Security Experts:

Five Products Responsible for the Majority of Malware Infections, Says Study

Danish security firm CSIS recently released the results of a three-month long study, backing a common line of thought in the security world. That is, third-party applications can lead to serious risk, especially when combined with a lack of patching.

According to CSIS, five products are responsible for 99-percent of all malware infections. Many of the targeted applications are vulnerable due to a lack of patching, leaving the user and the network exposed.

“More than 80% of the total number of infections is a so-called cocktail of viruses/malware, which typically consists of information and data thieves and fake security programs,” CSIS said in a statement.

The targets - if one is familiar with InfoSec in general - are the usual suspects; Java, Adobe Reader / Acrobat, Adobe Flash, Internet Explorer, and QuickTime. Each are regularly patched by their respective vendors due to the level of vulnerabilities discovered within them. Moreover, each product is targeted with a standard mix of pre-made exploits in many of the popular crime kits circulated online.

In many organizations, patching is a process that can take time, leaving the network exposed while the process moves along. Otherwise, the products are on legacy systems that cannot be patched for one reason or another, potentially opening a window into the network that will never close. This is why firms rely on end-point protections such as AV software.

“Anti-virus is still needed however the ways to circumvent AV detection are many and works at different levels e.g., the exploit kit authors sometime provide SLA (Service Level Agreement) and guarantees that the code is not picked up by AV. Obviously this put the pressure on both private end users and companies to patch regularly. For most companies the patch management is sometimes troublesome and time consuming but very much needed to avoid modern malware,” CSIS research Peter Kruse said in an interview with The Register.

Earlier this year, vulnerability intelligence firm Secunia reported that third-party programs are responsible for 69% of the vulnerabilities on a typical endpoint. Secunia also suggested that organizations can realize an 80% reduction in risk can by either patching the 12 most critical or the 37 most prevalent programs in a sample portfolio.

More information on CSIS’ study is available here

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.