As you can see, this is not a high profile company in a lucrative financial sector. It is one of many thousands of UK companies carrying out its normal business, as your organisation is probably doing.

Whilst more expensive for the cybercriminal to set up, spear and targeted phishing attacks are far more lucrative in terms of results. The objective of the attack is to dupe the targeted individual or group into clicking on an attachment or a link to a fake website containing malicious code, where clicking on a link or button will result in the individual unknowingly installing malware on his device. As in the case above, this could be blatant ransomware or it could be a more sinister Trojan, used to make a point of contact within the targeted organisation from which the attacker can gather more information which will help him to his objective.

It is commonly accepted that overall spear-phishing attacks have a high success rate of 20%, compared to less than 5% for general phishing attacks. Various sources report that as many as 70% of targeted individuals are likely to open such an email. Trend Micro has reported that 91% of all successful data breach attacks in 2012 started with a spear phishing email, and in 2013 Allen Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute reported this figure to be 95%.

Why are Targeted Phishing Attacks so effective?

Any specific email used to launch an attack is likely to come from a known or trusted source, using authentic logos etc. The attack is made simpler for the attacker by the various social media sites and information about individuals readily available on the Internet. In a recent high profile case, the target was identified on LinkedIn. All the information required is nicely packaged for the cybercriminal.

What can be done to stop these attacks?

One of the problems with these types of attack is that they are quite individual, meaning that email security systems have a difficult job identifying them.

Dealing with it technically is certainly a challenge. It is commonly accepted that users are the greatest threat to any organisation’s security. No matter how big the security budget or level of security compliance, it may take only one user to make a mistake, which could cause huge financial damage.

While user education must certainly be part of the solution, opinion seems to be divided on the effectiveness of IT security awareness training for non-IT users. Essentially we have been trying to educate users about security for the past 20 years, but how much really sticks and at what real cost to the organisation? In the past most awareness programmes were to tick the box to meet compliance requirements. As a result, these bare-minimum awareness programs are a PowerPoint presentation once a year or security newsletter once a quarter. To effectively reduce security risks of targeted email attacks, you will need to start changing user behaviour.

William Pelgrin, director of New York’s Office of Cyber Security, organised a fake spear-phishing exercise in which 10,000 state employees were prompted to link to a password checker. 15% of the targeted employees clicked on the link, denoting failure. One month later a second email was sent where staff were asked to enter personal information. Click results showed a 40% reduction of people clicking on the links in a single month over only 2 emails. The effectiveness of this type of “live situation” training is enormous. Pelgrin was able to use common user behaviour to educate and bring about positive behavioural change to reduce the risk of targeted attacks.

To speak to a Netutils security expert about how to protect your organisation against attack please get in touch. sales@netutils.com 020 8783 3800