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SIR

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Security updates – measuring effect (Autorun Abuse)

Obviously I am a strong advocate of keeping computers up to date and especially on installing security updates. However, it is normally pretty hard to measure the effects on such activities. And now that we have an example where we can see very directly the effect of a security update I would like to share that with you.

Maybe you are aware of Windows XP and Vista’s autorun feature. Basically very convenient but also unfortunately widely exploited. On 8. February Microsoft started the release of updates for Win XP and Vista to prevent AutoPlay from being enabled automatically except in combination with CD’s and DVD’s. Effectively locking down this feature more. With this we can now look at infection rate before and after this update and measure the effect. You can read the whole thread in our threat research and response blog.

In a nutshell – the effect was pretty substantial. The infection rates for Win XP and Vista went significantly down. XP’s infections on scanned computers were reduced by 59% and the ones of Vista by 74% while Win 7 stayed basically the same as it had this feature already enabled. An additonal interesting point is that the infection rate didn’t change significantly with Win XP SP2 as it is out of support and therefore didn’t get the update.

Chart showing effect of autorun update. Source: Microsoft

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another interesting aspect was that the overall infection rates changed also significantly. By May of 2011 the number of infections found by the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool was reduced by 68%. Which means that by making even just one section of a computer “population” more secure it can have a significant residual effect with the rest of the computers.

My conclusion? This is a good example to show the effectiveness of security updates. So my recommendations is to let the update feature install them automatically as soon as they get available and to make sure that your operating system is still receiving the updates and is not out of support. So if you still run XP SP2 please make sure to update as quickly as possible to XP SP3.

New Microsoft Security Incident Report – current and emerging threats

 

This morning the microsoft trustworthy computing team released the new Security Incident Report (SIR). The report provides in-depth perspectives on software vulnerabilities, software vulnerability exploits, malicious and potentially unwanted software, and security breaches in both Microsoft and third party software.

And why is this relevant? While reading a crime novel has certainly more entertainment value, the report gives an impression on where cybercrime is heading and how the threats are evolving. This has relevance for security experts, government officials but also for everybody using the internet. Here are some information that I found especially interesting:

  • Cybercriminals continue in deceiving customers through “marketing-like” campains and fake product promotions.
  • Pornpop is an adware family that attempts to display adult advertising. In the 4th quarter of 2010 it was the most prevalent malware worldwide and was cleaned from nearly 4 million systems by Microsoft’s anti malware desktop products. Cybercrime has definitely moved to becoming a business.
  • Phishing attacks to social networking sites jump 8.3% to 84.5% which shows that criminals have seen success with social engineering based approaches especially on social networking sites.
  • Specifically to Switzerland. The MSRT detected malware on 4.1 of every 1’000 computers scanned in Switzerland in 4Q10. This compares to an average worldwide of 8.7 of every 1’000.

The security incident report is special insofar, that it contains the most comprehensive data coverage of any report in the industry. It includes over 600 million data samples, executing millions of malware removals annually, scanning billions of e-mails, over 280 million active Hotmail accounts, and billions of pages scanned by Bing each day. The data collection is actually quite impressive. The data included is gathered from a wide range of Microsoft products and services globally, including: Bing, Windows Live Hotmail, Forefront Online Protection for Exchange, Windows Defender, the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), Microsoft Forefront Client Security, Windows Live OneCare, Microsoft Security Essentials and the Phishing Filter in Internet Explorer.

You can read and download the report at www.microsoft.com/sir. Maybe not something to put on your bedside table as it will probably keep you awake at night!

About the Author

Reto is partner at PwC Switzerland. He is leading the Cybersecurity practice and is member of PwC Digital Services leadership Team. He has over 15 years work experience in an information security and risk focused IT environment. Prior to working at PwC he was Microsoft's Chief Security Officer for Western Europe and also has work experience as group CIO, Chief Risk Officer, Technical Director and Program Manager.

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