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RSA: Don't panic about China, says security firm

Sophos wants to focus on more prevalent attacks
Thu Feb 28 2013, 12:52
Sophos logo on sign

A SECURITY RESEARCHER hopes to shift public attention away from Chinese hackers back to the threat of traditional malware.

Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor for the security firm Sophos said that the talk of advanced persistent threats (APTs) has begun to draw attention and resources away from the far larger pack of malware threats.

"I find that to be a horrible distraction. If nation states are fighting, that is a problem that the Pentagon needs to deal with," Wisniewski told The INQUIRER.

"We have taken our eye off the ball, we are dying a death of a million cuts by these cyber criminals."

Wisniewski noted that while APTs remain extremely rare in the wild, daily discovery rates of new malware samples continue to rise as cyber criminals create new malware families and polymorphic attacks modify their own signatures.

He said Sophos has found in recent months that among the most popular new forms of malware is ransomware. The extortion tools lock the victim's PC and demand that the user send money to the attacker in order to regain access to their system.

Wisniewski said that the migration to ransomware was in part a response to efforts by security firms and law enforcement to crack down on the fake antivirus sector.

He explained that when security vendors pushed the major payment card companies to crack down on processing malware payments, criminals moved away from trying to trick users into 'purchasing' products and instead moved to a ransomware model that uses one-time payment cards and services.

"Because they are holding your machine hostage you are desperate," Wisniewski said. "Even if you know its not the FBI [locking your PC] you might still pay."

To help combat the growing crop of malware, Wisniewski recommends that administrators take advantage of built-in security tools, particularly the Microsoft Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET).

The researcher noted that while the system can take some time to properly configure and deploy, EMET can go a long way toward enhancing security and protecting end users from infection.

"While it is not something I could teach my mom and dad to use, IT people should not have any trouble whatsoever," he said.

Additionally, Wisniewski recommended that users disable the vulnerable Java plugins whenever possible and use a second web browser when accessing essential Java web applets. µ


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