Antivirus, Patch Management Failures Open Doors to Cyberattacks
Patch management and antivirus are meant to prevent attackers cutting their way into the vaults protecting enterprise data.
Despite this however, they are also areas where many organizations appear to be falling short.
In its latest Global Threat Intelligence Report (PDF), managed security services provider Solutionary says some of the biggest threats to security come from enterprises not doing the basics.
“In general, enterprises do have antivirus in place, but in many cases [it’s] not appropriately maintained,” said Rob Kraus, director of research with Solutionary’s Security Engineering Research Team (SERT). “During many incident response engagements we supported last year, it was observed that organizations did not have properly maintained antivirus implementations. Detection rates for malware in general are very low (less than 50 percent), when basic controls such as AV are not deployed appropriately organizations have even lower detection capabilities.”
In fact, just 46 percent of malware caught by the company’s honeypots was detected by popular antivirus products, according to the report. Exacerbating the situation further is the fact that when the malware from the honeypots was run in a proprietary sandbox masquerading as an infected host, the malware often downloaded additional applications dodged detection as well.
Some of this malware is distributed by exploit kits. Most of the vulnerabilities targeted by these kits in 2013 were less than a year old, according to the report. The most prevalent vulnerabilities affected Oracle Java, with the most common being CVE-2012-1723.
“Organizations lacking mature VLM (vulnerability lifecycle management) programs are four times more susceptible to attacks via exploit kits,” the report notes. “Analysis of total vulnerabilities contained in exploit kits shows an organization without a VLM program generally has as many as four times as many exploitable vulnerabilities in its environment than an organization with a mature VLM program.”
While companies tend to exhibit strong security in regards to externally-facing systems, internal systems are often less secure, Solutionary found. The most common external vulnerability was an outdated Apache Tomcat server, which comprised 18 percent of all external vulnerabilities. The most common internal vulnerability was missing security updates for Microsoft Windows (6 percent of internal vulnerabilities). Another common internal issue was vulnerable versions of Adobe Reader (six percent).
“One of the force multipliers for addressing patch management issues is the approach of root cause analysis,” Kraus said. “For instance, focusing on why the vulnerability exists in the first place and addressing it will help the overall strategy.”
“Hardening systems to reduce the amount of open services on a system will also drastic reduce the exploitable footprint,” he added.
Meeting this challenge also requires organizations understand their inventory and have a process to ensure that updates for antivirus and other programs do not get missed.
“It’s always some group, some location, some set of systems somewhere that either got blocked from getting updates or just plain got missed,” explained Don Gray, chief security strategist with Solutionary. “We mention in the report (in the logging section) that often the security group doesn’t know about key pieces of infrastructure that are used to run the business.”
“And that,” he added, “is why we talk about the ‘lifecycle management of security controls’. You need to have an asset management system that can tie information together to be able to know that your controls are operating individually.”